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Happy New Year!

1 January 2010 1,920 views No Comment
Sastry Pantula

Sastry Pantula

It is Thanksgiving Day as I write this column, though by the time you read it, it will be the beginning of a very happy new year. I wish you all a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous year, and I look forward to working with you to make our association thrive.

Let me begin with my thanks. I am honored and humbled by all of you who put your trust in me to be the 105th president of one of the oldest, largest, and best associations in the country. I am proud of our members, who are making excellent contributions all around the globe. It gives me a boost of energy to see the enthusiasm of our members, and it has been beneficial for me to listen to so many of our members at various professional, committee, chapter, and section meetings. Our association thrives because of its members from all sectors (academia, government, business, and industry) and their diverse professional and personal backgrounds. More importantly, all of us see the ASA as a home for cross-sector professional relationships and for developing initiatives that benefit all our members, however isolated or much of a minority some may be. Thank you very much for your confidence in me and your support of me, the ASA, and others in our profession.

During my year as president-elect, I contacted a number of you to be on various committees. I thank you for your enthusiastic willingness to volunteer for the ASA. You have helped me greatly in diversifying our committees, and I look forward to working with you. Also, I have been fortunate to learn from some of our past presidents (Robert Mason, Brad Efron, Fritz Scheuren, Sallie Keller-McNulty, Mary Ellen Bock, Tony Lachenbruch, and Sally Morton) and many excellent board members. These are definitely hard acts to follow. Their mentoring and support are much appreciated.

I also look forward to working with the new and continuing ASA Board members. I appreciate the support and patience of my department and family as I juggle my time and duties. Finally, I enjoy reading the staff profiles in Amstat News. It has been wonderful to get to know the staff members, who are the backbone of the services and benefits we all enjoy. Thank you for your work behind the scenes.

This is an excellent time to be a statistician. During the past year, we have been seen as belonging to the “sexiest” profession and as having one of the least stressful careers in the world. We have advocated for statistical literacy and research funding on Capitol Hill. We are having healthy discussions about AP statistics, and a similar discussion is happening in the mathematical sciences. I agree with Solomon Friedberg, who said, “We need to create a culture of achievement in the mathematical sciences in this country.” (Click here for an article by The Boston Globe.)

Statisticians are making significant contributions to advance science, helping businesses succeed through analytics, and helping the government set policies based on data and evidence. The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS)—through its industry, government, and academic (NISS/SAMSI) affiliates—also is bringing together statisticians from various sectors to incubate new ideas and tackle important problems. It is exciting to see NISS expand its building to accommodate the growing program needs of SAMSI. I am glad the ASA is one of the 10 owners of NISS and that NISS is one of SAMSI’s partners.

ASA members are in the news regularly and are correctly being viewed as positive contributors to innovation. I urge you to share such news with your students, colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Under the leadership of Iain Johnstone, the Accreditation Implementation Committee is developing the mechanics of a voluntary accreditation program that will benefit some of our current members, attract future members, and bring more visibility to our profession. The ASA Board—along with committee, chapter, and section members—continuously discusses items that will benefit our association and profession. We are taking a chance on many significant endeavors that benefit members and will have a great effect in the long run.

Morton, through the working groups she formed, and the ASA Board had a considerable amount of success advancing some of the initiatives in the ASA’s strategic plan. Her initiatives on meetings, financial status, organizational efficiency, and publications will continue to make progress this year. As I mentioned in my election statement, my goal is to focus on the remaining bullets in the strategic plan: membership growth, public awareness, visibility and impact, and education. Four working groups—chaired by Jeri Mulrow, Executive Director Ron Wasserstein, Morton, and Jessica Utts—are addressing these initiatives already. Working groups include prominent members and members from relevant committees, sections, groups, and the ASA Board.

Membership growth—through retention of existing members, recruitment of new members, and re-enrolling lapsed members—is important to the ASA. Our goal is to make sure we are offering appropriate benefits to our current members and potential new members (some of whom could be lapsed members). Mulrow and her working group are making use of historical data and various committee reports to bring action items to the board.

I truly believe statistics is key to innovation and that we need to get that message out to everyone. As one of the largest associations in the country, we want the public to be aware of all the good things we do. Public awareness starts in our neighborhoods and continues on to leaders in all sectors. Wasserstein, Rosanne Desmone—the ASA’s public relations specialist—and other members of the working group are considering a tagline for the ASA and generating ideas for a public awareness campaign.

Morton, with adrenalin from her JSM 2009 speech, is leading the working group on visibility and impact in policymaking. With ASA Director of Science Policy Steve Pierson, members from relevant committees, and members at large, she has a good working group. I look forward to guidelines for releasing position statements in a timely fashion about important topics.

Finally, the ASA is an organization that brings all sectors—academia, government, business, and industry—together to educate and train future problemsolvers. The education working group, chaired by Utts and including members from all sectors, is looking at a process to improve curricula at various levels.

Please email me at pantula@ncsu.edu with suggestions or comments about these initiatives or the ASA in general. I plan to keep you informed about the progress of these initiatives and other relevant topics in my future columns.

I am excited about the ASA and what we can accomplish together this year. Abstracts for JSM 2010 are due February 1. I look forward to seeing all of you in beautiful Vancouver in August—if not before. Please remember to get your passports ready. Thanks to Xuming He, JSM 2010 Program Committee chair, and his excellent team of section program chairs and others for putting together a great collection of invited sessions to go with JSM’s theme, “Statistics: A Key to Success in a Data-Centric World.”

Thank you again for this opportunity to serve you and our association.

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