Thoughts on Energizing the ASA’s Future
This year marks the ASA’s 175th birthday. To celebrate, the 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.
As the ASA turns 175 years old, we as an association are taking the opportunity to “celebrate our past and energize our future.” As a recent doctoral graduate and relatively new member of the ASA, I’d like to focus this column on how the ASA can adapt to growth in the profession over the next 25 years. In other words, at the time of its 200th anniversary, how will the ASA continue to provide meaningful services to its members?
Before we focus on the future, let’s reflect on a few statistics about our past. In 1989, the ASA had 15,134 members. As the statistics profession expanded, ASA membership also increased. Now, the ASA has approximately 18,000 members, which—based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate of the number of statisticians (25,500 people in 2012)—is a 70% coverage rate of the occupation. The Census Bureau is predicting the number of statisticians will continue to increase at a rate of about 14% over the next 10 years, bringing in about 3,500 new statisticians by the year 2020. If this rate remains constant, there will be about 10,000 new statisticians (35,500 people total) when we reach our 200th anniversary. Furthermore, if the ASA maintains its current coverage rate of the profession, there will be 25,000 members. Thirty-six percent of ASA members are under the age of 34. Given the expected growth of the ASA, how can the association keep these younger members engaged?
We can certainly characterize the future of the ASA with estimates, but growth to the organization, as well as the profession, will likely create a challenge to support or engage its members, especially newer members. Meeting these challenges requires personal contributions that need support at the association level. As a person new to the profession, I can speak from experience about how easy it is to become engrossed in the details of one’s job and not focus on what is going on in the statistics community. It will take effort to encourage younger members to join an ASA section relevant to their position, participate in message boards, take part in ASA chapter functions, and attend a leadership meeting when attending the Joint Statistical Meetings. On this last point, it is important to emphasize that simply attending the meetings is a big step for the ASA’s future. By attending, younger members can hear about current issues affecting the profession and start to think about how those issues affect them and what possible solutions there might be.
Older members who are already active in professional societies can invite junior colleagues to attend a chapter meeting or social functions at JSM, thereby helping them meet people they might not otherwise meet. Established members also can nominate a junior colleague to be on an ASA committee. In other words, recognize that it is difficult for a person new to the field to take the initiative to get involved (they may not even know where to look). Given a slight push, many would be happy to engage and remain involved in the ASA, flourishing and developing leadership skills over time. I can’t stress the importance of introducing opportunities to newer and younger members. Without others suggesting that I join committees, I would not be writing this column!
While it may be difficult to see how these individual actions can affect the association at large, they will in aggregate, if properly supported by the association. If individuals and the ASA act together, I believe the ASA will have a membership that is equally, if not more, involved when it reaches its 200th anniversary. As the ASA grows its membership over the next 25 years (and the Census numbers indicate it will), it is my hope that the ASA also will grow its influence as a much-valued part of statisticians’ lives. That is a future to be energized about!