This past April, the George Mason University (GMU) Student Chapter experienced two significant successes.
The first occurred when the GMU Student Chapter competed at DataFest DC 2018, hosted by Summit Consulting April 20–22, with 11 other area universities. Two teams participated:Stat of the Art
George Mason’s presentation, “How Can Indeed Better Connect US Health Care Employers with Nurses?” won first place for Best Data Visualization.
The second success took place during Data Challenge DC the weekend of April 28. The GMU Student Chapter, led by Glen Hui, was instrumental in organizing the meeting. More than 30 students participated, six of which were from GMU. One of GMU’s graduate statistics students was on the team that won for best data visualization.
The European Union’s (EU) recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) marks a major transition in data privacy protections in the European Union. And it may affect approaches to data access and confidentiality protections more broadly, including in US research and other statistical activities.
After four years of preparation and debate, the GDPR was approved and adopted by the EU Parliament in April 2016 and went into effect May 25, 2018. Many detailed daily practices remain to be worked out, including extraterritorial enforcement, but one thing is certain: The GDPR means more bureaucracy for all involved.
The GDPR replaces the Data Protection Directive. (A regulation—as is the GDPR—is a binding legislative act. It must be applied in its entirety across the EU, while a directive is a legislative act that sets out a goal all EU countries must achieve. However, it is up to the individual countries to decide how.) Unlike the current EU privacy directive, an EU regulation does not require any enabling legislation by member nations. It is designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, protect and empower all EU residents’ data privacy, and reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy. The regulation applies to EU members and nation states that are not EU members but are members of the EU economic area.
In this increasingly data-driven world where privacy cannot be completely guaranteed, the GDPR seeks to protect EU residents’ privacy and against breaches and misuses of “personal data.” Personal data is defined in a broad context as any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (data subject). An identifiable natural person is one who can be identified—directly or indirectly—in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name; identification number; location data; online identifier; or one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity of that natural person.
Some personal data is categorized as special data, which is essentially sensitive personal data covering religious or philosophical beliefs, health, racial or ethnic origin, trade union membership, political beliefs, sex life or sexual orientation, genetic data, and biometric data (including photos when used for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person) of individuals. The collection and use of special data is subject to greater restrictions than other types of personal data.
Pseudonymization is the processing of personal data in such a way that the data can no longer be attributed to a specific data subject without the use of additional information. This is the central feature of data protection by design. The GDPR looks favorably upon data controllers that keep “additional information” separate. To explain further, direct identifiers (name, Social Security number, or contact information) should be kept in a separate file from indirect identifiers, which can reveal identities if combined with additional data points. Personal data that has been pseudonymized (e.g., key-coded or as described above) falls short of being anonymized and therefore can fall within the scope of the GDPR, depending on how difficult it is to attribute the pseudonymized data to a particular individual.
The GDPR has important extraterritorial applications. It applies to personal information on EU residents even when they are outside the EU. It applies not only to personal data controllers and processors located in the EU, but also to those located outside the EU if their activities involve personal information on EU residents.
Coverage is triggered if the activities relate to offering goods or services to EU residents, irrespective of whether payment is required (e.g., over the internet), and monitoring behavior that takes place in the EU. When personal information on non-EU residents (e.g., for US residents) is transferred to an EU data controller or processor, that data becomes subject to the GDPR (Article 3).
Of course, breaking privacy is always a serious activity. Under GDPR, breaking privacy is now costly. Organizations—processors and controllers—in breach of GDPR can be fined up to 4% of the annual global turnover or 20 million euros (whichever is greater). This is the maximum fine that can be imposed for the most serious infringements (e.g., not having sufficient customer consent to process data or violating the core of Privacy by Design concepts).Main Topics
Main topics in the GDPR include the following:
- In the GDPR, conditions for consent have been strengthened. Requests for consent must be given in an intelligible and easily accessible form, with the purpose for data processing attached to that consent, using clear and plain language. It must be as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it.
- Under the GDPR, breach notification will become mandatory in all member states where a data breach is likely to “result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals.”
GDPR has increased data transparency and empowers data subjects. It gives data subjects the right to obtain from the data controller confirmation of whether personal data concerning them is being processed, and if so, where and for what purpose. The controller shall provide a copy of the personal data, free of charge.
The right to be forgotten entitles the data subject to have the data controller erase his/her personal data, cease further dissemination of the data, and potentially have third parties halt processing of the data. The conditions for erasure, as outlined in Article 17, include the data no longer being relevant to original purposes for processing or a data subjects’ withdrawing consent.
Privacy by design is also included in the GDPR. Privacy by design calls for the inclusion of data protection from the onset of the designing of systems, rather than an addition. More specifically, “The controller shall … implement appropriate technical and organisational measures … in an effective way … in order to meet the requirements of this Regulation and protect the rights of data subjects.” Article 23.GDPR and Research
Research occupies a privileged position in the GDPR. By harmonizing privacy legislation across the EU member states and carving out exemptions for scientific, historical, statistical, and health research, the GDPR seeks to reconcile the often-competing values of privacy and innovation.
The research regime set out in Article 89 expressly allows across the EU the following:
- Broad consents for scientific research where consent cannot be secured for all specific purposes at the outset of data collection
- Further use of personal data for scientific or statistical research as a secondary compatible purpose
- The right of the data subject to object to processing of personal data (unless necessary in public interest)
- Restriction of the right of a data subject to exercise their “right to erasure” if it is likely to significantly impair processing for scientific research purposes
- Relaxation of the storage limitation principle granting the ability to store personal data for longer periods
- Isolated transfers of personal data to third countries taking into account legitimate expectations of society for an increase in knowledge
Additionally, information obligations in scientific research do not apply if they would involve a disproportionate effort. Consideration of this takes into account the number of data subjects and age of the data and appropriate safeguards must be adopted. Furthermore, there is “no right to be forgotten” if it is likely to significantly impair processing for scientific research purposes. Use of the Article 89 research regime is subject to the following conditions:
- Appropriate safeguards to protect the right and freedoms of the data subject
- Adequate technical and security measures entrenching the principle of data minimization and using pseudonymized data as default
- Compliance with recognized ethical safeguards
The grounds that researchers can use to process personal data are the following:
- Consent of the data subject/research participant for the research purpose(s).
- Legitimate interests of the data controller (or a third party). In determining what these legitimate interests are, you need to ensure you balance the interests of the controller with any prejudice to the rights and freedoms or the interests of the data subject. In assessing whether the data controller has a legitimate interest, you need to take into account the reasonable expectations of the data subject. Public authorities cannot base processing on this ground.
- Performance of a public interest task or exercise of official authority.
Under both the GDPR and the earlier directive, the EU doesn’t allow the transfer of data on EU residents outside the EU unless the country is deemed to have adequate data privacy laws. Unfortunately, the EU has deemed that the United States does not currently have adequate data privacy laws, but organizations can navigate this by adhering to the EU-US Privacy Shield.
The EU-US Privacy Shield is a program in which participating US companies are considered to have adequate data protection and can therefore facilitate the transfer of EU data. The EU-US Privacy Shield’s predecessor, the Safe Harbour Framework, was overhauled because the EU did not consider this agreement strict enough on data protection for their citizens. The GDPR protects the data of all EU residents, regardless of whether they currently live in the EU.
Being certified under the EU-US Privacy Shield can give your company a jump-start on fulfilling the GDPR’s standards and provide legal clarity and direction on the EU’s data protection laws, but it will not guarantee total GDPR compliance. It is also important to note that the EU-US Privacy Shield will be revisited every year and could change, so it is important to have an assigned employee/person to stay current with all the updates.Helpful Resources
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Guidance Note for the Research Sector: Appropriate Use of Different Legal Bases Under the GDPR.
ICO (2018) Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Information Commissioner’s Office.
ICO (2017) Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): 12 Steps to Take Now. Information Commissioner’s Office.
Insights Association (2017) GDPR: FAQs on the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
Maldoff, G. (2016) Top 10 Operational Impacts of the GDPR: Part 8 – Pseudonymization. The Privacy Advisor.
The Government Statistics Section (GSS) organized three invited sessions, including a panel on using multiple data sources for federal statistics; seven topic-contributed sessions, including an update on the US Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking; three roundtables, including a lunch discussion on combating breaks in time series when using multiple data sources; five contributed sessions; and one poster session. In addition to sponsoring these events, GSS is co-sponsoring eight invited sessions, six topic-contributed sessions, and six speed sessions.
In addition, GSS is co-sponsoring a short course with the Section on Survey Research Methods (SRMS), titled “Applications of Hot Deck Imputation to Survey Data,” July 31 with Rebecca Andridge of The Ohio State University and Jenny Thompson of the U.S. Census Bureau as instructors.
Hot deck imputation is commonly used for handling missing data in which each missing value (recipient) is replaced with an observed value from a “similar” unit (donor). This half-day course is designed for survey practitioners who are interested in “seeing the methods in action.” Using examples from household and establishment surveys, the instructors will explore each step of hot deck imputation, beginning with different donor selection options through variance estimation methods. The course will cover classical hot deck methods alongside more cutting-edge approaches, including fractional hot deck imputation. The instructors will share their experiences with challenges that arise in the implementation of the hot deck—such as having fewer donors than recipients—and discuss various methods for overcoming these challenges.
More information about sessions, roundtables, and courses can be found online. As a reminder, roundtable and course space is limited, so sign up soon.
The events formerly known as the SPES/Q&P and Risk/SDNS mixers are morphing into one four-section joint mixer. This year, it will be the SPES/Q&P/Risk/Defense mixer at the 2018 Joint Statistical Meetings in Vancouver. We hope to see you Tuesday, July 31, in the Fairmont Waterfront Ballroom A from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
In the past, generous organizations and individuals have donated items such as books, software, CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, hats, ties, overalls (yes, overalls), pens, bags, water bottles, golf balls, blankets, coffee mugs, thumb drives, and the coveted Doughboy! Donated gifts have been both statistics and nonstatistics related.
We appreciate the generosity of our donors and hope you will consider adding to the excitement of the evening by donating door prizes this year. Of course, we will acknowledge all donors at the mixer.
The meetings are fast approaching, but there is still time to donate. Just complete the form at Survey Monkey to provide contact information and donation descriptions.
We would prefer you bring the items to the mixer or have them available at your booth for pickup. Also, mark the box of items “For SPES/Q&P/Risk/SDNS” in large letters so it is easily identified.SPES JSM Contributed Sessions in Vancouver
SPES has the following four contributed sessions in place for the upcoming JSM in Vancouver:
- Computer Experiments, Statistical Engineering, and Applications in Physical Sciences
- New Development in Reliability Models and Innovative Applications
- Machine Learning and Applications in Complex Engineering Systems
- Recent Developments in Designs of Experiments and Responses Surface Models
For more information, check out the JSM 2018 Online Program.
The Quality and Productivity (Q&P) section is sponsoring the following topic-contributed and contributed sessions at the Joint Statistical Meetings this year:
- New-Generation Experimental Design and Causal Inference in High-Tech Companies, organized by Tirthankar Dasgupta, Rutgers University
- Statistical Process Monitoring of High-Volume Data Streams, organized by Emmanuel Yashchin, IBM Research
- Field to Fork: Leading with Statistics in the Food Industry, organized by Shankang Qu, PepsiCo
- Modeling, Analysis, and Assessment, chaired by Douglas Ray, US Army RDECOM ARDEC
- Advances in Statistical Process Control, chaired by Ronald Fricker, Virginia Tech
Attendees are encouraged to use the online program to search for Q&P sessions. The Q&P Section also works closely with other ASA sections to co-sponsor sessions. In these situations, you will see Q&P listed as a co-sponsor in the online program, which contains more sessions than are listed above.
With a PhD in statistical astrophysics, David Corliss works in analytics architecture at Ford Motor Company while continuing astrophysics research on the side. He serves on the steering committee for the Conference on Statistical Practice and is president-elect of the Detroit Chapter. He is the founder of Peace-Work, a volunteer cooperative of statisticians and data scientists providing analytic support for charitable groups and applying statistical methods to issue-driven advocacy in poverty, education, and social justice.
With JSM just around the corner, it’s a good time to think about how to include Data for Good in your JSM activities. JSM is a huge event and can seem overwhelming. However, with a bit of planning, the Joint Statistical Meetings can be tamed and enjoyed.
It’s important to resist the temptation to overbook, dashing from one presentation to the next. JSM is about so much more than the papers! One strategy is to find the “big rocks”—a small number of activities most important to you—put them in your schedule, and then plan around them.
Every person can make sure Data for Good is one of those big rocks. Be sure to include time for meeting, networking, and just enjoying the event. As Student t often plays a role in my own D4G work, I always pay proper homage to William Gossett by raising a glass of a certain Irish stout.
When selecting papers, note how important it is to attend in person. For example, I don’t know why anyone would want to attend mine, which is about keeping your skill set up to date by doing Data for Good projects, because the content is just as good in print (but the rest of the invited session is great). Make a list of the papers you can read later and the big rocks to see in person.
Networking is a huge part of conferences! Plan time for this. If there is a person you want to meet, attend a paper they are presenting (if there is one) and don’t book the following time slot.Highlighted D4G Papers
An invited session, Data Science for Social Good, will be presented Thursday, August 2, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. DataKind founder Jake Porway will speak about designing for impact, followed by Darren Banks from RTI, who will touch on arrest-related deaths, and Erika Salomon from The University of Chicago, who will discuss interventions for people at risk of incarceration. The papers—and especially the discussion time at the end of the session—will be an important D4G highlight for JSM 2018.
Projects by Statistics without Borders (SWB) and their partners are featured in several presentations. An invited session August 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. will highlight recent SWB projects, including work related to the European migrant crisis and winter shelter for survivors of the 2015 Gorka earthquake.
Keep in mind that many of the most valuable presentations will be those on methodology that normally don’t say D4G on the label. Margaret Levenstein’s paper, “Transparency, Reproducibility, and Replicability in Work with Social and Economic Data” is one good example. Presentations about working with public data sources, such as those mentioned in the May Stats4Good column, and those focusing on collaboration and communication with nonstatisticians will be especially helpful.Not Attending JSM?
Not going to JSM, but interested in doing more with Data for Good? The presentations and other resources are not for attendees only. As JSM is a nexus of all things statistical, searching the speakers, talks, and posters is valuable for anyone, but perhaps most of all for those unable to attend. Most of the research for this month’s column came from the JSM online program, which is a tremendously valuable resource. Each person will want to look for subjects and speakers that interest them most. If you can’t be there in person, you can still mine the presentations, look for opportunities, and make connections for your next project.Bringing Data for Good Home
There are so many great opportunities at JSM, and everyone can make Data for Good one of them. Be sure to take some time to talk with presenters. Think about possibilities for your next D4G project and get connected with the people involved. When you are ready to leave, be sure to bring JSM—and Data for Good—home with you!
Prodyot Kumar Bhattacharya passed away March 9, 2018, at his home in Davis, California. He was professor emeritus at the University of California at Davis and contributed to the field of statistics during a career that spanned more than 50 years.
PK, as he was called by many colleagues and friends, entered Presidency College to earn his bachelor’s degree in statistics and ultimately received his master’s degree and PhD under the supervision of H.K. Nandi from Calcutta University. In 1960, he traveled to the United States and held postdoctoral positions at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Stanford University. After a brief period at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Calcutta, he returned permanently to the US in 1965 upon accepting a position at the University of Arizona. He spent sabbatical terms at the University of Minnesota, ISI, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1980, he left Arizona to help establish the UC Davis Division of Statistics, where he remained until his retirement in 1994. He supervised PhD students, served on the editorial boards of Sankhya and the Annals of Statistics, and, in 2016, published Theory and Methods of Statistics, a book for advanced graduate students and research statisticians, with his co-author, Prabir Burman.
PK’s early seminal work, published in the Annals of Mathematical Statistics in 1966, proposed a uniformly superior estimator for the mean of a multivariate normal vector under unknown variance and generalized loss function, an important expansion on Charles Stein’s surprising result showing inadmissibility of the ordinary least squares estimator in dimensions exceeding two. Throughout his career, PK maintained special interest in nonparametric estimation functions and change-point analysis, an area that led to demonstrating the large sample behavior of the maximum likelihood estimator of an unknown change-point through a Brownian motion process with drift. His research was motivated by unusual problems across a spectrum of disciplines. Of particular note, his collaboration in a cosmological application led to a nonparametric inference method for a regression model having errors with infinite variance and a truncated response, an approach that reconciles the red shift effect of a light source in an ever-expanding universe and the truncation arising from the low luminosity of distant objects. The method allows analysis and interpretation of complex astronomical data, such as those collected by the Hubble Space Telescope.
PK was born on September 30, 1930, in Calcutta, India. The fourth of six children, he lost his mother and younger sister when he was a young boy. Despite hardship at an early age, he found joy in the books he discovered at the local Boys’ Own Library. He developed a special fondness for Bengali and English poetry and, for the rest of his life, could recite from memory the verses that moved him during his school days. He loved popular and classical Indian and western music, all kinds of food and spirits, and traveling to all corners of the world. He was happiest when sharing these lifelong passions with others, whether it was setting out his favorite selection of cheeses, introducing his grandchildren to classic movies, or attending an opera performance in San Francisco or New York.
PK left an indelible mark on science and the lives he touched through his intellect, humor, generosity, and spirit of adventure. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Srilekha; his daughters, Suparna Jain and Aparna Anderson; and his grandchildren, Arjun and Anjali Jain and Anil and Mira Anderson.Eun Sul Lee
“The man departs—there remains his shadow.”
Eun Sul Lee, age 83, died peacefully with his family surrounding him on April 2, 2018, at the Mirabella retirement community in Portland, Oregon. The retired professor was a scholar; teacher and mentor; author; origami master; true gentleman; and devoted husband, father, and grandfather of three.
Born in Gongju, Korea, in 1934, Eun Sul lived through the end of the Japanese occupation (1945) and the Korean War (1950–1953) before he went to college at Seoul National University, where he studied sociology. After college, he worked as a translator at the Christian Children’s Fund in Seoul, where he met his future wife, Chong Mahn. They were engaged in Seoul before they both moved to the United States to attend graduate school—he at the University of Kentucky (for an MA in statistics) and she at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Later, he earned his PhD in experimental statistics and sociology from North Carolina State University.
Eun Sul began his academic career at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston in 1969 and remained there for 36 years, until his retirement. While at UT, he advised master’s and doctoral students and taught classes in demography, biostatistics, survey sampling and community health assessment, planning, and evaluation. He also participated in numerous funded research projects and served on review committees for the National Cancer Institute; National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute; and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He also consulted extensively with the NIMH and the World Health Organization.
While on leave from UT from 1994 to 1996, he developed and chaired the department of preventive medicine and public health at Ajou University Medical School in Suwon, Korea. He also taught and consulted at several universities in Asia, including Seoul National University, Yonsei University, Gunma University, and the Hokkaido University.
Upon his retirement in 2005, Eun Sul and Chong Mahn moved to Portland, Oregon, where he became an adjunct professor in the department of public health and preventive medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). He also provided statistical consulting services for the Mental Health Services Research Program at the Portland Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
Eun Sul participated in the writing of more than 100 journal articles and scholarly reports, authored three textbooks (one in Korean and two in English), and wrote a memoir titled Dreaming with One Eye Open for his children and grandchildren. In his memoir, he chronicled his family history, childhood in Korea, life during wartime, move to the United States, and, later in life, coming to terms with his father’s legacy.
His father, Lee Chul Ha, died in 1936 after being imprisoned by the Japanese for protesting colonial rule in Korea. Eun Sul grew up knowing little about his father. While on sabbatical in Korea in 1992, he discovered his father was one of the leaders of the nationalist resistance movement in his hometown and was active in a student revolutionary group in Seoul. When these findings were made known to the South Korean government, his father was honored with a Patriot’s Medal in 1993 and his grave was moved to the National Cemetery shortly thereafter.
Eun Sul is survived by his wife, Chong Mahn Lee; daughter, Margaret Juhae Lee; son-in-law, Steven Paul Francis Olson; son, Edward Tongju Lee; daughter-in-law, Amy Lee Lacks; and three grandchildren, Owen Sung Ya Lee Olson, Dahlia Mina Lee, and Kiana Yong Mi Lee Olson.
A private ceremony will be held. Memorial donations may be made to the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation.Herman Rubin Written by Anirban DasGupta
Herman Rubin, professor of statistics and mathematics at Purdue University, passed away in West Lafayette, Indiana, on April 23, 2018; he was 91.
Herman was among the last remaining great polymaths of the 20th century. To all who knew him or had heard about him, he was an inexplicable outlier in numerous ways. His unique ability to understand a new problem and arrive at the answer almost instantly baffled even the wittiest mathematicians. He never forgot a fact or a theorem or a proof. He would solve a complete stranger’s problem without expecting co-authorship or anything in return. He would ﬁght for someone who opposed him at every step. He would stand on his principles with the last drop of blood in his body. Herman’s death marks the end of a unique era following World War II that saw the emergence of a group of supremely talented statisticians who would mold the foundations of the subject for decades to come.
Herman earned his PhD from The University of Chicago at a young age; he was a student of Paul Halmos. After a stint at the Cowles Commission, he formed a productive intellectual aﬃnity with Ted Anderson, Charles Stein, and Ingram Olkin; at that same time, he also became professionally close to David Blackwell and Meyer Girshick. With Ted Anderson, he wrote two phenomenal papers on fundamental multivariate analysis that worked out the ﬁxed sample and asymptotic distribution theory of MLEs in factor analysis models and structural equation models. These results have entered into all standard multivariate analysis and econometrics texts and have remained there for more than a half century. Herman’s most famous and classic contribution to inference is the widely used and fundamental idea of monotone likelihood ratio families. Anyone who has ever taken a course on testing of hypotheses knows how fundamental the idea and results in the 1956 paper with Samuel Karlin were. It was this work that led to Karlin’s hugely inﬂuential TP2 and variation diminishing families with shadows of Isaac Schoenberg and Bill Studden lurking in the background.
Following this period, Herman made novel entries into various aspects of probability and asymptotics. With J. Sethuraman, he did theory of moderate deviations. With Herman Chernoﬀ, he attacked the then novel problem of estimating locations of singularities, and how, precisely, the asymptotics were new. With Prakasa Rao as his student, he got into the problem of cube root asymptotics for monotone densities. With C. R. Rao, he gave the classic Rao-Rubin characterization theorem. And, to many, the crown of the jewel was the invention of the Stratonovich integral.
Herman really did enjoy particular problems, as long as they were not mundane particular problems. Classic examples are his papers with Rick Vitale that show sets of independent events characterize an underlying probability measure, degeneracies aside; his work with Jeesen Chen and Burgess Davis on how nonuniform a uniform sample can look to the eye; his work with Tom Sellke on roots of smooth characteristic functions; his work on the Bayesian formulation of quality control with Meyer Girshick; the hilariously bizarre but hard problem of estimating a rational mean; his papers with Andrew Rukhin on the positive normal mean; his work on the notorious Binomial N problem; and his work on Bayesian robustness of frequentist nonparametric tests. There are others. Herman never thought of who would cite or read a result; if he wanted to solve a problem, he did.
Herman was probably one of the lifelong Bayesians, but a purely axiomatic one. He really did take most of the Savagian theory and axioms literally; he expanded on them, though later. An expansion was published in Statistics and Decisions (to my knowledge, with extremely active help from Jim Berger). He would not budge an inch from his conviction that the likelihood and prior are inseparable. He would refuse to discuss what an appropriate loss function was; he would insist you ask the client. He would nevertheless want to see the full risk function of a procedure and would study Bayes through the lens of Bayes risk, and even exclusively Bayes risk, namely the double integral. On asymptotic behaviors of procedures, he did not appear to care for second-order terms. He has shown his concern for only calculating a limit time and again. A glorious example of this is his work with J. Sethuraman on eﬃciency defined through Bayes risks; this was so novel it entered into the classic asymptotic text of Robert Serfling. He came back to it many years later in joint work with Kai-Sheng Song in an Annals of Statistics article.
In certain ways, Herman came across as self-contradictory. He would publicly say only Bayes procedures should be used. But he would oppose the use of a single prior with all his teeth. He would be technically interested in robustness of traditional frequentist procedures, although he would portray them as coming out of wrong formulations. Well-known examples are his well-cited papers with Joe Gastwirth on the performance of the t-test under dependence. He did not have the personal desire to burn the midnight oil on writing a comprehensive review of some area, but he would be an invaluable asset if someone was writing one such. An example is his review of infinitely divisible distributions with Arup Bose (and this writer). An all-time classic is his text Equivalents of the Axiom of Choice, jointly written with his wife, Jean Rubin. Jim Berger thanks Herman profusely in the preface of his classic Springer book on decision theory and Bayesian analysis; Charles Stein acknowledges Herman and Herbert Robbins in his ﬁrst shrinkage paper.
There was a fairly long period when nearly every paper written in Herman’s home department had his contributions in it. He never asked for or got credit for them. He defined the term scholar in its literal dictionary sense. With the passing of Herman Rubin, a shining beacon of knowledge and wisdom is gone. Herman was an absolute and consummate master of simulation, characteristic functions, and inﬁnitely divisible distributions. He kept to himself a mountain of facts and results on these and other topics. There was never a person who did not respect Herman Rubin’s brain; even Paul Erdös did. He was an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society and a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.
Herman had sophisticated taste in music and literature. He was often seen at classical concerts and operas. He helped mathematical causes ﬁnancially. Herman was probably one of the few people who could work out the NY Times crossword puzzle on any day in about an hour. Herman is survived by his son, Arthur, and daughter, Leonore.
The Quality and Productivity Section will award Mary G. and Joseph Natrella scholarships to Anh Bui, a PhD candidate in industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern University, and Xiaowei Yue, a PhD candidate in the department of industrial and systems engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, during the 2018 Joint Research Conference on Statistics in Quality, Industry, and Technology, which will be held June 11–14 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Both Bui and Yue will give a research presentation at the conference and receive a $3,500 scholarship, plus $500 for travel expenses and complimentary registration for the conference and pre-conference short course.
Bui was recommended for the award by Daniel W. Apley of Northwestern University and Chi-Hyuck Jun of Pohang University of Science and Technology in Pohang, South Korea. His presentation at the conference is titled, “Monitoring Stochastic Textured Surfaces.”
Yue was recommended for the award by Jianjun Shi and Chuck Zhang of Georgia Institute of Technology. The title of his presentation is “Engineering-Driven Data Analytics for Quality Improvement.”
The winners were chosen for their outstanding teaching, community service, mentoring, leadership, scholarship, and commitment to the pursuit of quality improvement through the use of statistical methods.
Over the past few years, public acknowledgement of sexual harassment/assault has emerged as a critical workplace and professional issue in need of greater attention. No social environment is immune to it. Members of associations like the American Statistical Association deserve policies that preserve the dignity of members individually and professionally. In November of 2017, the ASA Board of Directors approved the formation of the Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault.
The charge of the task force is as follows:
- Assess the extent of sexual harassment/assault in the ASA community.
- Review surveys used by other professional organizations to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment/assault.
- Develop an ASA membership survey to assess the frequency, location, and kinds of harassment/assault occurring.
- Distribute the survey to ASA membership.
- Summarize the findings from the survey.
- Review the current best practices of professional organizations and academic institutions with respect to sexual harassment/assault.
- Consider creation of a resource that allows victims of sexual harassment and assault to anonymously receive support.
- Make recommendations to the ASA Board of Directors regarding sexual harassment/assault policy changes for the organization.
What follows is an update on our activities since the task force was approved by the board.
During the two months following the formulation of these charges, the ASA president, in consultation with the executive director, appointed task force members with the goal of including a diverse, representative cross-section of the ASA membership. The membership of the task force can be found on the ASA website.
The task force members convened for the first time at the end of January and have met a few more times since. There are regular meetings scheduled going forward and members have begun addressing the charges above. Task force members are diverse and each brings different experiences to the table, thus enabling lively discussion with a variety of perspectives.
Following is the progress made on each of the four main charges:
Survey of Sexual Harassment/Assault in the ASA Community
We are fortunate to have experienced survey statisticians among our task force membership who drafted a plan describing options for developing and implementing a way to gather information about our membership’s experiences and perceptions of sexual harassment. As we reviewed the potential paths available for this effort (e.g., formal or informal survey, census), it became clear this was an undertaking larger than could be handled by the task force. The ASA has thus graciously agreed to fund a membership survey and has put out a request for proposals (RFP) to external organizations.
The chosen organization will contact all ASA members and give them an opportunity to answer a set of questions related to their experiences and perceptions of sexual harassment. The responses will not constitute a probability sample, but will provide valuable information about the severity of these issues among our membership.
In addition to the obvious benefits of allowing professionals to manage this effort, it also allows the data to “live” outside of the ASA, which is important given the sensitive nature of the data collection.
The RFP was developed by the ASA staff and has been reviewed and revised by the task force. It was made publicly available on April 25, 2018.
Early in our discussions, we reached out to colleagues at the American Political Science Association (APSA), which recently published the results of its survey on sexual misconduct in their discipline. We received important and useful feedback from their executive director that helped guide some of our discussions about our approach.
Review of Best Practices
We have been assembling information from other professional organizations regarding their policies on sexual assault and harassment, both for meetings and professional conduct. In this vein, we included a request for input from ASA members in the April 18 member e-newsletter.
Resource for Anonymous Reporting
We have not yet directly addressed the development of a mechanism for anonymous reporting of incidents of sexual assault and harassment; however, for most of our discussions, reporting is an issue we have touched on. As we move forward with developing policy recommendations, discussions of a reporting mechanism will be the next step.
Policy Recommendations to the ASA Board
With respect to policy recommendations to the ASA Board, we have started the process of examining the current meeting conduct policy and are brainstorming ways to improve the policy and the means by which it is communicated to the ASA membership. This has led to discussions about policy for meeting conduct vs. policy for professional conduct. In addition, we have had much discussion about psychological, confidentiality, legal, and reporting issues that may arise through implementation of such policies, thus resulting in recommendations that the ASA employ an ombudsperson for the Joint Statistical Meetings. This would allow reporting to occur in a confidential manner and to someone who has training in the psychological and legal actions necessary in these situations.
In addition to the topics described above, we have talked about how to engage the ASA community more broadly in our efforts. We have therefore reached out to the Committee on Women in Statistics, Committee on Professional Ethics, and Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment to ensure we align our efforts. We are particularly interested in working with the Committee on Professional Ethics to ensure we address the professional conduct aspects of sexual misconduct. In addition, as described above, we have solicited input from the ASA membership regarding best practices for an inclusive meeting/organization and plan to solicit input on our draft policy recommendations.
We have made a decision to be proactive, rather than reactive, and to think about the long-term goals of our recommendations. It is our hope that the recommendations we make are approved by the ASA and make an impact on the health and happiness of our organization.
The ASA Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault welcomes your input and invites you to provide feedback.
The Section on Statistics in Epidemiology (SIE) grants annual Young Investigator awards to new researchers for the best papers in statistics in epidemiology presented at JSM. Among the Young Investigator Award winners, the Breslow Award further recognizes the top paper.
The section presents the 2018 Young Investigator awards to the following individuals:
- Maria Cuellar, Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University (Breslow Award Winner)
- Parichoy Pal Choudhury, Biostatistics, The Johns Hopkins University
- Kwonsang Lee, Biostatistics, Harvard University
- Maya Mathur, Biostatistics, Harvard University
- Ran Tao, Biostatistics, Vanderbilt University
- Kai Yang, Biostatistics, University of Florida
An awards ceremony will be held at this year’s JSM in Vancouver on Tuesday, July 31, at 6:30 p.m. in recognition of the awardees. The ceremony will be followed by a joint mixer with the Mental Health Statistics Section. Visit the JSM online program for an up-to-date location.
A new term entered our national vernacular last year: “alternative facts.” Although its use has provided new material for the comic stage and late-night talk shows, it has caused consternation among scientists.
JSM 2017 featured no fewer than five sessions about government statistics, including one titled “Doomed Data … When National Governments, Coerced Narratives, and Alternative Facts Override the Quality, Importance of Statistics.” And earlier this year, the AAAS annual meeting featured a brainstorming session about ways to deal with or push back against alternative facts shown to be false.
Even before alternative facts became a reality (pun intended), ASA Board members had an interest in determining our membership’s views on official statistics and whether public confidence in them had been affected by public dialogue. We engaged Stanton Communications to conduct focus group interviews to this effect, and out of this initial data gathering grew an exciting ASA initiative: Count on Statistics.
In early May, I had the opportunity to interview Megan Berry from Stanton Communications about the initiative. Here is what she had to say:
Why did the ASA decide such a project was needed?Berry: Amid rising concerns about public confidence in US government statistics, the American Statistical Association commissioned Stanton Communications to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of a public outreach initiative to enhance awareness of the importance, reliability, and trustworthiness of government statistics.
We conducted more than a dozen interviews with key ASA leaders, members, and subject-matter experts with a perspective on this topic. One such interviewee stated, “We do not need to determine if there is a problem. There is a problem. The public doesn’t trust government statistics or understand where the data are coming from.”
Through these candid conversations, Stanton determined the opportunities, challenges, and objectives a strategic communications program may involve. Clearly, there was a need for a program with the mission to “distinguish federal statistics as absolutely essential to the functions of our democracy.” With the support of ASA leadership and the board, we created Count on Stats to do just that.
What approach has the campaign taken and why?Berry: The campaign has focused on communicating the benefits of the federal statistical system—how we, as a society, “Count on Stats.” To promote this message, we work to influence the influencers, engage the user base, and amplify agency and partner communications through a variety of channels. We have engaged our key audiences—our allies, the press, members of Congress, the business community, and statistical agencies—through social media, op-eds, blogs, media interviews, press releases and statements, monthly e-newsletters, and even articles in Amstat News.
What has been accomplished thus far?Berry: Our early efforts have focused on developing a social following, primarily on Twitter, responding to threats to the system, and building relationships with key members of the media. We have garnered direct mentions in CQ Magazine, Associations Now, and City Lab. ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein was also featured on the Consortium of Social Science Association’s Why Social Science series, expressing how statistical agencies produce data essential for democracy. Last week, Count on Stats also sponsored a panel at SABEW18 on accessing accurate government statistics and concerns about disappearing data.
What is planned for the future?Berry: In the coming months, we will be doing more to reach out to members of the media and policymakers. This will help us proactively influence the conversation and gain a further reach. We also plan to continue emphasizing the importance of the federal statistical system by featuring a statistical agency on Twitter every week. In addition, the Count on Stats team is working to develop and host a panel featuring speakers from Congress, the press, and the federal statistical community. With this integrative approach, we hope to better educate our audiences and rebuild the public’s trust in federal statistics.
Whether encouraging and training statisticians to fulfill their leadership potential or making sure official statistics are understood and valued, just remember—you can count on the ASA!Meet Erica Groshen
Former BLS Commissioner and Leadership Institute Steering Committee Member
A former director of the second-largest federal statistical agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is the final member of the ASA Leadership Institute’s Steering Committee to be in the President’s Corner spotlight. We are privileged to have Erica Groshen, BLS commissioner from 2013–2017, advising the institute on the development of strong statistical leaders. Erica is currently a visiting senior scholar at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR). Prior to leading the BLS, she worked in the Federal Reserve System. Throughout her career, she has maintained a focus on research, development, and outreach. As a labor economist, Erica’s research taps into employer data to better understand the role of employers in the labor market and to gain insight into wage differences, rigidity, and the impact of recessions.
Regarding statistical leadership, Erica contributed one of my favorite quotes to date from the Institute’s Steering Committee. When discussing the importance of leadership training for statisticians during our first meeting, she noted that, “People rise to leadership positions from different career paths, and CEOs were something else before becoming CEOs.” Traditionally, she noted, these roles went to those trained in business or law, but with the increasing importance of data and analytics in all employment sectors, it is perhaps inevitable that statisticians should be tapped for these top posts and should not feel limited in pursuing them.
Regarding the Count on Statistics initiative, Erica commented that federal statistics are very much a public service and represent the baseline for methodological work seeking to improve the way data from surveys and other sources are used today. Thoughtful critiques of official statistics are valuable. Data sources and methods are evolving, and it is important that users understand the limitations of their use. But this is not the same as uninformed critiques, attacking without that understanding. Statisticians should be defending official statistics on a regular basis in their social and professional environments. Otherwise, we are missing an opportunity to defend our own work.
About the Leadership Institute, Erica noted that, “There is a role for professional associations like the ASA to help their members advance in their careers.”
We are fortunate to have Erica and the other steering committee members guiding the planning and operation of the institute and look forward to their continued commitment.
Chief Statistician of the United States, US Office of Management and Budget
Senior Vice President, Information Technology, and Chief Information Officer, Eli Lilly & Co.
Senior Data Scientist, Two Sigma
Distinguished Professor of Statistics, Iowa State University
Associate Professor, Department of Statistics, Duke University, and Data Scientist and Professional Educator, RStudio
Senior Director Global Statistical Sciences, Eli Lilly & Co.
The Women in Statistics and Data Science conference has become one of the ASA’s most popular and positive conferences. Last year’s WSDS welcomed more than 450 attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors. This fall’s conference should be on your list of must-attend events.
Women in Statistics and Data Science will take place this October in Cincinnati, Ohio. When we convene, we will gather professionals and students from academia, industry, and the government who are working in statistics and data science. WSDS offers unique opportunities to grow your influence, your community, and your knowledge, but—more importantly—to interact with other leading women in the field.
With a wide range of content—including engaging plenaries, poster sessions, short courses, and concurrent sessions about managing family-work balance, cutting-edge advances, and growing in your career—each attendee will find enriching material to help them at any stage.
Leaders from academia, industry, and government will come together to present a world-class experience for attendees, from student and postgraduates to seasoned professionals. Aarti Shaah of Eli Lilly, Claudia Perlich of Dstillery/NYU, and Alicia Carriquiry from Iowa State will give plenary talks. The technical content will again be top notch, but what sets this conference apart is the hands-on, warm, and engaging environment that proves particularly conducive to learning and growing in both professional and personal ways. What do attendees say about WSDS? They call the meeting welcoming, inspiring, empowering, motivating, eye opening, and awesome!
Mark October 18–20 on your calendar and learn more by visiting the WSDS website.
The ASA Board of Directors proposes the following modifications to the ASA bylaws. The purpose of the changes is to ensure the ASA’s finance-related committee charges are consistent with current best practices and to update some provisions that are either no longer applicable or not reflective of current best practices.
Finance-related committee charges:
Article IX. COMMITTEES
4.a. Audit Committee. The Audit Committee shall consist of the Treasurer, who acts as chair, the chair of the Budget Committee, and the Past President. It shall periodically recommend an audit firm to the Board of Directors; serve as the Board of Directors’ liaison to the Association’s auditors; represent the Board of Directors in discharging its responsibilities relating to the accounting, reporting, and financial practices of the ASA; have general responsibility for surveillance of internal controls, accounting, and audit activities of the ASA; ensure the audit is carried out in a fiscally sound manner; review with the audit firm their audit procedures, including the scope and timing of the audit, the results of the annual audit, and any accompanying management letters; assess the adequacy of internal controls and risk management systems; review the IRS Form 990, 990-T, and Virginia Form 500; review the document destruction and whistleblower policies; and review material about any pending legal proceedings involving the ASA. recommend an audit firm to the Board of Directors. It serves as the Board of Directors’ liaison to the Association auditors. It is responsible for seeing that the audit is carried out in a fiscally sound manner and that reports are prepared as needed by the Board of Directors.
4.b. Budget Committee. The Budget Committee shall consist of the three Vice Presidents and Treasurer, the latter ex officio without vote. The senior Vice President shall serve as chair of the committee. It is responsible The Committee shall annually recommend the operating budget for the coming fiscal year, including the Association staff compensation budget (salaries and fringe benefits), for action by the Board of Directors; periodically review the Association’s financial results in comparison to the budget; and periodically assess the facilities needs of the Association home office. for annually proposing the budget for the coming fiscal year. It is responsible for annually recommending a budget for action by the Board of Directors. It is also responsible for annually evaluating the capital budget, the salary classification structure, and the fringe benefits for the Association staff. It shall also periodically review the incomes, expenditures, and allocations during the year for consistency with the budget; the accounting system employed and the budgeting process; and the facilities need of the Association home office. If it so chooses, the Board of Directors as a group may serve as the Budget Committee.
5.d. Finance Investments Committee. The Finance Investments Committee shall recommend to the Board of Directors, and assess adherence to, investment guidelines that will improve the safety, return, reporting, or management of the investment accounts; periodically review the holdings in the investment accounts of the Association; assess appropriate benchmarks for investment performance; evaluate the performance of the investment managers and consultants; recommend to the Board of Directors, as appropriate, steps that will improve the safety, return, reporting, and/or management of the investment accounts; and such other matters related to the financial performance of the Association as the Board may assign from time to time.recommend long-term financial planning, supervise the investments of the Association, and carry out other duties as determined by the Board of Directors. The Finance Committee shall consist of the Treasurer as chair and six full members, each serving a three-year term, designated by the President-Elect.
Other revision recommendations:
Article X. PUBLICATIONS
4. Directory. At suitable intervals, the Association shall make available a directory of its members. At suitable intervals, the Constitution and By-Laws of the Association shall be published.
Article II. FINANCE
3. Authority. All funds of the Association shall be deposited with the Treasurer, who shall make disbursement therefrom under regulations of the Board of Directors. The Treasurer shall have authority to purchase securities with funds that the Board of Directors has designated for investment and to sell such securities, but such purchases and sales shall be made only in accordance with such guidelines as the Board of Directors shall prescribe.
The Board of Directors may appoint full members of the Association residing outside the United States to serve as depositories for funds.
With the approval of the Board of Directors, the Treasurer may delegate the powers listed in the first paragraph of this section, as well as the power to sign checks and to access safe-deposit boxes.
4. Surety Bonds. All persons who are responsible for the disbursement of funds shall be insured by a surety and performance bond in amounts and with companies approved by the Board of Directors. Fidelity: All persons who are responsible for the disbursement of funds shall be held as covered under a blanket Employee Dishonesty policy at limits approved by the Board of Directors.
10. Indemnity. The Association shall indemnify each person who was or is a party or is threatened to be made a party to any threatened, pending, or completed action, suit, or proceeding, whether civil, criminal, administrative, or investigative, by reason of serving at the request of the Association as a director, officer, employee, or agent of another organization, against all judgments, penalties, fines, and settlements, and against all reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees, actually incurred in connection with such action, suit, or proceeding, to the fullest extent permitted by Massachusetts law, except if the actual or potential liability is due to the person’s own negligence or gross negligence, or criminal misconduct, or action in violation of ASA rules or policies.
Note: In accordance with the bylaws, the membership shall have 75 days to review and respond to any proposed change. Please direct comments to the executive director and ASA secretary by September 15, 2018. Member comments will be shared with the ASA Board of Directors before further action regarding these changes is taken.
With a PhD in statistical astrophysics, David Corliss works in analytics architecture at Ford Motor Company while continuing astrophysics research on the side. He serves on the steering committee for the Conference on Statistical Practice and is president-elect of the Detroit Chapter. He is the founder of Peace-Work, a volunteer cooperative of statisticians and data scientists providing analytic support for charitable groups and applying statistical methods to issue-driven advocacy in poverty, education, and social justice.
Data for Good volunteers can be found in many places and situations—at work, Data for Good organizations like Statistics without Borders, DataKind, and topic-driven organizations focused on a particular subject such as supporting a school. One area attracting volunteers for good causes are faith-based organizations. Obviously, Data for Good brings in people across the spectrum—from entirely secular to religiously motivated, from every faith and none. For those connected to a faith-based group in some way, Data for Good volunteers can be an invaluable resource.
Many faith-based groups have turned to statistics and data science as critical components of achieving their mission of serving people and the community. Identifying drivers of poverty and homelessness, survey design and analysis, models to improve the effectiveness of refugee programs, discrimination and injustice research, and data-driven guidance for reform initiatives such as prisons and sentencing are a few examples of how faith-based groups are using statistical volunteers today. The most common use of statistics, however, is in operations research for the organization itself—surveys to understand the needs and interests of members, increasing membership and fundraising, and optimizing the use of space and other resources.
A great example of what can be done at a local level can be found at a synagogue in Chicago, Congregation Rodfei Zedek. Located near The University of Chicago and with many people having analytic experience in the congregation, Rodfei Zedek has formed its own informatics committee. Led by congregation member and statistician Andrea Frazier, the team’s goals include building stronger relationships and fostering data-driven decision-making.
An important analytic use case for any membership organization is … membership! The informatics committee at Rodfei Zedek needs to track both individual and group memberships—classes and activities, households, and larger family associations. The informatics team digitized all the records, cleaned the data, established variables for various group memberships, and flagged special skills—for example, informatics! All members are matched to roles in which they possess the requisite skills to broaden the number of people participating. This database has resulted in more efficient program management, improved program participation, and better use of member resources.
The informatics team also evaluates programs. Surveys are conducted using one of the common online survey tools and the data analyzed and visualizations created to better understand how people feel about programs. Analysis produces data-driven insights to guide improvements. Predictive modeling is used to understand the key factors driving member engagement and estimate the attendance to be expected for a given event. Events can be selected based of the level of interest within the group and planned with clear expectations of the amount of participation. An event that will attract dozens or more can be placed in a larger room and more volunteers recruited to support it.
As people involved with charity management will be familiar, some important activities will attract just a handful of people. Predictive analytics can direct these toward smaller meeting rooms, or even other locations such as people’s homes.
Many important religious celebrations occur on different days in the civil calendar each year. Easter, for example, falls on the Sunday after the first full moon in spring, while Diwali falls on the new moon in the period from late October to early November.
Predictive analytics can describe the interaction of these “moveable feasts” with the civil calendar based on day of the week and other events. Analytics predicting attendance—and therefore required resources—can also address over-crowded holiday periods. Predictive analytics can support an answer to those who want to push one more event into an already over-crowded holiday period by giving solid estimates of the number of volunteers required and how many people will be able to participate.
Statistical science can analyze and identify the challenges facing the wider community, enabling closer partnerships and helping to address the sadly common issue of congregations that have grown away from their surrounding community. Frazier emphasizes the diverse purposes Data for Good can serve, which can be used “to save the world, but it’s also valuable for enhancing your own community. … It’s a great tool for the greater good!”
Once an informatics team is developed, it can take on challenges well beyond the walls of the congregation. Assessing the needs of the community, fighting poverty and homelessness, supporting local schools—almost any objective of the community groups you are active in can be helped by a Data for Good team.
While the Rodfei Zedek informatics team was developed to use the analytic resources available within a particular community of faith, the model can be applied to many kinds of organizations. School support groups, service organizations (e.g., Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.), alumni organizations, and many more can benefit. As long as there is a large group of people, especially where there are many professions, there is likely to be a subset with the analytic and data skills needed to form an informatics team.
Does your community, civic, faith-based, or other organization use statistics and data science for projects in your community? Let us know! We are always looking for inspiring examples of Data for Good to feature in this column.
For new Data for Good opportunities this month, consider having a look at Statistics Without Borders. It’s a great organization with many wonderful opportunities to work in Data for Good. Also, Peace-Work is looking for people interested in homelessness solutions to study the Utah program that has reduced homelessness there by 91% in recent years and perform economic analysis of the feasibility of doing the same in the investigator’s home state. You can contact them via their website.
Many academics and fields use Twitter as a professional resource. As we all know, statistics education is a field filled with great ideas and wonderful people from all over the world. However, searches for posts relating to statistics education return few results, indicating a lack of presence of our field on Twitter. The information below should help academics and professionals who work at the intersections of statistics, education, and teaching to create and use Twitter accounts to help develop an active, informative social media network.Definitions
- Microblogging: Activity or practice of making short, frequent posts to a microblog (e.g., Twitter).
- Hashtag: A word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages about a specific topic.
- List: A curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the accounts on that list.
- Follow: Following another user means that all their tweets will appear in your feed.
- Build/maintain professional networks: during conferences; information sharing; literature recommendations; learn about academic/professional opportunities; career advice; microblogging
- Advertise: research; events; publications; other updates
- Increase visibility: individual; field
- Using Twitter in Academia
- Using Twitter in University Research, Teaching, and Impact Activities: A Guide for Academics and Researchers
- 10 Commandments of Twitter for Academics
- Twitter Glossary
- @AmstatNews American Statistical Association
- @RoyalStatSoc Royal Statistical Society
- @CAUSEweb Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education
- @NCTM National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
- @IntCSE International Centre for Statistical Education
- @ThisisStats ASA project to raise awareness of careers in statistics
- @signmagazine Statistics magazine and website by the Royal Statistics Society and ASA
- @DrSteveFoti Me
Since a tweet is limited to 140 characters, abbreviations are used to replace commonly used phrases. This is a list of frequently used abbreviations, but you will likely encounter many more. Use your favorite search engine if you need help decoding one.
- RT: retweet
- MT: modified tweet
- FWIW: for what it’s worth
- BTW: by the way
- IMO: in my opinion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Foti is a clinical assistant professor in the department of biostatistics and the director of the online MS program at the University of Florida. He earned his PhD in statistics education and his MS in statistics from the University of Florida, while earning his BS in applied mathematics and statistics and physics from Clarkson University. He teaches biostatistics courses to both undergraduate and graduate students in public health and medicine. Follow Foti on Twitter by searching @DrSteveFoti.
The Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) announced in April the establishment of two lectureships named after women: The Elizabeth L. Scott Lecture and the F.N. David Lecture. The lectures will be given in alternate years at the annual Joint Statistical Meetings beginning in 2019.
This will be the first time JSM, which has been held annually since 1840, will have lectures named after women. JSM is the largest gathering of statisticians in North American and one of the largest in the world. Each year, there are more than 6,000 participants from more than 50 countries.
The Elizabeth L. Scott Lecture and F.N. David Lecture will be included in the COPSS portfolio, which already includes the Fisher Lecture. According to Nick Horton, chair of COPSS, “One of the main tasks for COPSS involves granting awards that highlight the work of notable statisticians. I’m proud that starting in 2019, at least one of the lectures at the JSM will be named after a woman. This is long overdue.”
The Caucus for Women in Statistics (CWS) spearheaded the effort to establish the lectureships. Horton reported the COPSS Executive Committee voted unanimously to approve the CWS proposal. CWS partnered with the ASA LGBT Concerns Committee, ASA Committee on Women in Statistics, Statistical Society of Canada Committee on Women, International Statistical Institute Committee on Women, and International Biometric Society ENAR/WNAR.
The idea that too few women receive national recognitions for their research and scholarship is not new. The National Science Foundation in 2010 established an AWARDS project “to investigate and improve the process of granting awards and prizes for scholarly achievement” in disciplines like statistics. This project led to many association reforms.
Establishing a new named lecture slot at JSM for the Scott and David lectures is another significant step forward in advancing the statistics profession. It adds a face to the profession’s ongoing and growing commitment to diversity and inclusion. 2018 CWS President Shili Lin remarked, “I’m so excited and grateful that the long overdue recognitions for women in statistics in the form of two named lectures are finally here, and here to stay!”
The first lecture will be the F.N. David Lecture. It will be given at JSM 2019 in Denver, Colorado, from July 27 to August 1. ASA Committee on Women in Statistics Chair Kimberly Sellers said, “Already looking forward to JSM 2019!”
For more information about the lectureships, contact Lin.
Building supportive communities within our broad field helps create pipelines through which talented individuals from all backgrounds can enter into our discipline. One such pipeline is StatFest, which is a one-day conference aimed at encouraging undergraduate students from historically under-represented groups to consider careers and graduate studies in statistics.
Organizers of StatFest typically endeavor to reach undergraduate and high-school students. However, they discovered their efforts to build community this year extended the pipeline to at least one person who is a bit younger.
This year’s youngest attendee was 10-year-old Dawson Batemon, who accompanied his mother, Erica Dawson, as she balanced professional and family service.
Erica is an epidemic intelligence officer at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She was an invited panel speaker who has learned to use the often-unavoidable overlap between professional and personal life to her advantage.
She says, “I felt extremely comfortable bringing my son to the workshop. Everyone welcomed and embraced him. StatFest has a sense of community that enables participation from parents, like myself.” Dawson has accompanied her to several events such as this year’s StatFest and been exposed to the same guidance and wisdom used to motivate high-school and undergraduate students.
Dawson’s favorite subject in school is mathematics, and he uses his mathematical skills as a member of the LEGO Robotics Team at his school. Erica believes her love for mathematics and the support she has received from this community has contributed to his enjoyment of mathematics.
She says, “He gets a lot of exposure to opportunities beyond high school and undergraduate studies. This normalizes the notion that people from under-represented groups can successfully earn advanced degrees in mathematical sciences.”Program Summary
This year’s StatFest brought 150 students and professionals to Emory University to connect to and learn from graduate students; early career professionals; and established leaders in academia, industry, and government.
In addition, participants benefited from panel discussions that addressed topics such as careers in statistics and the graduate student experience. Participants also took advantage of structured activities that helped enhance their networking skills.
Former ASA President Sastry Pantula provided a special presentation that highlighted student opportunities within the ASA, while former ENAR president F. Dubois Bowman provided insight into how to prepare for graduate school admission.
A special presentation was held in honor of Nagambal Shah, founder of StatFest. She was presented with flowers and a plaque to honor her initiation of this annual event and her continued contributions to the ASA’s Committee on Minorities in Statistics (CMS).
The chair of this year’s StatFest Planning Committee was Reneé Moore, chair of the ASA’s CMS.
StatFest 2018 will be held at Amherst College on September 23. Check the Committee on Minorities in Statistics website for more information if you are interested in participating in the next StatFest or the CMS’s other key initiative, the Diversity Mentoring Program.
The editorial office of the Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality—a multidisciplinary journal focused on the interface of social, computer, and statistical sciences—has migrated to Cornell University, where it is now managed by Lars Vilhuber at the Labor Dynamics Institute.
In 2008, Cynthia Dwork of Harvard, Stephen Fienberg of Carnegie Mellon, and Alan Karr of RTI issued a call for papers on privacy and confidentiality to be published in a new journal—the Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality. The novelty of their call was that it was addressed to multiple, usually separate, constituencies. Statisticians, computer scientists, lawyers and social scientists, health researchers, and survey designers have all responded to the call over the years and been published in the journal.
In the editorial of the first issue, US Census Bureau Chief Scientist John Abowd, Kobbi Nissim of Georgetown University, and Chris Skinner of the London School of Economics noted that “Gargantuan online services gather petabytes of data on search queries, online purchases, email exchanges, […] many data users from all of the fields listed above perform analyses that are conditioned on the privacy and confidentiality protections imposed on their work without all the means to assess the consequences of those measures on the inferences they have made.” Those concerns continue to resonate today.
For nearly seven years, Fienberg was the editor-in-chief of the journal. With his passing in 2016, the journal needed a new home. Vilhuber has assumed the role of managing editor and migrated the journal infrastructure to a new system (Open Journal System). Dwork, Karr, Nissim, and Abowd continue to serve on the editorial board. The Edmund Ezra Day Chair at Cornell University contributes funding to the journal’s operating budget.
The journal is open access, and there is no submission fee. Academics and practitioners from all domains are invited to submit their papers.
ASA member Mary E. Reuder, born in 1923 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, passed away peacefully November 15, 2017, of natural causes at age 94 near her beloved lake home in Shohola, Pennsylvania. She was preceded in death by her husband, Marvin A. Iverson, a social psychologist.
Mary completed her undergraduate work at College of St. Catherine (1944), her MA from Brown University (1945), and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania (1951). In any era, she was remarkably well trained as a statistician, experimental psychologist, and licensed clinical psychologist, but particularly so at a time when women were not as active in academia as they are today.
She worked for the US Navy as a management specialist and a research psychologist for the Adjunct General’s Office of the US Army before accepting a faculty instructor position at Queens College of the City University of New York in 1954. She rose through the ranks. During her tenure, she held positions as chair of the undergraduate and graduate programs in psychology at Queens College, chaired the Queens College Academic Senate, and was highly active in faculty governance. She retired in 1986 but remained active in the American Psychological Association (APA).
Mary was the recipient of the William James award for outstanding contributions to psychology from the NY State Psychological Association, received funding from the National Science Foundation, and was involved with Sigma Xi. The APA Florence Denmark and Mary E. Reuder award from Division 52 was created in recognition of her scholarly contributions, international outlook, and outstanding mentoring, particularly of junior faculty and undergraduates. Mary was a member of the APA for more than 60 years as a fellow, president of Divisions 1 and 36, and member of the Council of Representatives. She remained active in the APA until she was in her late 80s.
Mary seemed to be just around the corner, waiting for everyone to catch up and with an ever-deepening vision of what it takes to become a well-trained, clear-thinking scientist. No one has done so much for so long to assist students, junior faculty, or the profession. Everyone who met her enjoyed her quick wit, to-the-point challenging questions, uncanny ability to navigate the seas of academia, piercing blue eyes, and—of course—those sandals, which she wore all year long. She is remembered for her generosity in both professional and personal relationships. It will be difficult to fill her sandals, but she left a trail of footprints that many of us will follow.
Jessica Lavery is a biostatistician in the Health Outcomes Research Group at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She has an undergraduate degree in statistics from Loyola University Maryland and a master’s degree in biostatistics from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
While statisticians are formally taught methodological skills, tactful project management and establishing credibility early on are less often taught, but equally important to successfully contributing to a team. In some settings, such as the medical field where traditional hierarchies drive authority, it may be particularly difficult as an early-career statistician to establish credibility and manage projects with confidence. To build expertise and command respect from the get-go, or to re-work the current dynamic on a project team, several subtle tactics may be used.
At the Women in Statistics and Data Science (WSDS) conference in October 2017, I shared tools picked up during my first few years as a statistician that have proven useful in being taken seriously by senior collaborators. I share them again with you here.Managing Expectations
At the beginning of collaboration, it is important to establish that the scope of a statistician’s responsibilities often spans beyond producing analyses. The level of involvement by the statistician certainly varies across institutions and may vary across projects and investigators, as well. For this reason, it is most beneficial to establish what your skills are and how you expect to use them at the beginning of each project and on an ongoing basis so your collaborator is aware of how you expect to be involved. Do you expect to be consulted at the beginning of a project, or on an ad hoc basis as the project progresses? Do you anticipate writing part of the manuscript, or to only review the methods and results sections? Do you want to be involved in all project meetings, or only meetings that are statistics oriented? These are examples of details the collaborator should be informed of from the beginning to set the stage for a successful collaborative relationship.
After you have explained your role, it is important to maintain respect for your expertise throughout the project. Often, intending to be seen as having mastered my role, I’m inclined to say, “Sure, no problem, this task will be easy.” This was something I struggled with in my first job out of graduate school. Of course I can tackle any task you present me with; I just got my master’s degree! Not only does this approach minimize the amount of effort required and results produced, resulting in unrealistic expectations in terms of how long it takes to complete a task, it also conveys the idea that anyone can do my job, devaluing my role on the team. Additionally, if a task comes easily, often that’s only because I went through six years of school to learn how to master that skill.
Instead of saying something is easy, it is more beneficial to say something along the lines of, “This project will involve x, y and z, and I’m looking forward to getting started on it.” This conveys competence, confidence, and enthusiasm without minimizing your contributions.
In addition to wanting to seem so skilled at my job that everything was easy, another challenge I encountered was figuring out the right time to send results to an investigator. Naively, my initial approach was to drop what I was doing if it was a quick request and to always send results the moment they were produced. Of course, this sense of urgency would be necessary in the presence of a deadline, but it can lead to setting up unreasonable expectations in the absence of one.
Like saying something is easy, constantly having a short turnaround time implies your job is quick and effortless and you are constantly on call, ready and waiting to immediately handle all requests. Even investigators with good intentions will learn they can wait until the last minute to ask for something, since it takes such a short time to produce. Instead of immediately replying with results, acknowledging you have received the request and intentionally delaying sending the results for a short time helps manage your collaborators’ expectations and provides buffer time for you to digest the results before disseminating.Collaborating and Communicating
In the day to day, back and forth of collaborating, several subtle language modifications can be helpful in enforcing the idea that you are an integral part of the team.
As statisticians, we are often taught to speak the same language as our collaborators, and this cannot be emphasized enough. Giving an example or explaining an analysis in the same content area as the project prevents your clinical collaborator from having to translate from an abstract content area to statistics, and from statistics back to their content area. As an example, working in oncology, I would want to avoid explaining a methodology based on agriculture plots, even though this is how I was taught a lot of statistics. My oncologist collaborator is then translating ideas from agriculture to statistics to oncology, opening a lot of opportunity for things to get lost in translation. While this may sound obvious, it is something that serves us well to remember.
Using the term “we” instead of “you” ingrains you into the research team. Asking, “What question are we trying to answer?” conveys you are equally invested in the research.
I used to frequently insert “just,” as in, “I’m just emailing to …” or “I just wanted to …” The intention is to be polite and deferential, but what this does is indicate we are in a position of inferiority when we deserve to be an equal collaborator. If I am emailing to follow up with a collaborator who ignored my last email for a week, inserting “just” makes me feel like I am conveying understanding that they are assiduously working and may not have had time to respond. As equal members in the professional field, it is my collaborator’s responsibility to respond to an email, and I should not feel shy about reaching out. I now scan all emails after drafting them and remove unnecessary instances of “just” (which is most of them) and re-read, noting how much clearer the email sounds.
Upspeak is something I only recently learned about, and I could not stop noticing how frequently I did it once I did. The term upspeak refers to ending what should be a statement as a question. As a simple example, if someone asks when a meeting is and you reply, “The meeting is Monday at noon?” Ending this in a question leaves the group with no more information than before you answered. It is especially important to avoid doing this when sharing results with a group, and to instead speak a sentence as a declaration, portraying more confidence in the answer. It is much easier for a collaborator to be dismissive of an idea or response if it is presented as a question.
Authorship can be a touchy subject, especially when the project team is large. Additionally, clinical collaborators are sometimes unaware that authorship is important to a statistician’s career. It is your responsibility to establish early on what your expectations are regarding any abstracts, as well as the final manuscript. Instead of presenting this as a question—“Can I be listed as second author?”—it is more effective to present a statement such as, “Generally, when a statistician cleans the data, runs the analyses, and writes the methods and results, they are awarded second author.” This politely establishes a norm and requires justification by your collaborator if there is going to be a shift.
Collaborating with medical doctors and doctoral-level health services researchers, I often felt conflicted about how to refer to them. Dr. Jones? Ms. or Mrs. Jones? Jane? The trick that comes in handy here is to start formally and then mirror the way someone signs emails. If a collaborator signs off using his or her first name, I take that as an invitation to refer to them as such, connecting on a more personal level and further building a collaborative relationship. Always defaulting back to the more formal name reinforces the idea that you are a subordinate. With that said, if a collaborator indicates a preference for a more formal communication, then it is certainly appropriate to respect that preference.
Last, but certainly not least, it is important to remember that silence is okay. Often, when I present a result or explain a method and a collaborator is processing what I just told them, I continue nervous-talking—speaking rapidly and quickly trailing off into gibberish as I worry something I explained did not make sense. I often fall back on prematurely asking, “Did that make sense?”, pre-emptively suggesting I was incoherent. Instead, it is more constructive to give the collaborator a few moments to process, and then invite feedback by having the collaborator reiterate their understanding of what you communicated.
Thoroughly explaining your role and consistently communicating the value of your contributions both explicitly and implicitly increases your influence on the project team. Of course, not all tips will be applicable in all scenarios, but I hope you will find some helpful. This is an area in which I am constantly learning, and I look forward to hearing from others about tactics that have proven useful.