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A Message from the Outgoing Chair

1 February 2010 1,263 views No Comment
Robert Lussier, GSS Chair


My term as 2009 chair of the Government Statistics Section (GSS) has now ended. I was honored to be the first Canadian to serve in this capacity. My colleagues on the executive committee had to cope with my French accent … and my sense of humor.

The end of my tenure also coincides with my retirement from Statistics Canada. I have decided to resign from my job as director general, operations, and start a second life … as a very young retiree, of course. Wish me good luck in my new undertakings.

Although I have had an interesting and diversified career, the job of government statistician is not immediately attractive to all. GSS has been active in sponsoring sessions for the 2010 Joint Statistical Meetings in Vancouver, British Columbia, to promote what we do. There will be two GSS invited sessions that involve heads of statistical agencies—one session that is more U.S.-centric and one that is international in nature. I had the pleasure of organizing the latter.

I am pleased to report that Brian Pink, chief statistician from Australia, and Jil Matheson, national statistician from the United Kingdom, will come all the way from their respective countries to meet us in Vancouver. They will join Munir Sheikh, chief statistician from Canada; Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and Cynthia Clark, administrator of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, to form a panel addressing how government statistics make a difference. The panel will be moderated by 2009 ASA President Sally Morton. I hope you will come in great numbers to show your appreciation for the commitment made by these busy people.

On the same wave length, let me tell you that GSS is keen to get involved in the organization of events and conferences. We are committed to being a permanent sponsor for the International Conference on Establishment Surveys (ICES). This successful event takes place every three or four years and explores the current state of the art in survey methodology for business, institutional, and agricultural surveys. The next conference (ICES IV) will take place in Montréal in June of 2012.

GSS also is discussing sponsoring another promising international conference, though I will keep the details to myself until the contracts have been signed. The fact that the finances of the section are in good health allows us to take these initiatives and offer such benefits to our members.

I also am proud to report that we now have more than 1,000 members. Membership has steadily increased over the years, and I encourage all current GSS members to continue spreading the good word (i.e., to rally other statisticians to join the section). We reach our members through our monthly electronic newsletter. You are welcome to submit articles by contacting GSS newsletter editor, Natalya Verbitsky Savitz, at  NVSavitz@mathematica-mpr.com. Also, do not miss our regular articles in Amstat News (including our summaries of COPAFS meetings).

GSS recently took over the management of the Jeanne E. Griffith Mentoring Award. This award encourages mentoring of junior government staff with respect to statistics. Stephanie Shipp and Beth Kilss did an excellent job setting up the procedures for managing the award, including publicity, solicitation of nominations, selection of recipients, and raising of funds to cover the annual honoraria and expenses associated with the award.

GSS also sponsors or cosponsors the Pat Doyle Award, Roger Herriot Award, and Wray Jackson Smith Scholarship, in addition to a JSM student paper competition and JSM poster competition. I want to encourage members to submit names as potential recipients for these awards. There is a monetary contribution that accompanies most; details can be found on the section’s web site.

GSS had an excellent program at JSM 2009 (thanks to Sunghee Lee and Lisa Blumerman). We successfully launched our first poster competition, with one winner and two honorable mentions. We also succeeded in having six sold-out roundtables. Participants seem to have enjoyed the choice of subjects and the discussions with the roundtable leaders. I encourage you to try one next year, if you have not already. However, there is a fee associated with them, the breakfast ones being cheaper than the lunch ones.

Finally, I want to thank all my colleagues on the executive committee and all contributors to the activities of the section for making 2009 a successful year. I especially want to thank the three members who are leaving the executive committee—Lee, Stephanie Shipp, and Carolee Bush—for their contributions over the years. Finally, I want to thank our eight sponsors for their support: Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Statistics of Income, National Science Foundation – Division of Science Resources Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and Social Security Administration.

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