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st: RE: Re: Your paper on Stata,SAS and SPSS


From   "Russel Wildeman" <rwildeman@idasa.org.za>
To   <statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu>
Subject   st: RE: Re: Your paper on Stata,SAS and SPSS
Date   Tue, 10 Aug 2010 11:13:34 +0200

Thanks John for an interesting discussion and per always for sharing your
thoughts with the rest of us. 

Do you have any electronic references to the following remarks you made in
this email? Or where I can access the debate?

"There has also been an interesting exchange between a bunch of Brits on the

relationship of the then Social Science Research Council (funding agency) to

the development of quantitative methods, with special reference to 
sociology.  Jennifer Platt (Emeritus Prof of Sociology, Sussex) is the 
official historian of the Briitish Sociological Association and recently 
presented a paper at the World Congress of Sociology, Gothenberg, in a 
session for the Resarch Cttee on the History of Sociology about deliberate 
attempts to change the direction of sociology."  

With thanks,
Russell Wildeman

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
[mailto:owner-statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu] On Behalf Of John F Hall
Sent: 10 August 2010 11:03 AM
To: Michael.Norman.Mitchell@gmail.com
Cc: spssx-l@listserv.uga.edu; Bruce Weaver; Statalist
Subject: st: Re: Your paper on Stata,SAS and SPSS

Michael

Thanks for your prompt and appreciative reply.

For the kind of students I used to teach (no previous computing, statistics 
(or even much maths) I'm still not convinced about Stata.  Most of them came

from backgrounds in sociology and related subjects and Stata seems to me to 
be heavily statistical.  From the syntax examples I have seen in Stata, they

would be easily put off.  However, modern students are very different: all 
have their own computers or laptops and I'm targeting the ones with PCs, 
Windows and Word (those with Mac and Linux will have to wait for someone to 
convert my tutorials, but there's nothing to stop them having a quick peep).

I can see why some people in "survey research methods" are switching, but 
they have a very narrow definition and they're more into the statistical 
aspects such as sampling bias, non-response etc, rather than the substance 
of the survey.  In the UK that has always been a major difference in the 
definition of "survey methods".  It's unfortunate (a bit like the false 
distinction between qualitative and quantitative) but I'm afraid technique 
currently has dominance over content in some quarters.

There has also been an interesting exchange between a bunch of Brits on the 
relationship of the then Social Science Research Council (funding agency) to

the development of quantitative methods, with special reference to 
sociology.  Jennifer Platt (Emeritus Prof of Sociology, Sussex) is the 
official historian of the Briitish Sociological Association and recently 
presented a paper at the World Congress of Sociology, Gothenberg, in a 
session for the Resarch Cttee on the History of Sociology about deliberate 
attempts to change the direction of sociology.  She made the mistake of 
contacting me (in my capacity as Editor of Quantitative Sociology 
Newsletter, which ceased publication in 1984).  I haven't seen her for 20 
years, but I have a vivid (if not always 100% accurate) memory and managed 
to track down most of the people who were active in promoting or enabling 
quantitative methods and/or computing in sociological research in the UK in 
the 1970s.  Poor Jennifer is now buried in mounds of fascinating, detailed 
and learned reminiscences!

Part of this exchange had some snide references to "plumbers" (computer and 
statistics people) who could be called in to help out if thought necessary 
by the superior intellects of "sociologists".  I retorted, "The late Angus 
Campbell (Director of ISR, Ann Arbor) once remarked to me that you wouldn't 
expect a chemist to work without knowing how to put a retort stand and tubes

together, so why should sociologists not be expected to have at least a few 
basic technical skills?   At PNL I used to explain my job as teaching 
sociologists how to count.  At both SSRC and PNL I and my staff upset a lot 
of people by turning round jobs in 3 or 4 days (sometimes being specially 
called in) that they had been messing about with (wasting taxpayers' money 
or funding agency's patience)  for months, if not years, too proud or 
ignorant to seek advice or assistance: others were eternally grateful, but 
you can't please everyone."

There were also some snide comments about research units and centres 
springing up like mushrooms to cream off research funds, but that's a whole 
new story.  If anyone's interested, I can forward the relevant selections.

John Hall
http://surveyresearch.weebly.com


PS  I've copied in parts of other mails so that you and others can make 
sense of your reply.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Michael N. Mitchell
To: johnfhall@orange.fr
Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 4:41 AM
Subject: Re: Your paper on Stata,SAS and SPSS


Dear John

   Thank you so much for your email. My apologies for my delay, I have been 
buried with
many things, including focusing my efforts on my book writing.

   I am delighted that you have been engaging this issue of Stata and SPSS 
and have been
fostering some cross communication of the communities via the SPSSX and 
Statalist
listservers. Having used both packages for many years and having followed 
each list for
quite a while, I know how each community can be very isolated from one 
another. And, I
especially understand the issues that the SPSS folks are dealing with and 
commenting upon.
That is part of the reason for the technical report that I wrote, trying to 
help people
take a wider view of what is available. For those who have access to 
multiple packages, to
encourage them to use the best of each tools from each package, and for 
those who are
using a single package, to consider the alternatives and to consider whether

you might
want to make the effort to switch to another that might, in the long run, 
serve you better
than the package that you know. At my work, I have had multiple people make 
the switch
from SPSS to Stata and very quickly they do not look back. And, the cost 
difference is
astounding. For the price we pay for one SAS license or the cost of about 2 
SPSS licenses
we get about 30 Stata licenses.

   I am no longer with UCLA so cannot assist with "web link exchanges", but 
I am sure that
the UCLA stat group would be very interested in this. You can write to them 
at
ATSstat@ucla.edu .

Warmest regards,

Michael N. Mitchell
Data Management Using Stata      - http://www.stata.com/bookstore/dmus.html
A Visual Guide to Stata Graphics - http://www.stata.com/bookstore/vgsg.html
Stata tidbit of the week         - http://www.MichaelNormanMitchell.com



On 2010-08-05 10.31 PM, johnfhall@orange.fr wrote:
> Michael
>
> to A desperate user in Spain whose university will discontinue SPSS 15 
> next year and not rplace it.  She started a huge and ferocious debate on 
> the on the SPSSX listserver about IBM/SPSS business models etc.  In a 
> reply someone just posted the link to your paper.
>
> I haven't worked through it yet, but from the thoughts in your abstract 
> and acknowledgments I detect a kindred spirit working in familiar 
> territory.
>
> I have used SPSS on dozens of surveys and thousands of queries since 1972 
> and am currently working on a stack of learning materials from the 
> postgraduate Survey Analysis Workshop (part-time, evening) I designed and 
> taught from 1976 until I (early) retired in 1992.
>
> These were for various releases of SPSS on a range of machines culminating

> in SPSS-X 4 on a Vax cluster.  Since 2006 I have been updating and 
> expending these to use with SPSS for Windows on a PC (which involves 
> conversion from WordStar4 to Word and a switch from DOS to Windows, 
> neither of which I had ever used before).
>
> Since September last year I have been developing a new website and have 
> now uploaded a substantial body of entry-level SPSS tutorials, exercises 
> and specimen answers.  They use syntax in preference to the drop-down 
> menus, but many examples are also repeated using the menus.  They are 
> oriented towards survey research rather than statistics and are aimed at 
> teachers, researchers and students with little or no previous experience 
> of statistics (a sort of "Clod's Guide to Survey Analysis Using SPSS"). 
> So far have avoided using a single equation, but that may have to come 
> when I get round to explaining inferential statistics in the later stages 
> of the course.
>
> There are many SPSS courses around, but mine is different, and perhaps 
> more fun.  The website is http://surveyresearch.weebly.com/index.html and 
> as well as SPSS it it also carries a wealth of research reports and other 
> materials.
>
> Many of my colleagues in the UK are now switching to Stata, but I think 
> SPSS is far more suited to the kind of material I'm handling.  However, 
> I'd be interested in seeing parallel Stata syntax and output for some of 
> my examples.
>
> I already have a link to ATS on my SPSS intros and tutorials page 
> http://surveyresearch.weebly.com/spss-intros-and-tutorials.html.  Once 
> I've had a look at your paper, would you be happy for me to add a link to 
> it from my site?
>
> Finally, there's an account of how I got into all this in my Old Dog, Old 
> Tricks presentation 
> (http://surveyresearch.weebly.com/7-old-dog-old-tricks.html) and the first

> slide show is fun.  There are also two extended critical reviews of Julie 
> Pallant's "SPSS Survival Manual" (2001 and 2005, both different) on 
> http://surveyresearch.weebly.com/8-spss-text-books.html
>
> Regards
> John Hall

----- Original Message ----- 
From: John F Hall
To: Various people in computing, stats and quant method in sociology
Sent: Saturday, August 07, 2010 9:33 AM
Subject: SPSS, SAS and Stata


I've read through the Mitchell article and it is more relevant to 
statististical aspects of surveys than to the sorts of things I cover in my 
tutorials.  It's very thorough, but there are no tables or figures showing 
direct comparisons of syntax or output from SPSS, SAS and Stata.  I'll add 
a link from my site, but I already have one to ATS at UCLA.

John Hall
http://surveyresearch.weebly.com



----- Original Message ----- 
From: John F Hall
To: Reason Dave
Cc: Various people in computing, stats and quant method in sociologySent: 
Friday, August 06, 2010 6:31 PM
Subject: Sociologists and plumbers


Dave

Just came across this opening paragraph in an article (link posted to SPSSX 
listserver by Dirk Enzmann)

There's huge debate going on about the relative merits of SPSS vs Stata and 
R, much of it an attack on the IBM/SPSS business model which is beginning to

put SPSS out of the reach of many universities as well as students.  Many 
users are now switching to Stata, thus losing a whole generation of students

and future users forever.  There are some heartbreaking, extensive, 
thoughtful and constructive contributions on the thread inexpensive 'home' 
version? started by Peter Neenan SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU

Mitchell, M. N. (2005). Strategically using General Purpose Statistics 
Packages: A Look at Stata, SAS and
SPSS (Technical Report Series, Report Number 1, Version Number 1). 
Statistical Consulting Group:
UCLA Academic Technology Services. Available at 
http://www.ats.ucla.edu/stat/technicalreports/

This report describes my experiences using statistical packages over the 
last 20+ years, including my ex-
periences as a statistical consultant at UCLA for more than 11 years. As a 
statistical consultant, I have
worked with thousands of researchers and have worked with well over a dozen 
packages. In any given day,
I bounce from helping people using Stata, then SAS, then SPSS, or Mplus, 
perhaps HLM, maybe LogXact,
perhaps LatentGOLD, maybe MLwiN and so forth. I have seen how certain 
packages have certain strengths
and others have certain weaknesses, and that these strengths and weaknesses 
fall along a large number of
dimensions. I have come to believe that data analysts are like carpenters 
and that statistical software makes
up the tools that we use. A carpenter would not buy a screwdriver and 
conclude that his or her toolkit
is complete. Likewise, as data analysts, we may need to draw upon multiple 
tools (statistical packages) to
form a complete toolkit based on the kind of work each of us performs.

The article was updated in 2007: he's still working at UCLA and is a regular

contributor to Stata listerver.  I thought the carpenter analogy 
appropriate, given your remarks about plumbers and sociologists.  From the 
abstract and his acknowledgments, I detect a kindred spirit working in an 
environment not unlike SSRC and PNL.

John 


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