What is computational statistics?
by Stephen M. Walker II, CoFounder / CEO
What is computational statistics?
Computational statistics, also known as statistical computing, is a field that merges statistics with computer science. It encompasses the development and application of computational algorithms and methods to solve statistical problems, often those that are too complex for analytical solutions or require handling large datasets. This field has grown significantly with the advent of powerful computers and the need to analyze increasingly complex data.
Key areas within computational statistics include numerical optimization, random number generation, Monte Carlo methods, resampling methods like the bootstrap, and graphical methods for data structure identification. It also covers advanced computational methods for statistical learning, such as clustering, density estimation, smoothing, predictive modeling, and model selection.
Computational statistics is essential for modern science and is applied across various fields, including AI, where it aids in data analysis and decisionmaking. The field is dynamic, with ongoing research and development in areas like highdimensional data analysis, mathematical statistics, likelihood inference, and computational methods for statistical applications.
The distinction between computational statistics and statistical computing can sometimes be subtle, with some experts defining the latter as the application of computer science to statistics. However, both terms are often used interchangeably and focus on the use of computational methods to facilitate and improve statistical analysis.
What are some examples of computational statistics techniques?
Computational statistics involves a variety of techniques that leverage computational power to solve complex statistical problems. Here are some examples of these techniques:

Resampling Methods — These include techniques like bootstrapping and jackknifing, which involve repeatedly sampling from a dataset with replacement to estimate the sampling distribution of a statistic.

Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) Methods — MCMC methods are a class of algorithms used to sample from a probability distribution. They are particularly useful in Bayesian statistics where the posterior distribution is complex and cannot be sampled from directly.

Local Regression — This is a nonparametric regression method that fits simple models to localized subsets of the data to create a fitted curve. It's useful for modeling complex processes where the relationship between variables may change over the input space.

Kernel Density Estimation — This is a nonparametric way to estimate the probability density function of a random variable. It's often used in data smoothing.

Artificial Neural Networks — These are computing systems inspired by the biological neural networks that constitute animal brains. They are used in machine learning for tasks like pattern recognition and predictive modeling.

Generalized Additive Models — These are a type of statistical model that allows the response variable to depend on smooth functions of predictors. They are useful for modeling nonlinear relationships.

Numerical Optimization — This includes methods for finding the best (maximum or minimum) value of a function, such as the likelihood function in Maximum Likelihood Estimation (MLE). Techniques include the Bisection Method, Secant Method, NewtonRhapson Method, GaussNewton, Inverse Quadratic Interpolation, and Brent's Method.

Data Mining and Advanced Visualization Techniques — These are exploratory data analysis techniques used to discover patterns and relationships in large datasets.

Simulation Techniques — These include Monte Carlo simulation and random permutation procedures, which are used to estimate the properties of an estimator or test hypotheses.

CrossValidation of Data Modeling — This is a technique for assessing how the results of a statistical analysis will generalize to an independent data set. It's often used in settings where the goal is prediction, and one wants to estimate how accurately a predictive model will perform in practice.
How is computational statistics used in data science?
Computational statistics is a crucial component of data science, serving as the bridge between statistics and computer science. It involves the application of computerbased methods to statistical problems, enabling the handling of large and complex datasets that traditional statistical methods may struggle with.
In data science, computational statistics is used in various ways:

Data Transformation — Computational statistics aids in collecting large amounts of data and transforming it into a more usable format. This process is essential in data science as it prepares the data for further analysis.

Algorithmic Solutions — Computational statistics uses algorithms and numerical methods to solve a multitude of problems, such as parameter estimation, hypothesis testing, and statistical modeling. These solutions are often used in data science to make predictions or decisions based on data.

Computationally Intensive Techniques — Techniques like Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, kernel density estimation, resampling methods, local regression, artificial neural networks, and generalized additive models are part of computational statistics. These techniques are often used in data science, especially when dealing with large sample sizes and nonlinear relationships.

Risk Management and Derivative Pricing — In financial applications, computational statistics plays a key role. It's used in risk management and derivative pricing, which are important aspects of data science in the financial sector.

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology — In biological applications, computational statistics is used in bioinformatics and computational biology. These fields often deal with large and complex datasets, making computational statistics a valuable tool.

Computer Network Security — Computational statistics is also used in computer network security applications. In this context, it can help detect patterns and anomalies that might indicate security threats.

Machine Learning and AI — Computational statistics is integral to machine learning and AI, which are key components of data science. It's used in the development of models and data mining, often involving algorithmic models without prior knowledge of the data.

Software Development — Computational statistics also involves the development of statistical software and algorithms, which are often used in data science for data analysis and modeling.
In essence, computational statistics provides the tools and techniques that allow data scientists to extract valuable insights from raw data, especially in situations where the data is large or complex. It's a rapidly growing field that continues to evolve and expand, offering new possibilities for data science.
What are the benefits of using computational statistics in statistical analysis?
Computational statistics offers several benefits in statistical analysis:

Increased Accuracy and Reliability — Computational statistics can provide more accurate and reliable results due to the precision of computer calculations.

Improved Efficiency — The use of computer algorithms can significantly speed up data analysis, making it more efficient, especially when dealing with large datasets.

Increased Flexibility — Computational statistics offers greater flexibility in modeling and analysis, as it incorporates a wide range of models and methods that can adapt to various data structures, relationships, and trends within the data.

Handling Large and Complex Data Sets — Computational statistics is particularly useful for handling large and complex datasets, which can be challenging for traditional statistical methods.

Exploration of New Methods — Computational statistics allows for the exploration of new and innovative methods for data analysis, such as resampling methods, numerical integration, and the simulation of random variables or processes.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration — The interdisciplinary nature of computational statistics fosters collaboration between statisticians, computer scientists, and domain experts, leading to the development of new methodologies that can better address realworld challenges.

Scalability — As data continues to grow in size and complexity, computational statistics will play a crucial role in extracting meaningful insights and informing decisionmaking processes.

Advanced Data Visualization — Computational statistics enables advanced data visualization, which can aid in understanding complex data patterns and trends.

Simulation and Resampling Methods — These methods, which are computationally intensive, can be used to estimate the sampling distribution of a statistic, or to validate a model.