The sentence comes from here:

''The best thing about being a statistician,'' Mr. Tukey once told a colleague, ''is that you get to play in everyone's backyard.''


A backyard is a private part of your property that is not central, but closely connected to where you live.

Metaphorically, it must be a part that is with the boundary, but towards the edge, but "behind the scenes" or private in some way.

One possible interpretation of this (in context) is that the statistician works in the "academic backyard" of the economist, physicist, biologist, etc. A statistician will use and develop techniques of use in other specialities, while not being a member of any of those specialities.

So, for example, a statistician who is analysing population data of an animal is "playing in the biologist's backyard". They are working with biological data, and are close to the biologists' metaphorical "home". This is "the best thing", because, as a statistician, you learn lots of stuff about economics, physics, biology. The statistician is not tied to any single specialism and their work doesn't become boring.

Mr Tukey, who said this, worked with data on human sexuality, environmental science and computer engineering. In the article, this quote is used to illustrate the wide number of fields that Mr Tukey had worked in.

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  • “My back yard” is also a private part of my property and often considered nobody else’s business. My front yard is visible to everyone from the street. – gnasher729 May 16 at 11:55
  • Yes, this sort of fits, because the statistician sees the raw data, (in the backyard) not the processed result (publicised in the "front yard") – James K May 16 at 12:01

I think the author's meaning is "Statistics allows you to get information that is unknown to others (even information that the owner does not know)"

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    I’m not sure this is the meaning; owners know about their backyard, and playing in someone’s backyard wouldn’t give you information they don’t know. Unless you’re gleaning it from context in the article, I don’t understand this interpretation. – Fivesideddice May 16 at 10:58
  • So it's mainly about what is the metaphor of the word backyard in English. Does it mean something that one know or not? – nn0p May 16 at 11:16
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    Maybe it means statistician can know other people's interests or activity pattern through data? – nn0p May 16 at 11:23

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