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ASA Awards: Recognizing Excellence and Raising Visibility

1 November 2012 878 views No Comment
Robert Rodriguez


When you think of an exciting awards ceremony, what comes to mind? Most likely, it’s the glamour of the Academy Awards, with red carpets, black-tie attire, and millions of viewers. Just as the Academy Awards recognize professional excellence in the film industry, ASA awards honor outstanding contributions of our members and build the prestige of our profession. This column describes steps we are taking to expand our awards and increase their visibility.

New ASA Award

One of the most enjoyable duties of an ASA president is to congratulate the recipients of ASA awards who are recognized on stage during our annual awards ceremony. Until now, the ceremony has taken place on Tuesday evening at the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), along with the presidential address and presentation of new ASA Fellows.

This year, I had the added pleasure of congratulating the recipients of a new award. Fritz Scheuren and Marvin Zelen received the Karl E. Peace Award for Outstanding Statistical Contributions for the Betterment of Society. This award was established in 2012 by Christopher K. Peace, son of Karl F. Peace, on behalf of the Peace family to honor the life work of his father.

Fritz Scheuren (left) and Marvin Zelen, recipients of the first Karl E. Peace Award

According to Jane Pendergast, who chaired the award committee, “The Karl E. Peace Award is special in that it recognizes those whose statistical contributions have had a strong, lasting impact on society, regardless of the complexity or innovation of the methodology used.” She adds, “This award looks from the perspective of those outside our profession. Whereas other ASA awards recognize outstanding contributions within our field, this one recognizes the impact we have more broadly.”

Purposes of Awards

The ASA’s awards serve an important purpose by recognizing the following:

  • Outstanding contributions through research, teaching, consulting, and applications of statistics (e.g., Samuel S. Wilks Award and Waller Education Award)
  • Distinguished service to the profession and our association (e.g., Founders Award, editorial service awards, and chapter service awards)
  • Contributions by students and young researchers (e.g., Gertrude M. Cox Scholarship in Statistics Award)
  • Work by those outside our profession that builds public understanding of statistical science (i.e., Excellence in Statistical Reporting Award)

Most major awards are administered by ASA committees. Many other are administered by sections and chapters.

The Need for More Nominations

The chairs of our awards committees regularly discuss common issues in meetings of the Awards Council, which is led by the past president. This year, the council found that some committees are not receiving enough nominations.

To increase awareness of the nominations process for awards given in 2013, several calls for nominations appear in this issue of Amstat News. Note that for most ASA national awards, nominations must be received by March 15, 2013, or April 2, 2013.

Do you know of highly deserving colleagues, coworkers, or students who should be recognized for their accomplishments? Now is the time to start planning your nomination!

I encourage you to nominate outstanding women and minority members to increase their representation among award recipients. See “Gender Balance in ASA Activities” in the July issue of Amstat News for an analysis of gender balance in awards.

How to Prepare a Strong Nomination

The Awards Council also learned that some of the candidates nominated this year were not selected because their nominators did not make a strong case. Michael Chernick, who chaired the 2012 Dixon Award Committee, offers three suggestions for nominators.

First, carefully read the award criteria (on the ASA website) and focus your letter on examples that show how your candidate meets the criteria. You should not expect the award committee to recognize the candidate’s qualifications by reading a general-purpose résumé.

Second, ask colleagues to write supporting letters based on personal knowledge that provide additional perspectives on how the candidate meets the criteria. If a letter is not strong, either leave it out or ask the writer to provide additional information.

Third, ask the candidate to put together a tailored résumé that emphasizes accomplishments related to the criteria.

Paul Biemer, who chaired the 2012 Wilks Award Committee, summarizes what a nominator should know: “A good nomination is well-written, concise, and addresses the criteria point by point. It should also be clear about the nominee’s unique qualifications for the honor. In the end, what really matters are the qualifications. No matter how well the nomination is written, if the nominee doesn’t stand apart from the rest of the nominees, the nomination will not succeed.”

Do We Have Enough Awards?

In my presidential address this year, I called on our association to become the “big tent” for statistics by attracting all kinds of statisticians, serving their needs, and promoting their contributions. To recognize the accomplishments of an increasingly diverse membership, we should introduce awards in more areas. Currently, our awards do not even span the areas of statistical activity that are represented by our sections.

This coming year, the Awards Council will review the ASA awards portfolio and recommend areas in which we should add awards. Please contact Ron Wasserstein, our executive director, at ron@amstat.org with your suggestions.

A New Time for the 2013 Awards Ceremony

By combining the awards ceremony with the president’s address and the presentation of ASA Fellows, we severely limit the time available for presenting awards on Tuesday evening at JSM. For years, we have been unable to present all of our awards on stage—which has diminished the prominence of many awards. Many members have expressed the desire for a more inclusive awards ceremony.

Our board of directors has decided to move the awards ceremony to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday evening at JSM 2013; the mixer will follow at 8:30 p.m. in a nearby room. The ceremony will include all the awards currently given on Tuesday evening, except for the Founders Award, which will still be presented on Tuesday evening with the new Fellows. New awards and some section awards will be presented on Sunday. For information about this process, contact Wasserstein.

In addition to providing broader coverage of awards, the ceremony will be redesigned as an awards celebration that will be enjoyed by everyone who attends.

Nominate, Congratulate, and Celebrate!

If you have watched the Academy Awards ceremony, you know that Oscar statuettes are presented in many categories to honor excellence in all aspects of filmmaking. Likewise, our awards should honor excellence in all aspects of statistical endeavor. When we visibly recognize the achievements of our colleagues and students, we not only honor and encourage them as individuals, but we also elevate our profession.

Please take the time to nominate a deserving member for an award. Then come to our new awards ceremony at JSM on Sunday, August 4, 2013. It will be a time of congratulation and celebration for all of us!

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