G for Growth, an I for Impact, a V for Visibility, and an E for Education.

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Statistical Significance

13 May 2010 2,227 views No Comment
Sastry Pantula

Sastry Pantula

“GIVE to ASA” is my mantra for the year. That’s a G for Growth, an I for Impact, a V for Visibility, and an E for Education.

To make a significant progress on these initiatives, we need help from all members, chapters, committees, sections, and sister organizations. Already the working groups are making significant progress on these initiatives. In this column, however, I want to focus on other significant issues.

You may have gotten a hint from this month’s Amstat News cover story. I’m extremely pleased to announce an exciting development for all ASA members. Beginning with the September 2010 issue, the ASA and the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) will collaborate on the publication of Significance the magazine RSS established in 2004.

This partnership is the realization of a dream held by both our societies for an international outreach publication that will enhance both organizations as well as the profession of statistics.

Each ASA member will begin receiving Significance in the mail in the early fall. In addition, the magazine will debut a new website in the near future (perhaps by JSM 2010), which will feature the magazine, but will also contain some members-only content for ASA and RSS members. We hope to preview the September cover at JSM in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, but in the meantime you can take a look at a free sample issue of the magazine here.

As you will be able to see from this sample, Significance has articles that show the influence of our profession, bringing us additional visibility. In the May issue of Amstat News we also have a brief article by Significance editor Julian Champkin. If you’re interested in what a jointly published Significance will contain, look for an article in the June Amstat News with information on the contents of the first joint issue.

Also, I am very pleased to announce that the ASA Board of Directors has approved the ASA’s Significance editorial board, which consists of excellent volunteers from all our sectors:

I am excited about their leadership on this editorial board.

Another topic that interests us all is statistical significance. Thanks to the efforts of Steve Pierson, ASA’s director of science policy, and many of our ASA sections, we have a small collection of Statistical Significance (StatSig) fliers that show how statistics is having an impact on human welfare. You can view samples of these fliers here. This is similar to the American Mathematical Society series Math Moments. The StatSig series include articles such as: “Statisticians are vital at all stages to get safe, effective drugs and devices to market quickly and to monitor them thereafter,” “Statisticians contribute to providing more and better information for a spectrum of decisionmakers—those at the kitchen table and those in the private sector, government, hospitals, and doctors’ offices,” “Statistics monitors the environment,” and “Statisticians have developed powerful analysis tools that help keep our nation safe.” These StatSig documents may be very useful in advocacy efforts with your congressional staff members. Summer and fall are especially good times to meet with your congressman and senators, who may be in your hometown getting ready for the November elections. Educating them about the positive impacts of our profession would have a long-term impact for us.

Speaking of advocacy, our Climate Change Policy Advisory Committee’s co-chair, Montserrat Fuentes, presented a poster on the health effects of climate change at the program “Building Foundations of Innovation: STEM Research and Education,” held on Capitol Hill on April 14. Visit ASA’s science policy web page for more information on the excellent activities of our science policy groups. It is important that we continue to promote the positive impacts of our profession and our association. Please contact Steve Pierson at pierson@amstat.org if you have suggestions for StatSig or other science policy matters.

Finally, massive data are being collected routinely, meaning that misuses and misinterpretations are bound to increase. Newspapers are full of sensational stories, going from “Chocolate is good for your heart” to “Chocolate facts: it is very bad for your health.” Inappropriate or incorrect uses of statistics also lead to articles like “Odds Are, It’s Wrong” by Tom Siegfried in the March issue of ScienceNews. Some of our members have responded immediately to such articles in various blogs. I like the quote by ASA member Larry Wasserman in the comments section of that article: “Blaming statistics for misused statistics is like blaming medical science because of incompetent doctors.”

As we help other scientists advance their science, and publish their papers, we need to continue to advise and educate them about the proper use of statistical methods and proper interpretations of their analyses. This will also require appreciation for statistical collaborations and consulting on university campuses, and more importantly, doing an outstanding job of teaching in service courses at all levels. We get to teach statistics at most in one service course for other future scientists and policymakers. Doing an outstanding job in these courses is very important. Thank you for everyone who continues to Educate the public about the proper uses of statistics, talk about the Impact of our science and increase the Visibility of our association. I am sure with all of these activities and mentoring of our younger members, our association will continue to be strong and continue to Grow.

ASA’s web page has wonderful news items, updated daily. Visit it frequently. Better yet, make it your homepage.

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