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JSM 2009: Highlights & Fond Memories

1 October 2009 No Comment
Wendy L. Martinez, JSM 2009 Program Chair

coverartbgOne of the final tasks of the JSM program chair is to provide a summary of what happened during the meetings. Of course, some time has gone by and my recollections are already fading, so I will probably leave something out of what follows. In any event, it is good to take a moment and reflect on the wonderful times I had with colleagues and friends in Washington, DC.

One of the highlights of any JSM are the introductory overview lectures (IOLs). We had five great lectures this year on many timely topics: high-dimensional data, spatial statistics, designing longitudinal studies, causal inference in statistics, and data mining. I was able to attend two, which were very informative, and I heard through the grapevine that the other IOLs were equally as good and well-attended.

Tuesday was a special day for those interested in statistics and the media. First, Rosanne Desmone, the ASA’s media specialist, organized a panel discussion about getting statistical questions and answers correct in the media. Panelists included Sharon Begley of Newsweek, who won the ASA’s 2009 Excellence in Statistical Reporting Award (ESRA), and journalists from The Wall Street Journal and Science News. Next was a session showcasing talks by past ESRA winners that provided information about conveying statistics to a lay audience. I particularly liked the talk by Mark Buchanan. He discussed the prosecutor’s fallacy and Lucia de Berk, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, largely because people misunderstood and misused probabilities. The final media-related session of the day included an invited panel organized by the Committee on Meetings. This panel had participants from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Barron’s who explored ways statisticians can get their work noticed and reported correctly in the media.

We also had special events for K–12 teachers and decisionmakers in the defense and national security communities. The popular Meeting Within a Meeting for K–12 teachers was successful again this year; one attendee told me she collected a number of good ideas to implement in her classroom. The Statistics in Defense and National Security Section held a similar workshop. This outreach effort, funded by a member initiative grant, was attended by participants representing such entities as the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Just the Stats
At JSM 2009, there were:

    2,820 abstracts submitted for presentations

      611 sessions

        103 exhibitors

          1,608 Continuing Education registrants

            6,804 total registrants (previous high was 6,034 at JSM 2006 in Seattle)

              3,380 ASA members attending
              (previous high was 3,290 at JSM 2002 in New York)

                719 nonmembers attending (previous high was 451 at JSM 2006 in Seattle)

                  1,150 students attending (previous high was 937 at JSM 2006 in Seattle)

                    Steve Pierson, the ASA’s director of science policy, arranged to have 60 JSM attendees meet with senators and congressional staffers on the Thursday of JSM. He also organized an invited session that focused on statistics and climate change policy. Panelists included individuals from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Ohio State University, and the Congressional Research Service. It was wonderful to watch the interaction between statisticians, scientists, and decisionmakers. I am sure this will result in better understanding of the issues on all sides.

                    We had more poster presentations this year than in any other. One sponsored by the Section on Statistical Graphics showcased analyses of data from domestic air traffic. I enjoyed hearing about that and other topics as I meandered through the sky bridge and exhibit hall. (The member societies would like to improve poster sessions and foster more submissions, so please forward any ideas you have to the ASA Meetings Department at meetings@amstat.org.

                    JSM 2009 broke many records—it was the largest ever! Prior to this, the biggest JSM took place in Seattle with 6,034 attendees. This year, we had 6,804 participants, which is about 12% more. See “Just the Stats” for more numbers.

                    In closing, I would like to acknowledge and thank the many people who contributed to JSM 2009, including the 2009 and 2010 program committees, ASA Meetings Department, and all the attendees who took the time to participate in the largest gathering of statisticians in North America.

                    View this slideshow of photos from the 2009 JSM in Washington, DC.

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