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Statisticians Highlight Scientific Research on Capitol Hill

1 July 2017 147 views No Comment
Amy Nussbaum, ASA Science Policy Fellow
    Mark and Stacey Culp on Capitol Hill (Photo by Amy Nussbaum)

    Mark and Stacey Culp on Capitol Hill
    (Photo by Amy Nussbaum)

      On May 16, the ASA sponsored two exhibitors as part of the 23rd annual Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Congressional Exhibition, intended to celebrate National Science Foundation grant recipients and their most recent research.

      Mark and Stacey Culp, professors in the statistics department at West Virginia University, traveled to Washington, DC, to present work from Mark’s NSF CAREER Grant on Machine Learning Solutions to Big Data Problems in Biometrics and Drug Discovery. Likening Big Data problems to “searching for a needle in a haystack while someone’s dumping more hay on top of you,” Mark explained his research to congressional staff, NSF personnel, and members of other scientific organizations during the official reception in the Rayburn House Office Building and described how the methodologies can be applied in multiple arenas.

      Mark Culp discusses his research with NSF Director France Córdova.

      Mark Culp discusses his research with NSF Director France Córdova.

      Mark Culp discusses his research with Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), a PhD mathematician.

      Mark Culp discusses his research with Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), a PhD mathematician.

      Mark and Stacey Culp with ASA Science Policy Fellow Amy Nussbaum

      Mark and Stacey Culp with ASA Science Policy Fellow Amy Nussbaum (Photo by Steve Pierson)

      Earlier in the day, the Culps met with staff in the offices of Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito—as well as representatives David McKinley, Alex Mooney, and Evan Jenkins—to urge robust NSF funding for FY18 and discuss support for science in West Virginia. The West Virginia delegation to Washington is especially influential on NSF funding, with both senators and Rep. Jenkins serving on the appropriations subcommittee that determines the NSF’s budget.

      “We’re really grateful to Mark and Stacey for spending the day in Washington,” said Steve Pierson, ASA director of science policy. “Members of Congress and their staff continually hear from their constituents on a variety of issues and it’s imperative to the health of agencies like NSF and NIH that such constituents include supporters of federal research funding.”

      CAREER grants also require teaching commitments, so Mark was able to discuss both his research and equipping students with the latest tools of the trade so they can find jobs upon graduating and connect with industry. Many staffers were delighted to see such a return on investment coming from the NSF research dollars.

      Stacey also discussed her research with statistics and health care applications and how such work can improve the quality of life for West Virginians—another top priority for their legislators.

      Mark stated, “It was an honor to represent the ASA at the CNSF exhibition and to share some Big Data applications of my NSF-funded research on Capitol Hill. I was able to discuss my research with a steady stream of engaged attendees and other presenters.” Stacey added, “I appreciated the warm reception by the staffers and was impressed by their understanding of the significance of the NSF and the need to continue to support it.”

      The Coalition for National Science Funding is an alliance of more than 100 organizations “united by a concern for the future vitality of the national science, mathematics, and engineering enterprise.” In addition to the annual exhibition, CNSF also organizes sign-on letters, hosts monthly stakeholder meetings, and targets key congressional appropriators in support of increasing national investment in the National Science Foundation’s research and educational programs. Other member organizations include both scientific associations and universities.

      This is the seventh time the ASA has participated in the event. Previous representatives include Richard Smith of the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute, Genevera Allen of Rice University and the Neurological Research Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine, and Peter Craigmile of The Ohio State University.

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