Astrostatistics: A New Interest Group
Jessi Cisewski, David Van Dyk, and Thomas C. M. Lee
Recent decades have witnessed a steady and sustained increase in collaborative research efforts between statisticians and astronomers. The result is a new dynamic subdiscipline that is rich in data, sophisticated models, and interdisciplinary activities. Astrostatistics has reached a level of maturity and a critical mass that requires a more formal organization of researchers within the ASA. To meet this growing need and to encourage astrostatistical research to flourish, the ASA Astrostatistics Interest Group recently formed.
The interest group will join a growing network of astrostatistics-related organizations. For example, the American Astronomical Society has established the Working Group on Astroinformatics and Astrostatistics, with 80 members. There are more than 700 members registered with the Astrostatistics and Astroinformatics Portal (ASAIP) and more than 400 members in the International Astrostatistics Association, which represents 46 countries with 150 members from the United States. The ASA interest group is the first professional organization devoted to astrostatistics within a scholarly association of statisticians.
Astrostatistics has abundant, challenging, and intriguing problems that many ASA members already have had the opportunity to explore. Statistical challenges in astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, solar physics, and astroparticle physics include problems related to Bayesian methodology, classification, dimension reduction, hierarchical modeling, hypothesis testing, nonparametric and semiparametric modeling, spatial and time series methods, and uncertainty quantification, just to name a few. What exactly do astrostatisticians work on? The list of recent astrostatistics papers maintained by ASAIP will give you a flavor of the variety of statistical topics and applications you can explore in astrostatistics.
There are a number of astrostatistics meetings held throughout the world, including “Statistical Challenges in 21st Century Cosmology” and “ExoStat2014,” a follow-up workshop to “Modern Statistical and Computational Methods for Analysis of Kepler Data”. Also, Penn State’s Center for Astrostatistics held its 10th summer school in June. Many more meetings can be found at https://asaip.psu.edu/meetings. Within the ASA, there will be an introductory overview lecture and three invited sessions at JSM 2014 (Bayesian Astrostatistics, Big Data in Astrostatistics, and Statistical Analysis of Kepler Data at SAMSI).
There are many opportunities for statisticians to get involved in astrostatistics. We welcome anyone with a desire to explore these problems to join the ASA’s newest interest group. Another great way to get connected is to contact one of your local astronomers—many are eager to begin collaboration with statisticians!