Monday, July 10, 2017

The Value of Graduate Education....and Experience

What are some of the additional benefits of graduate study? What if you just skip the time, money and energy spent in graduate school and went straight to writing code?

This made me think of a Talking Biotech podcast with Kevin Folta discussing the movie Food Evolution. Toward the end they discussed some critiques of the film, and a common critique about research in general is bias due to conflicts of interest. Kevin States:

"I've trained for 30 years to be able to understand statistics and experimental design and interpretation...I'll decide based on the quality of the data and the experimental design....that's what we do."

Besides taking on the criticisms of science, this emphasized two important points.

1) Graduate study teaches you to understand statistics and experimental design and interpretation and this requires a new way of thinking. At the undergraduate level I learned some basics that were quite useful in terms of empirical work. In graduate school I learned what is analogous to a new language. The additional properties of estimators, proofs, and theorems taught in graduate statistics courses suddenly made the things I learned before make better sense. This background helped me to translate and interpret other people's work and learn from it, and learn new methodologies or extend others. But it was the seminars and applied research that made it come to life. Learning to 'do science' through new ways of thinking about how to solve problems through statistics and experimental design. And interpretation as Kevin says.

2) Graduate study is an extendable framework. Learning and doing statistics is a career long process. This recognizes the gulf between textbook and applied econometrics.

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