Statistics Without Borders Offering Free Assistance to Animal Advocates

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Guest blog by Gary Shapiro, Co-Founder and Past Chair of Statistics Without Borders

Statistics Without Borders (SWB) provides entirely pro bono statistical help for data analysis, survey planning, and related activities. There are currently about 1,000 SWB members, including experienced professors, practicing statisticians, retirees, and students. SWB is an outreach group of the American Statistical Association and has members throughout the world. We provide help to non-profit and government organizations in non-political activities. We started out less than five years ago working only on international health-related activities, but have since expanded to almost any non-political activity. Of course, veganism and animal protection are very much health related.

In the animal protection area, we have only done one very small analysis-related project for Farm Sanctuary. I am nearly 100% vegan and concerned with animal advocacy, so I would like to see a lot more SWB work in this area.

People in animal advocacy and many other organizations often don't appreciate the benefits that a statistician’s help can bring. For example, people usually don't see the need to get professional help to determine question wording and questionnaire layout in a survey they wish to conduct. SWB can help organizations determine what informational or/and statistical needs they have. In addition to providing direct assistance (with both basic and advanced statistical analysis), we also train individuals in statistics and statistical programming. Developing statistical expertise within organizations is often more important than providing help on a specific project.

SWB's volunteer statisticians can work hand-in-hand with the Humane Research Council (HRC) to provide research training and to help animal organizations with access to research and statistical expertise for their projects. When HRC's clients engage in quantitative research, they may also want to involve SWB in the project to provide statistical review at various stages and/or additional analysis. Together, SWB and HRC have all of the expertise needed to make the most of research results.

When SWB gets a request for assistance, we put out a call for volunteers. We always get more volunteers than can be used on a project. We typically form a team of two to four individuals, which includes a mix of experienced and less experienced statisticians. SWB involvement can last from only a couple of weeks to years.

You can email me at if you would like statistical help. See our website, for further information. The website includes examples of some projects we have worked on. If you have some statistical knowledge, you can join SWB using the website as well. There are no specific age restrictions for membership (we even have a high school student who is a member).

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Gary Shapiro is retired from Westat, where he was Senior Statistician from 1996 to 2009. Gary was the lead statistician, senior statistician or/and task leader on over 30 projects, mostly involving survey sample design, weighting, and variance estimation. Prior to being at Westat, Gary was a Senior Statistician at Abt Associates from 1993 to 1996, where he was the lead statistician for a number of surveys. From 1965 to 1993 Gary was at the U.S. Census Bureau. For almost 20 years of this period he was an Assistant Chief of the Demographic Statistical Methods Division, where he oversaw the operation of up to five branches with the responsibility for sample design, weighting, and variance estimation for the demographic surveys. He served as initial SWB Co-Chair and then as chair from 2009 to 2012. He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and an Elected Member of the International Statistics Institute.

Great opportunity!

This is a great offer! I know that there is a stray and feral cat rescue group in my City that would like to get a handle on the feral cat population here (and in Canada generally). Essentially, I've been told that Canada is 20 years behind the USA (what an embarrassment). I think we have a catch-22 problem, though, in that these groups have no money (the local group promises to use 100% of donations for medical care - everything else is donated - food, toys, litter, bowls, transport, paper, printing, etc.). They are also so busy trying to take care of the animals, they don't make time for the research. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is trying to tackle the cat overpopulation crisis in some way (not sure how, since they haven't even endorsed the No Kill Equation). However, they might have the logistical capacity to undertake this kind of research. ****** On the bigger picture, topic, definitely, statistical analysis for vegan outreach sounds like it could be useful. Maybe there could be a follow-up article describing different ways stats has been (or could be) applied to increasing the number and percentage of vegans. It might be interesting to know where donors should put their money (locally? India? China? other countries?). I also wonder the cost-benefit of focusing on global population control/reduction, which would result in less demand for animals in the first place (not to mention a smaller human footprint).

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