Home » Cover Story, International

International Year of Statistics to Increase Visibility of Profession

1 January 2013 1,833 views No Comment
Ron Wasserstein, ASA Executive Director

SAS Institute in Cary, North Carolina, with banners proclaiming 2013 as the International Year of Statistics

SAS Institute in Cary, North Carolina, with banners proclaiming 2013 as the International Year of Statistics

Statisticians work in a vast array of fields—advancing science; creating new methodology; providing information that shapes public policy; improving business practices and enhancing production quality; making our medicines more effective, our food safer, and our planet better; and so much more. Statisticians come from many cultures, speak many languages, and arrive at statistics as their profession through many paths. But at least one aspect is recognized by virtually every statistician: Our discipline and profession is simply not visible enough.

The International Year of Statistics (Statistics2013) is a major effort to increase the visibility of statistics and encourage young people to consider statistics as a career. Statistic2013 is a worldwide celebration and recognition of the contributions of statistical science. It is a grassroots effort involving more than 1,300 organizations from more than 100 countries. Through the combined energies of these organizations worldwide, Statistics2013 is promoting the importance of statistics to the broader scientific community, business and government data users, the media, policymakers, employers, students, and the general public. Its goals are the following:

  • To increase public awareness of the power and impact of statistics on all aspects of society
  • To nurture statistics as a profession, especially among young people
  • To promote creativity and development in the sciences of probability and statistics

Statistics2013 began with one person’s vision and one society’s initiative, was fanned into flame by the efforts of five statistical societies working as one, and is now spanning the globe. In early 2011, Sastry Pantula, then the past-president of the American Statistical Association, noted that 2011 was the International Year of Chemistry. “Why not an International Year of Statistics?” he asked.

Winners of the Russian National Statistics Olympiad held at the Federal State Statistics Service (ROSSTAT), from left: Chief of ROSSTAT Alexander Sourinov; Vice Chief Irina Masakova; students Ksenia Kruzhkova, Ksenia Guenina, and Anastassia Maksimova (absolute winner of the Olympiad); team supervisor Anna Dukhon; and organizing committee members Mikhail Karmanov, Nathalia Tikhomirova, and Vitaly Minashkin (chair)

Winners of the Russian National Statistics Olympiad held at the Federal State Statistics Service (ROSSTAT), from left: Chief of ROSSTAT Alexander Sourinov; Vice Chief Irina Masakova; students Ksenia Kruzhkova, Ksenia Guenina, and Anastassia Maksimova (absolute winner of the Olympiad); team supervisor Anna Dukhon; and organizing committee members Mikhail Karmanov, Nathalia Tikhomirova, and Vitaly Minashkin (chair)

Why not, indeed! The ASA leadership quickly consulted with that of the International Statistical Institute (ISI) and learned that the Bernoulli Society was already far along in planning a celebration in 2013 of the 300th anniversary of Jacob Bernoulli’s Ars Conjectandi, the seminal work in probability. Bayes Theorem was also first presented publicly in 1763, making 2013 the 250th anniversary of that important work. With this in mind, a committee of representatives from the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), ISI, International Biometric Society (IBS), and ASA worked out a statement of goals, and the leadership of the five societies agreed to collaborate to make 2013 the International Year of Statistics.

By fall of 2011, a steering committee and preliminary website had been established, and we began recruiting organizations to take part in Statistics2013. We had no idea the response would be so fantastic! Professional societies, colleges and universities, secondary schools, government entities, businesses, and others are among the vast network of organizations joining in the celebration of the International Year of Statistics.

There is much energy and creativity in this network, as evidenced by some of the plans coming in from around the world:

  • Statistics Lithuania (the government agency responsible for official statistics in Lithuania) is organizing a conference about statistics and youth. They have started a photography competition related to statistics and developed wall and pocket calendars related to the International Year of Statistics.
  • At Donetsk National University in the Ukraine, (PDF) a “School of the Young” will allow students to connect to data in a way that reveals the use of statistics in various aspects of their lives. A research competition for students also is planned.
  • The Department of Statistics at Shahrood University of Technology in Shahrood, Iran, is hosting a special competition for undergraduate students. Nine students will be selected to present their statistical research.
  • The Uganda Statistical Society has scheduled monthly seminars for Statistics2013 and a special symposium to kick off the year.
  • The Association of Women in Science (AWIS) is creating an area on its website dedicated to the celebration and is developing a series of profiles on women in statistics it will highlight there. AWIS also is developing a webinar on careers in statistics for women.
  • A cluster of universities (from Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Mexico) are organizing an applied statistics congress to emphasize the importance of statistics in addressing social, economic, health, and environmental problems.
  • A group of young statisticians from around the world has agreed to blog about careers in statistics during 2013.
  • The Russian National Statistics Olympiad featured the International Year of Statistics.
  • SAS Institute has festooned its Cary, North Carolina, campus with banners proclaiming 2013 as the International Year of Statistics.

As of this writing, many organizations are still finalizing their plans. But these provide a taste from several continents.

In addition to the grassroots effort, the Statistics2013 Steering Committee is contributing the following activities to the celebration as well:

  • A website with information about statistics and careers in statistics, with regularly updated news features, an interactive quiz, informational cartoons, and more
  • A video by SAS Institute about statistics and its relevance to most aspects of our lives, which is subtitled in many languages. The video is being used by organizations around the world to explain to people what statistics is and why it matters. If you haven’t seen it already, take a look, and distribute it to your network of friends and colleagues.
  • A second video, featuring interesting careers in statistics, is planned for mid-2013.
  • A video contest regarding statistics that is open to everyone
  • A poster highlighting the contributions of statistics, which was made available in the printed version of Amstat News, is available for download on the Statistics 2013 website.
  • A research conference in London in November that will feature many of the top statisticians in the world, along with scientists with whom they collaborate to advance knowledge and improve human welfare

The aforementioned activities and events are a major means by which Statistics2013 will raise awareness. But the Statistics2013 Steering Committee plans some direct outreach to the media and public as well. Here are a few examples:

  • A promotional tool kit has been provided to all participating organizations, giving information and strategies that can be used for outreach.
  • The website will be a powerful tool for raising awareness of statistics.
  • Major outreach to media worldwide is planned and under way.
  • The Census at School program will reach children around the world in a way that helps them understand statistics as relevant, and even fun!

By increasing awareness of the impact of statistics and how statisticians are people whose work makes a difference in the lives of billions of people, we hope to attract new people into the profession and connect even more effectively with other sciences. We hope the resources being developed and the connections being made live well beyond the end of 2013. We also hope 2013 brings the start of activities that make statistics come alive for people, not the end of them.

What can you do? If you are in an organization involved in the International Year of Statistics, find out what your organization is doing and what you can do to help. If your organization does not belong, encourage it to join. Any organization is welcome. A short form can be filled out on the Statistics2013 website.

Indicating the name of the organization, a contact person, that person’s email address, and the URL of the organization’s website is all that is needed.

Individuals can get involved, too, by filling out an even shorter form asking to receive the bi-weekly newsletter. Individuals can read about activities around the world and consider how they can be a part of promoting the goals of Statistics2013.

So ask yourself how you can contribute to the goals of the International Year of Statistics. As you contribute, let me know what you’ve done, and we’ll spread the word about how you are spreading the word about the power and impact of statistics.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Comments are closed.