Counts as a good time

February 10, 2006

I was surprised that no one took issue with the statement in "It's hard to count on statisticians" (January ) that "even a social scientist would admit that number-crunching is one of the least attractive parts of the job". As a sociologist primarily trained in qualitative research methods, and someone who decided in my youth that maths was boring and hard and to be abandoned as early as possible, I learnt the delight and exhilaration of "number-crunching" at a relatively late age. I discovered that quantitative data is also generally less difficult to analyse than qualitative data. So please don't reinforce the image of statistics as drudgery.

The root of the shortage of social scientists interested inJquantitative research lies in deficiencies in secondary school development of these skills, but the resulting shortfall is reinforced by industry's demand for highly qualified social scientists with quantitative skills - and that is also good news. Recent research suggests that it is time to celebrate social science's achievements and complain louder about underfunding of social science research and training.

Kate Purcell

University of the West of England

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