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Half-Time Report

1 June 2010 1,695 views No Comment

Sastry Pantula

Sastry Pantula

It is the time of year when proud parents and other family members congratulate their loved ones at graduation ceremonies across the country. It is also the time when graduates receive good advice about how to use the core, computational, and communication skills they acquired in their programs to solve major challenges related to health, energy, and the environment. As President Barack Obama said in one of his addresses, “The United States is still a land of infinite possibilities waiting to be seized, if you are willing to seize them.”

Even in the current economic climate, it is good to see that statisticians have options in all three sectors—academia, industry, and government. For those who are looking for jobs, JSM 2010 will provide many opportunities, including a session titled “Recruitment for the Federal Sector.” There also will be many mentoring opportunities for our younger statisticians. And I am excited about the President’s Invited Speaker, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, who will give a talk titled “The Forecast for Predictive Analytics: Hot and Getting Hotter.” Analytics is an area in which statisticians have a future.

All this talk about talks reminds me I have to get ready for mine! I can’t believe how the time is flying by and that I am already halfway through my term as ASA president. Certainly, exciting things are happening within our association—our relationship with RSS through Significance, accreditation implementation, social media, electronic publications, and a new winter conference on statistical practice, just to name a few. Amstat News issues are full of goodies; there is something of interest to all our members and the public. Also, there has been good progress made on the initiatives related to Growth, Impact, Visibility, and Education.

Members of the Membership Growth Working Group, chaired by Jeri Mulrow, have been working hard with various existing committees to propose strategies for enhancing growth. Suggestions so far include the following:

  • Strongly encouraging department chairs/heads to get students in their departments to participate in ASA activities
  • Supporting the creation of a mentoring program
  • Providing opportunities for communicating and networking among students and recent graduates
  • Making use of peers and others to encourage lapsed members and ASA Fellows to renew their memberships
  • Strongly encouraging higher-level industry statisticians to support ASA membership and involvement in ASA activities
  • Continuing to actively engage the heads of federal statistical agencies by regularly meeting with them and encouraging them to support and promote ASA membership and participation in ASA activities
  • Promoting diversity within the ASA
  • Attracting new members from quantitative areas such as mathematics, computer science, and the physical and social sciences who have a strong interest in statistics

Ideas aimed at new statisticians include the following:

  • Creating a group for new statisticians in research and a group for new applied statisticians
  • Promoting forums and publications aimed at new statisticians
  • Dedicating a web site to new statisticians that includes information about employment opportunities, awards, and mentoring activities
  • Providing more career assistance

I am thrilled with the energy of this working group and their follow-up plans. On a related topic, a couple of member-initiated proposals supported by the board are titled “Connecting the ASA to Young Statisticians Through Outreach to High-School Statistics and Mathematics Teachers: A First Step” and “JSM Conference Mentoring Program.”

The Public Awareness and Impact Working Group is chaired by ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein. In April, board members discussed ideas for an ASA tagline and two- or three-sentence “elevator pitch” that describes what the ASA does or stands for. As you may know, the American Mathematical Society’s tagline is “Maintaining Excellence in Mathematical Sciences Research” and the National Institute of Statistical Science’s tagline is “The Statistics Community Serving the Nation.”

ASA Public Relations Specialist Rosanne Desmone also has been working to increase public awareness of the ASA by regularly sending out alerts to various news outlets and helping gather Statisticians in the News articles for the ASA’s web page.

Another way the ASA has raised public awareness of its activities is by putting Amstat News online and making it accessible to the general public. Meanwhile, members of the working group continue to develop other innovative ideas.

One of the initiatives of the ASA’s strategic plan is to “promote the need for sound statistical practice to inform decisionmaking in public policy and science policy.” The Visibility and Impact in Science Policy Working Group, chaired by Past President Sally Morton, is focusing on standardizing the process for identifying emerging issues and providing a timely response to public and science policy matters in collaboration with ASA Director of Science Policy Steve Pierson and other statistical associations (see Science Policy News). The group also is working to identify key issues—climate change, STEM education, election audits—and to issue position statements on them. Informational outreach to the public and stakeholders is another important topic being discussed by the group.

Jessica Utts is leading the Education Working Group, which is organizing a panel at JSM 2010 titled “Statistics Degree Programs in a Data-Centric World: What Needs to Change?” In addition, there will be three P.M. roundtables on preparing statisticians for the needs of industry.

A subgroup of this working group is developing a process to update the undergraduate statistics curriculum guidelines approved by the board in 2000. Other subgroups are looking at professional master’s degree programs and a plan to gather information from potential employers regarding educational expectations for PhD, MS, and BS graduates. On a related topic, a member-initiated proposal, titled “Methodology for Measuring the Quality of Graduate Programs: A Workshop Focusing on Programs in the Statistical Sciences,” received support by the board recently.

I am absolutely thrilled with the energy of our member volunteers. The ASA thrives on your dedication to the profession and our association. Constructive suggestions are always welcome. Thank you for all you do for the ASA. I look forward to the remaining half of this year.

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