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Peace Through Statistics

1 May 2011 11,941 views 18 Comments
Jürgen Symanzik, Utah State University, and Natascha Vukasinovic

    The list of recent Nobel Peace Prize laureates goes as follows:

      2009—Barack H. Obama, president of the United States of America
      2010—Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissident
      2011—Miodrag Lovrić (Serbia), Jasmin Komić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Ksenija Dumičić (Croatia), statisticians

    That’s a joke, isn’t it? Actually, no, but a possible (perhaps not very likely) outcome for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize award. Lovrić, Komić, and Dumičić were among the 241 nominations (188 individuals and 53 organizations) entered by the February 1, 2011, deadline for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. What led to the nomination of a group of three statisticians for such a prestigious award?

    Flashback to the 1990s: The Yugoslav Wars and Split of Former Yugoslavia

    The fall of communism in eastern European states resulted in mostly peaceful splits of former communist countries such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s. However, this wasn’t the case for Yugoslavia. Due to tensions between different ethnicities (e.g., Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Slovenes), religions (e.g., orthodox Christian Serbs, Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosniaks), and economic pressures, a series of multiple wars broke out in Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s. As a result of these wars, Yugoslavia broke into seven independent states: Bosnia and Herzegovina (with three political entities, the Republika Srpska – RS, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Brčko District), Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, as shown in 2008 in Figure 1.

    Countries and subregions resulting from the split of former Yugoslavia, as of 2008

    Figure 1. Countries and subregions resulting from the split of former Yugoslavia, as of 2008

    Recent History: Did Science Lose?

    Since the 1990s, the quality of education at many universities in Yugoslavia has deteriorated due to lack of funding and political instability. Many universities have become a place of political opposition, rather than a place to study and conduct research. Similar to other natural sciences and mathematics, the field of statistics suffered tremendously in all countries that originated from former Yugoslavia. As an example, only one student earned a PhD in statistics since 2002 from the University of Belgrade.

    The International Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences

    To help mediate the lack of statistical education and statistical expertise in the spin-off countries of former Yugoslavia, Lovrić formed an organizational committee in late 2007, with one member each from Bosnia and Herzegovina (Komić, committee president), Croatia (Dumičić), Macedonia (Kalina Trenevska Blagoeva), Serbia (Milan Merkle), and Slovenia (Jože Rovan). Initially, the idea was to write and promote a dictionary of statistics with only statisticians from former Yugoslavia as contributors. Later, the name of this project was changed to lexicon of statistics. Deciding on a language for this dictionary/lexicon was difficult as many related, but different, languages are spoken in these countries. Eventually, the decision was made to publish all entries in English.

    Lovrić and Vladislav Milošević (who passed away in 2009) were the original co-editors of the dictionary/lexicon. They came up with the idea from long discussions between Lovrić and Komić while working on their textbook, Statistička Analiza – Metode i Primjena (Statistical Analysis – Methods and Applications), that was published in 2006 in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lovrić said, “I sent the first invitation to Sir David Cox on May 23, 2008.” Contributions followed from such eminent statisticians as Peter Hall, Bradley Efron, James Hamilton, Robert Tibshirani, David Moore, Ronald Iman, Peter Diggle, and E.L. Lehmann. Short articles also came in from Thomas Hettmansperger, Peter Kennedy, Geert Molenberghs, Hirotogu Akaike, and Alan Agresti.

    Over time, members of the organizational committee realized statistics and statistics education was not only in decline in spin-off countries of former Yugoslavia, but in many developing countries, as well. A main focus of the project became to “help revive statistics education in developing countries.” Therefore, statistical experts from around the world, including many from developing countries, were invited to write an article. Figure 2 shows the first few paragraphs of an email invitation from May 2009 that further described the motivation for the lexicon. The name of the project changed once more to its final name, the International Encyclopedia of Statistical Science (IESS).

    email invitation from May 2009 that further described the motivation for the lexicon.

    Figure 2. First few paragraphs of an invitation from May 2009 to contribute to the lexicon. The article Interactive and Dynamic Statistical Graphics resulted from this invitation.

    In an email, Lovrić stated: “It was a kind of destiny that the current president of the Republic of Srpska, Milorad Dodik, had a visionary view and helped me substantially.” The initial contact between Lovrić and Dodik was established through Komić.

    The preface of the IESS says, “This goal [to help revive statistics education] has attracted and united many leading world statisticians, four Nobel Laureates, many eminent mathematicians, psychologists, philosophers, econometricians, economists, academicians, presidents and founders of statistical societies, and editors and associate editors of many reputed international journals.” Eventually, 619 authors from 104 countries (see Figure 3 for a geographic breakdown) contributed 636 entries to the IESS. With respect to the number of countries involved, this is one of the largest international scientific projects and bypasses the number of participating countries of most, if not all, previous statistical lexica and encyclopedias. The PDF of the list of contributors has been reposted.

    Countries with Authors Contributing to the International Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences

    Figure 3. Map showing 104 countries representing a total of 619 authors who contributed to the IESS. Two hundred fourteen (roughly 35%) of the authors reside in the United States. Some sources counted Hong Kong as an independent 105th country.

    While Lovrić (due to Milošević’s health) had to do almost all the editorial work, he gives credit to the contributors: “Finally, it is very important to stress out the help of many statisticians worldwide (starting with Sir David Cox). Many of them suggested new names for contributors and topics, also many took the role of referees. Therefore, I regard IESS as a joint world effort.”

    The three-volume hardcover edition of the IESS currently retails for $1,100, but there exist freely accessible versions of the articles, where many of the contributing authors of the IESS have been invited to upload their entries.

    The Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

    In late January 2011, numerous newspapers and TV channels in some of the spin-off countries of former Yugoslavia reported that Lovrić, Komić, and Dumičić were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. While the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo, Norway, restricts disclosure of the nominations, the qualified nominators have the right to reveal whom they have nominated.

    Lovrić, Komić, and Dumičić were initially proposed by the Academy of Sciences and Arts (and its president) of the Republika Srpska. Later, the RS Ministry of Science and Technology joined the proposal. The government also joined and authorized the minister of education, minister of finance, minister of science and technology, minister of economic and regional relationships, and minister of justice to sign the proposal and formally nominate Lovrić, Komić, and Dumičić. The justification for the nomination was that Lovrić, Komić, and Dumičić “provided an outstanding contribution to world peace and science, making the largest international scientific project ever implemented in history (the number of countries involved)—the International Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences—which is the work of 619 eminent experts from 105 countries from six continents.” Moreover, one of the justifications stated, “No one in history has ever managed to unite, like brothers, the nations on this planet under one pacifistic and scientific idea, as it succeeded Miodrag Lovrić, Jasmin Komić, and Ksenija Dumičić due to the fact that they and their many years of outstanding efforts could unite scientists from countries that account for 90% of the world’s population.” In an email, Lovrić indicated their nomination was supported by two additional qualified nominators from Serbia and Spain.

    From left: Miodrag Lovrić, Ksenija Dumičić, and Jasmin Komić

    The online SUTRA magazine from Bosnia and Herzegovina concluded, “These candidates belong to three different countries, three religions in the area that was affected by conflicts, and if they were awarded it would be a paradigm, a model, and a signal for all new generations in the region that the political solution can only be reached on the basis of joint work and concessions, rather than war and violence.”

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)


    • Belgrade student, Shomy said:

      Bravo profo, well done 😉

    • Takis Papaioannou said:

      I am a lifelong member of ASA and former President of the Greek Statistical Institute (Greek Statistical Association) and would like to protest the illegal (or light) use of the terms ‘Macedonians” and “Macedonia” in the article “Peace Through Statistics” by Symantzik and Vukasinovic in the May 2011 issue of AMSTATNEWS. According to the United Nations Organization the official name of this country is FYROM = Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and its citizens should be called accordingly. They are of slavic origin and have no connection with ancient Greek Macedonia, which nowadays is part of Greece, and Alexander The Great.

    • Juergen Symanzik said:

      Regarding “Macedonia”: Thanks for the comment regarding Macedonia. In fact, it is stated at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Macedonia that “It became a member of the United Nations in 1993 but, as a result of a dispute with Greece over its name, it was admitted under the provisional reference of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,[6][7] sometimes abbreviated as FYROM”. However, most online references such as http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/macedonia define “Macedonia” as “1 region S Europe in Balkan Peninsula in NE Greece, the former Yugoslav section of Macedonia, & SW Bulgaria including territory of ancient kingdom of Macedonia” and
      “2 country S cen Balkan Peninsula; a federated republic of Yugoslavia 1946–92 ∗ Skopje area 9928 square miles (25,714 square kilometers), pop 2,016,060”. Hopefully, in our article regarding “peace through statistics”, you will accept our use of the terms Macedonia and Macedonians, rather than FYROM and FYROMIANS.

    • Takis Papaioannou said:

      About Macedonia:It is unbelievable that Wikipedia resolves or determines political issues. It is not the authority and it contains errors. The three statisticians deserve to be honored. But editors or contributors, in my opinion, should be careful with unsettled issues particularly in newsletters of international circulation. As far as Greeks and many other people are concerned the official name of the country is Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(FYROM). This is how it is accepted in many international fora such as Olympic Games or the Council of Europe to name a few.
      So in the name of peace you and ASA hould accept the country to be called FYROM and not Macedonia. Its people are citizens of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and not FYROMIANS.

    • Juergen Symanzik said:

      To Takis Papaioannou regarding “Macedonia”: For an article in an US American magazine (Amstat News is published by the American Statistical Association and not by the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee, or the European Council), the official American view is the following, obtained from the official goverment Web site maintained by the CIA related to “Macedonia” (and *not* to the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – see https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mk.html:

      “Macedonia gained its independence peacefully from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece’s objection to the new state’s use of what it considered a Hellenic name and symbols delayed international recognition, which occurred under the provisional designation of “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” In 1995, Greece lifted a 20-month trade embargo and the two countries agreed to normalize relations. The United States began referring to Macedonia by its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, in 2004 and negotiations continue between Greece and Macedonia to resolve the name issue.”

      I feel really ashamed to see such a nationalist discussion arise on a statistical forum – and I would have hoped that we, as statisticians, should be better educated to stand above such nationalist levels and attitudes. Sorry to say this so clearly. The members of the Organizational Committee that lead to the IESS apparently have been able to overcome their political, religious, and national differences – but I doubt that everybody who has posted on this Web site has learned something from their example…

      Finally, in the name of peace, let the people of Macedonia decide themselves how their country is called – and if I am not mistaken, both Macedonian contributors to the IESS (see the reposted list of contributors at http://www.amstat.org/news/pdfs/contributors_iess.pdf) indicated “University “Ss. Cyril and Methodius”, Skopje, Macedonia” as their affiliation.

      Let me requote from the SUTRA magazine: “…it would be a paradigm, a model, and a signal for all new generations in the region that the political solution can only be reached on the basis of joint work and concessions, rather than war and violence.” So, one concession would be to acknowledge that the people of the Republic of Macedonia have a right to decide themselves on the name of their country. Peace!

    • Local Aerodrum-KG lad said:

      As we all know Nobel Peace prize is not objective prize category nor is a prize of great importance. Just look who has won it 2010-Barak Obama, everything is clear. We all just need to wait for Bill Gates to win it and nothing else matters. But nevertheless, it is a great success for someone from “our” pitfull region of Balkan to be nominated, whatever is the category. Also it is obvious that they will not win it, it is not my bad will, simply I am realistic. I wish them all the best, especially Milorad Lovric, because that (Statistics) is his entire world. Additionally, that fact (nomination) is of great importance for the prestige of disorganised and unambitious Faculty of Economics Kragujevac, simply because that institution, Faculty of mine, is too passive allowing “there-some” Faculty of Belgrade to be better.
      Samo gurajte napred Lovricu Srbine, sine prestonicki!!! Ali uvek bez sujete.
      Srbija nije i nikada nece biti Beograd.

    • dusanKG said:

      i’m just confused with this “7” independent republics you say there are now..
      according to the UN – Kosovo is NOT independent republic!!!
      see: http://www.un.org/en/members/index.shtml
      so i would be grateful if you would erase the word “Kosovo” from the sentence of republics which became independent from YU.

    • Tamara said:

      Congratulations! I m proud that I was student of prof. Lovrić. He is extraordinary profesor as well. But in this text is one mistake: Kosovo is not a state. It is ocupied theritory of Serbia!

    • Takis Papaioannou said:

      To Juergen Symanzik regarding “Macedonia”: Your response, besides being biased, is insulting, offensive and impolite. Apparently the message “be nice, keep it clean, stay on the topic,etc” listed after the prompt ‘leave your response’, was ignored.
      I will not follow you with your insults or political beliefs. In the name of peace let the people of “Macedonia” realize that they have nothing in common with ancient Macedonia or Alexander the Great. They are just a slavic country, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There is huge literature on the issue and not just wikipedia or the other sources you are citing. The blame for letting this statistical forum go astray is entirely on you who ignored Amstat News’s international circulation and reacted impulsively. If you are asking for concessions ask them from FYROM not from Greece. It’s a pity.

    • Juergen Symanzik said:

      To dusanKG: As stated before, Amstat News is published by the American Statistical Association and not by the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee, or the European Council. Therefore, this article was written for primarily US American readers.

      According to the official CIA Web site (and therefore the American view) at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kv.html, Kosovo is considered an independent state by over 70 countries. Below an extract from this CIA Web site (extend the “Background” section):

      “On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independent. Since then, over 70 countries have recognized Kosovo, and it has joined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Serbia continues to reject Kosovo’s independence and in October 2008, it sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality under international law of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. The ICJ released the advisory opinion in July 2010 affirming that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate general principles of international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, or the Constitutive Framework. The opinion was closely tailored to Kosovo’s unique history and circumstances.”

      Therefore, please accept that we continue to call Kosovo an independent country – at least in US American publications.

    • Juergen Symanzik said:

      To Takis Papaioannou regarding “Macedonia”: My final posting on Macedonia – as some people obviously are not willing to accept international facts… Indeed, I also would strongly encourage the readers of this forum to check other *international* publications and Web sites (other than Greek) on this topic and form their own opinions.

      The German magazine Spiegel (I rate them as reliable/trustworthy as the US American Time magazine) published a very interesting article on this name topic in March 2008 when Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO membership – see http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,544167,00.html:

      The most interesting statements are:

      – “Some Greek politicians, including Socialist opposition parliamentarian at the time Stelios Papathemelis, even expressed a willingness to go to war with the Republic of Macedonia to force it to change its name.”

      – “Although more than 120 countries have now recognized the Republic of Macedonia under its current name, the Greeks believe that they have more pull because they can use their veto to prevent Macedonia’s acceptance into NATO.”

      And to finish with additional details about Macedonia, the CIA World Factbook states under “People” on its Macedonia page (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mk.html):

      noun: Macedonian(s)
      adjective: Macedonian

      Ethnic groups:
      Macedonian 64.2%, Albanian 25.2%, Turkish 3.9%, Roma (Gypsy) 2.7%, Serb 1.8%, other 2.2% (2002 census)

      Macedonian Orthodox 64.7%, Muslim 33.3%, other Christian 0.37%, other and unspecified 1.63% (2002 census)

      Macedonian (official) 66.5%, Albanian (official) 25.1%, Turkish 3.5%, Roma 1.9%, Serbian 1.2%, other 1.8% (2002 census) ”

      Finally, to clarify, I denounce *all* nationalist attitudes as those (and this is my political opinion) do not belong in the 21st century.

      Otherwise, given all the postings from Takis Papaioannou, the three statisticians who are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize deserve even more recognition as they were able to overcome all these prejudices and biases (that exist even among statisticians), and win 619 authors from 104 different countries – including 6 from Greece and 2 from Macedonia. Congratulations again, Miodrag, Jasmin & Ksenija – for your work towards the IESS under such difficult conditions!!!

    • Thomas Fisher said:

      If these responses can be regarded as a representative sample, it is clear that we all live in a highly divided world. The question to think on: Is the global economic crisis one more significant variable that has broaden our differences, stances, opinions, and causes less tolerance in our communication? My firm belief was that we, statisticians, do not care for the country borders, that statistics is our middle name, but was I wrong? Do you realize that academic statistics is in decline in many parts of the world (like UK; see the article “Bleak outlook for academic statistics”, URL http://www.rssenews.org.uk/articles/20110326), Australia, and almost all developing countries), and yet we are wasting our time on marginal issues? We ALL should listen to the John Lennon’s “Imagine” song and try to share his vision. Instead, I’ve got a feeling that John was shot for the second time, here, by a statistician!!

    • Fredrik S. Heffermehl said:

      With all sympathy, the nomination of the three statisticians seems to be far off the mark. Nobel wished his reward to promote the efforts for global disarmament based on international co-operation, law and disarmament. Nobel established a prize for “the champions of peace” and the Norwegian awarders should pay attention to what he actually meant by that expression, not award a prize for “peace” – their task is to interpret and respect Nobel, not use his money as they like.

      My latest book “The Nobel Peace Prize” proves that, instead of serving Nobel and his visionary plan for world peace, the Norwegian parliamentarians are betraying Nobel and using the prize to promote their own ideas and Norwegian political and commercial interests. It is a disgrace.
      Read more on http://www.nobelwill.org.

    • Ronald Bayes said:

      Dear Heffermehl

      Unfortunately, your view on the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize is too limited and very wrong. Have you really read the Nobel’s will?

      For all the readers of the Amstat News let me clearly place it here, so that they can judge that themselves.

      According to Nobel’s will, signed on November 27 1895, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses” (you can find this on hundreds of sites, including, for example, http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/shortfacts.html)

      If any one carefully reads Nobel’s will, in an unbiased way, s/he will see that the first criterion is the “best work for fraternity between nations” and certainly no one in history has united people in a scientific, yet peaceful endeavor, from 105 (104) countries “like sister and brothers” like the three statisticians.

      Their great collaboration can also be regarded as a largest peace / scientific congress.

      How far off the Nobel will is your understanding is clearly shown in the most recent award to Liu Xiaobo. Think deeply and try to find the answers to the following questions:

      (a) What has he achieved in regards to establishment of fraternity among nations?

      (b) What he has done for the global disarmament?

      (c) Finally, what Liu has to do with the peace congresses?

      When you find the answers to these questions (I doubt that you will ever) you can enlighten us with your fresh ideas.

      Obviously, you missed the comma between words “nations” and “for” in the Nobel’s will and found a completely different, and false meaning.

    • Dimitris Hatzinikolaou said:

      To Symanzik and Fisher: A few years ago, more than 300 archaiologists and historians under Prof. Stephen Miller sent a letter to President Obama, indicating that FYROM has nothing to do with ancient Macedonia and Alexander the Great. The place was called Peonia. If Alexander the Great occupied that territory, this does not make it a part of Macedonia. Alexander occupied many other countries, like India; should they also be called Macedonias? FYROM’s (totally unfounded) propaganda aims at expanding toward the South, to include Macedonia (the Greek territory, which was Alexander’s Kingdom), with the help of the Turks and the Albanians. If this is not a cause of war, then what is? It is amazing that scientints voluntarily ignore Science! Worse, they lose their manners and insult others who try to educate them. It’s a pity.