Are there benefits to gaining a strong statistical background?

There are many people in the world today who mistrust statistics. They argue that statistics can be hard to understand and are often used to mislead the public. Such mistrust has its roots in the overuse of statistics by advertisers and the media, where statistical values are often presented misleadingly or grossly out of context. Gaining a good understanding of statistical theory can help us differentiate between strong and weak statistical evidence which could help us to make day to day decisions (such as which product to buy or which company to invest in).

A strong background in statistics is not only beneficial  to our lives in general  but it is also vital to scientific research. Statistics allow scientists to interpret large quantities of data with relative ease. Correlations and interactions between variables cannot be identified by looking at the raw data alone; but the appropriate and correctly interpreted statistical test can find such relationships and examine whether or not they are significant. A comprehensive statistical examination of data can also reveal patterns or anomalies the investigator may not have anticipated, providing new avenues for research in that area; or it could bring together data from several congruent investigations to look for an overall, definitive pattern.

Nowadays, with the advances in statistical tools such as SPSS, there is very little excuse for weak statistics in an investigation; any research, no matter how groundbreaking or carefully conducted is unlikely to get any recognition unless it contains a strong statistical analysis of the data. In other words, gaining a strong background in statistics will benefit you in day to day life and in your scientific research. If applied properly it allows you to: analyse your data, strengthen your argument, identify patterns, find points for future research and (hopefully!) get your research accepted.