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NISS Director Provides Update on Institute Activities

1 February 2013 335 views No Comment

The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) has been busy this year, with several new projects under way and an expanded presence, including new office space, in Washington, DC.

NISS, along with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), hired a postdoctoral fellow, Zhulin He, to work on Project TALENT, a longitudinal survey that originally took place with senior high-school students beginning in 1960. The original survey involved more than 400,000 students in 1,000 schools. The follow-up surveys will look at what has happened over the lifetimes of the original participants, including employment, health, and finance. NISS is part of an AIR team addressing many interesting statistical challenges such as survey weights and designing new data collections.

Along with Duke University, NISS has hired Hang Kim as a postdoctoral fellow to work on the Triangle Census Research Network (TCRN). TCRN is one of eight awards made by the NSF-Census Research Network (NCRN), a partnership of the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation. Jerome Reiter of Duke is the PI, and Alan Karr is the co-PI. TCRN is developing broadly applicable methodologies that transform and improve data dissemination practice in the federal statistical system. Among other things, they are working on developing a microsimulation modeling framework for surveys.

NISS, jointly with Cornell University, was awarded a grant from NSF to operate the NCRN Coordination Office (NCRN-CO). NCRN-CO facilitates communication and collaboration among the eight research nodes, as well as with other key stakeholders, including the federal statistical (FedStats) agencies, academia, and the private sector. A dedicated website will be online soon.

Over the past five years, the NISS “DC presence” has expanded steadily, especially under the leadership of Associate Director Nell Sedransk. In addition to Sedransk, NISS staff located in Washington include Larry Cox, assistant director for official statistics; three people working together with Karr for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) via the Education Statistics Support Institute—Bruce Daniel, senior analyst; Joy Edington, research analyst; and David Yang, research associate—and postdoctoral fellows He and Weiwei Cui.

Among Sedransk’s many achievements are a regular series of research discussions among DC personnel and the procuring of office space in the ASA building in Alexandria, Virginia.

The work for NCES is a major component of NISS and currently includes constructing software to support safe release of student performance data at the individual school level; modernization of data from the 1980s High School and Beyond survey—partly with a plan potentially to link HSB to other databases; implementation of the comparable wage index—a geographical adjustment tool for comparing educational expenditures across districts and states; evaluation of the Teacher Compensation Survey; and support for NCES’ Statistical Standards Program and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

During the past year, we completed work on the travel time reliability project funded by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. Partners in this project were the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University, Kittelson & Associates, Inc., Berkeley Transportation Systems, the University of Utah, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The group created a traffic system manager’s guidebook on travel time reliability. Our contribution focused on multiple insights about travel time distributions and different data sources.

Continuing projects include research on surveys supported by the National Center on Science and Engineering Statistics at the NSF, online reading comprehension assessment supported by the Institute for Education Sciences, and research stemming from the 2012–2013 SAMSI program on data-driven decisions in health care.

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