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ASA: A ‘Big Tent’ Organization

1 April 2012 1,536 views No Comment
The ASA will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2014. In preparation, column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and, best yet, how you can get involved in propelling the ASA toward its bicentennial.

Contributing Editors

Monica Johnston is chair of the ASA Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment and cofounder of the Section for Statistical Programmers and Analysts. She is an independent consultant and serves as director at Mostly Math, an education services center in Walnut Creek, California.

Dionne Price is a mathematical statistician and team leader at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She served as the 2010 program chair for the Biopharmaceutical Section and is the section’s current secretary.

George Williams is vice president of global biomedical data sciences and head of the Center for Observational Research at Amgen. He also is a recipient of the ASA Founders Award and a Fellow of the ASA, Society for Clinical Trials, American College of Epidemiology, American Heart Association, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The American Statistical Association is a strong, vibrant organization with approximately 18,000 members—the largest community of statisticians in the world. It is an organization with a diverse membership from academia, industry, and government who are doing research and promoting high-quality statistical practice. The ASA is an inclusive, “big tent” organization with members from a wide range of professional and personal backgrounds. Still, there are opportunities for growth allowing increased activity and engagement for both new and current members.

Indeed, there is more room in the tent. Wouldn’t it be nice if when we celebrate the ASA’s 175th anniversary in Boston in 2014, we had increased in number to 20,000? The ASA Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment (CMRR) is working diligently toward the objective of membership growth. In this column, we want to highlight the value of ASA membership and involvement in an effort to continue to grow our tent.

The ASA provides opportunities for members to remain current on new methodologies and to continue to grow professionally. The ASA can serve as one’s professional home. Key benefits of ASA membership include access to its journals and networking through innumerable workshops and conferences. In a recent membership survey, gaining knowledge via the ASA’s publications was the most popular ASA benefit. New publications have been added recently, including Statistics in Biopharmaceutical Research and Significance.

In the same survey, ASA conferences were the second-most valued benefit identified by ASA members. With more than 6,000 statisticians attending the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), there are opportunities to increase one’s professional network, connect with statisticians from around the world, and interact with role models through mixers, business meetings, roundtable discussions, the Career Placement Service, and personal outreach. In general, JSM provides a great opportunity to learn about new topics while meeting others with similar interests.

The ASA has a strong interest in meeting the needs of underserved groups such as early-career statisticians, applied statisticians, and consulting statisticians. In response to the needs of early-career statisticians, STATtr@k was created. This year, the ASA held its first Conference on Statistical Practice. This conference was specifically targeted to applied statisticians, consultants, and students interested in applied statistics.

The ASA is organized into sections, chapters, and committees that recognize its diversity and provide avenues to participate in a variety of ways. Recently, two new sections were created: the Section for Statistical Programmers and Analysts and the Section on Statistical Learning and Data Mining. Through this organizational structure, the ASA provides continuing education, webinars, awards, advertising, mentoring, etc. Statisticians have an opportunity to further expand their horizons by participating in and volunteering in support of the ASA.

Given the benefits of ASA membership, what can we do to retain, recruit, and renew members? Many members initially joined the ASA at the recommendation of an adviser, colleague, or employer. Hence, we request faculty to continue to encourage participation in ASA activities among students, colleagues to recommend renewal of membership by lapsed members, and leaders in industry and statistical agencies to promote ASA membership and involvement. We should all strive to attract new members from other quantitative areas such as mathematics and computer science that have a strong tie to statistics. Please join us in the “Member Get a Member” campaign as a mechanism for growing the ASA’s membership. See the ASA membership page for details.

One of the challenges in the growth of ASA membership includes the lack of conversion to full membership as students transition to young professionals. Members of the CMRR have a 2012–2013 goal of achieving 90% retention for students after graduation. We are exploring mechanisms such as student focus groups to understand the factors that promote (or hinder) conversion from student to regular membership.

Additional opportunity lies in increasing ASA regular membership from the industry and government sectors. Colleague-to-colleague outreach and role modeling may be particularly valuable in these sectors. As some long-term ASA members have stated, membership in a professional organization is an investment they have made in their own careers.

The ASA’s 175th Anniversary Committee and the ASA Committee on Membership Recruitment and Retention encourage you to personally participate in attracting and retaining ASA members so even more can benefit from being committed to and active and engaged in all that a big tent symbolizes and can offer.

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