New Intro to Statistics Aims for Accessibility, Inclusion and Fun

Public Health; Research

A new book by Jenine Harris, associate professor at the Brown School, introduces students to statistics using a narrative approach that makes the sometimes daunting subject approachable and useful.

Statistics with R – Solving Problems Using Real-World Data” (Sage Publishing) draws on the open source R programming language and uses examples from the social and behavioral sciences to explain statistics concepts. The book follows three women characters, two data scientists and a student, who meet at the community group “R-Ladies” and decide to work together to master the skills of statistical analysis and data visualization. In each chapter, the three characters meet and work through analyzing a real-world, publicly-available data set about a  contemporary issue like marijuana legislation, voter registration, or the opioid epidemic.

“The main goal of this book is to prepare students and other readers for the messy and exciting reality of working with data,” Harris writes in the preface. “The book aims to encourage women and other underrepresented groups to consider data science careers, and aims to improve the quality of social science through the promotion of reproducible research practices.”

The book has received positive reviews, including one from David A.M. Peterson of Iowa State University, who called it “easily the most accessible and almost fun introduction to statistics and R that I have read.”

Harris has expertise in social network analysis, public health systems, and reproducible research. She is the co-founder and organizer of R-Ladies St. Louis which is the local chapter of R-Ladies Global, an organization that focuses on improving gender diversity in the R community.