MAS281 Probability and Statistics in Society

Note: This is an old module occurrence.

You may wish to visit the module list for information on current teaching.

Semester 2, 2017/18 10 Credits
Lecturer: Prof Jeremy Oakley uses MOLE Timetable
Aims Teaching Methods Assessment

This unit aims to demonstrate, through a series of case studies, the role that probability and statistics can play in many areas of public life. It focuses on the importance of acknowledging uncertainty in many situations, and on the careful handling and interpretation of quantitative data. Examples include miscarriages of justice following poorly understood probabilistic evidence and public confusion surrounding risks and benefits of particular behaviours and medical treatments. Relevant ideas from MAS113 will be reviewed in these contexts, and new methodology introduced where necessary. The communication of probability and statistical concepts to the general public will also be addressed.

Prerequisites: MAS113 (Introduction to Probability and Statistics)
Corequisites: MAS223 (Statistical Inference and Modelling)
No other modules have this module as a prerequisite.

Outline syllabus

This module will cover a series of four self-contained topics, taught by different staff and related to their areas of expertise and research interests. The topics may vary from year to year, but possible examples would be: medical statistics, epidemiology, finance, probability and the law, genetics, environmental statistics and climate change, health economics, statistics in sport. In each case, the role of probability and statistics will be explored, appropriate new methods will be introduced, and skills in understanding and communicating technical ideas will be developed.

Office hours

Wednesdays 3-5, but other times are fine if I am free. You can email to make an appointment, or just knock on my door if I am in.


  • To study, in depth, applications of probability and statistics that have had a significant impact on public life.
  • To develop transferable skills: teamwork, oral presentations, report writing and computing.
  • To consolidate understanding and further appreciate applications of key statistical concepts met in level 1.

Teaching methods

Lectures, Problem solving, Independent Study

20 lectures, no tutorials


Four projects, including individual and group work. There is no exam for this module.


Mon 11:00 - 11:50 lecture   Hicks Lecture Theatre 2
Mon 16:00 - 16:50 lecture   Hicks Lecture Theatre C
Thu 12:00 - 12:50 lecture   (odd weeks) Hicks Lecture Theatre 2