Learning Statistics with SAS Enterprise Guide/ SAS On-Demand

Lately, I have been ignoring lots of good advice. I ignored the rocket scientist who told me I write too much about that statistical software thing whatever it is and that maybe I should write about javascript or something else of interest to a broader audience.

I ignored my better instincts which told me loud and clear that I should not be writing any papers for conferences because I am BUSY, not busy in the “I am president of the PTA and need to alphabetize my spice shelf”- busy, but busy in the sense of clients who need things done for which they have already contracted to pay me money. (No disrespect to the PTA president but if you fail to show up for meetings your bills will still get paid next year.)

I ignored my past experience which, when I said,

“Oh, I’ll just present the same paper at WUSS that I did at the SAS Global Forum”

shot right back,

“You KNOW you won’t! You never do that! You always say, but it would be better if I did it like this ….”

So, here I am… writing a Hands On Workshop for the Western Users of SAS Software conference. Here’s why ….

SAS offers many benefits for academic instruction. Students can learn programming logic, to read and write in a programming language, how to interpret statistics, data visualization or data mining. Two major barriers to learning statistics using SAS are the difficulty and the expense. For many students, the need to learn both statistics and a programming language at the same time presents a daunting challenge.

I  too often hear from people who scoff at that last remark and argue that students are just lazy, or not bright enough to “make it”.

That attitude reflects a combination of arrogance and ignorance.

I am making the assumption – and I am right – that people who make such comments know both statistics and programming, although in further conversation it almost always turns out that they did NOT, in fact, learn both simultaneously. However, they insist, they COULD have. This is the arrogance part.

The ignorance comes from not having taught statistics. Like almost all of life, it’s harder than it looks. (The exceptions, I have found, are sex and swimming in the ocean. Both of those are easier than they look.)

Many years ago, my friend, Dr. Nina Parker, allowed her microbiology students to re-take an exam that the majority of them failed because, she said,

“It must have been my teaching because not that many people can be that stupid.”

Also many years ago, I read an article on teaching mathematics that began:

The first rule of teaching is to have something to say.

The second rule of teaching is that when you by happy chance have two things to say, to say first one and then the other and do NOT, for the love of God, try to say both things at the same time.

So, yes, my whole point here is that it is easier to learn statistics while pointing and clicking BUT the nice thing about SAS Enterprise Guide is that it gives you the code that was created in a code window, so you can be learning programming at the same time. Wait – what? Isn’t that inconsistent with what I just said? Kind of yes, kind of no. The thing is, your ability to do the statistics correctly does not hinge on your ability to get the program to run.

You can select TASKS > REGRESSION > LOGISTIC and get the logistic regression results. After that, you can also look at the code and see how it was produced. Yes, you can do that with SPSS and Stata also.

A second barrier for many who want to learn is the cost of a SAS license.  What to do? Try SAS Enterprise Guide with SAS On-Demand, available free (for higher education) or very low cost, although the SAS On-Demand for Professionals is a limited license. This is a great thing, in my opinion.

I’m not one of those who have almost a religious aversion to paying for software. I just bought a copy of Dreamweaver, and not long ago paid for Webstorm.  Both of those saved me a bunch of time. And no, I don’t get diddly squat from any company I mention on here. Not even a crummy 5% discount coupon.

Still — the commercial license of SAS, which is approximately one kidney, your first born and 11 zillion dollars – is one thing if you have a company with 12,000 users, that’s only like a few hundred kidney cells each – but it can be a prohibitive for junior professionals just starting out. This puts new people in a bind. On the one hand, they want to learn this expensive software so they can be one of those 12,000 users making a decent salary, but you’d need a hefty salary to be able to afford a license to play with.

So, it is worth checking out.  You are welcome to come to my session at the Western Users of SAS Software conference. If you haven’t done it yet, you have two more days to apply for the Junior Professionals Award and a few weeks yet for the student award. Get on it! Both provide a FREE conference registration.

Here is an example of the type of stuff that will be discussed on how to learn statistics and make it interesting (really!)

When I was looking for an example for this blog, I was shocked to see I had not written about the SASHELP directory in the past and how to use that for learning statistics.

So…. that is now on my list of things to write about in the future. Of course, so is power analysis for complex mixed models, map and reduce functions in javascript and nearest neighbor propensity score matching with SAS and SPSS. So, it could be a while. Or, it could be tomorrow. I’m kind of random like that.

Speaking of COMPLETELY random … expect more blogging from me because my late night Chardonnay writing spot is now available. I co-authored a book on matwork for judo, grappling and mixed martial arts and just got the manuscript off to the publisher on Monday – woo-hoo. (And you thought all jocks were dumb.)

world championship



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One Comment

  1. Excellent post. Many people (including many in software development) fail to realize how difficult it can be to become a good, professional software developer.

    If your objective is to find out about data, this isn’t necessarily something you want to take on. One of the historical problems with SAS is that it genuinely is a programming language, and thus you need to use much of the mindset of a professional developer with it.

    Enterprise Guide, on the other hand, is results-oriented. Like with Excel, you can very quickly pick up the few patterns needed to obtain useful results from data. On the other hand, NOT like Excel, when you hit limitations of the product (and there always are, with such high-level software), there is the SAS programming environment to fall back on, and you can find a SAS programming professional to develop or customize the last 5% that will give you what you want.

    A terrific product!
    My $.02,

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