Almost all my professional life has been spent in academe as a statistician. In my first appointment in Cambridge, I was required to lecture for 6 hours each week during half of the year and personally to supervise some students. Admittedly, the preparation of new lecture courses took a lot of time, one occupying the whole of the 4 month summer vacation, but these duties did not constitute a reasonable workload. To fill the gap, one was expected to do exactly what I wanted to do, conduct research. As I moved to become professor and head of department, first in Aberystwyth and then at University College London, other duties, principally administrative, crowded in upon me and there was less time for research. But still it got done, because I wanted it to get done, often in conjunction with good, graduate students.

Research, at least in my case, consists of taking questions that interest one and to which you feel you might, given enough time and effort, be able to find an answer; working on them, producing an answer, which often turns out to be quite different from the form originally anticipated, and publishing the results for others to read. There are many aspects to this creative work but the one to be emphasized here is that the questions I chose to answer were selected by me. There was no superior, as there would have been in industry, posing me problems and expecting answers. There was no deadline to be met. This was freedom of thought in its true sense, requiring ...

Get Understanding Uncertainty, Revised Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.