Just tell them the truth: No.

]]>You mean a full semester course as in US universities i.e. 3 hours / week + homework for 3 months ?

]]>As regards of popularization of science especially in the field of statistics, to be honest we have to recognize that the task is far from being easy at all at any level you consider it.

The article by Martine Fontez and Roman Ikonikoff entitled “the formula that deciphers the world” is not exempt of the usual impediments and failings of this kind of journalism primarily emphasizing sensational aspects of science and techniques. To that respect, there is a big gap between this attempt of popularizing Bayesian statistics and the one made by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne in her recent book “the theory that would not die” summarized in lectures eg http://www.channels.com/episodes/show/14898621/Authors-Google-Sharon-Bertsch-Mc-Grayne

which has the great merit to put the issue in the historical and sociological contexts of statistics with many significant examples and without any mathematical technicality.

The idea that the Bayesian theory is something straightforward is also somewhat misleading. I remember this sentence of DA Berry (1997) quoted by Bruno Lecoutre in his lecture “Teaching Bayesian statistics to beginners” at Applibugs, Nov 26, 2009: “Bayesian statistics is difficult in the sense that thinking is difficult”.

I would add : especially when thinking in terms of probability, this part of mathematics requiring very subtle ways of reasoning as well shown by the example shown by Fontez et al of the “Monty Hall problem” the answer to which is not at all intuitive. Having specialized in quantitative genetics, I remember how enlightening were Albert Jacquard’s book and courses but also how painful was at start our adaptation to his probabilistic views of population genetics as compared to the usual one based on “gamete tables” .

Despite that, I found the article worth reading as it emphasizes very well the great interest arising now in Bayesian statistics coming from many different fields including psychological and cognitive sciences: see works and courses of Stanilas Dehaene at College de France.

Good luck for your talk next Friday afternoon on France Culture I will certainly not miss. ]]>

thanks! In my opinion it should nOt be taught in prepas as (a) the students do no get a proper training in probability and (b) the professors are not trained in either probability or statistics. For engineer schools, a fill semester course on statistical techniques, whether Bayesian or frequentist, seems like the minimum minimorum…!

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