Home » President's Corner

Celebrating Anniversaries and Achievements

9 July 2010 No Comment
Sastry Pantula

Sastry Pantula

Hope you had a wonderful July 4th. More than 20 years ago, President George Bush talked about another sort of Independence Day. At the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), he said, “Three weeks ago, we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today, we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ‘independence day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.”

Last year, President Barack Obama said, “We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination. Policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities. ”

As the ADA reaches its 20th anniversary on July 26, we wish to reaffirm our commitment to encouraging persons with disabilities to become statisticians and fully participate in the ASA.

Through our Committee on Statistics and Disability, the ASA has supported persons with disabilities since before the ADA was enacted. It originated as an ad hoc committee in 1985, charged with eliminating barriers in participation within the ASA and scientific, business, and government communities. In 1990, the committee’s mission expanded to include encouraging people with disabilities to become statisticians, improving disability statistics, and developing better measures and standards.

I want to personally thank current and past members of this committee, as well as many other volunteers, who have helped make the ASA and our profession welcoming and accessible to everyone. I also want to congratulate our members with disabilities on their successes.

As you prepare your presentations for JSM, please visit Guideline for ASA Conference Speakers and follow the suggestions to make your talks accessible to all our members.

NISS Celebrates 20 Years

Speaking of anniversaries, the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. NISS was established in 1990 by universities in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina and statistical societies such as the ASA, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and International Biometric Society (ENAR and WNAR). It is another platform that provides opportunities for cross-sector collaboration among academia, industry, and government.

About 60 government agencies, corporations, and universities belong to NISS Affiliates and NISS/SAMSI Affiliates programs. These programs received the SPAIG Award from the ASA in 2005 for their successful partnerships among academia, industry, and government.

The mission of NISS is “to identify, catalyze, and foster high-impact, cross-disciplinary, and cross-sector research involving the statistical sciences.” It is dedicated to strengthening and serving the national statistics community by catalyzing community members’ participation in applied research driven by challenges facing government and industry.

One of the many contributions NISS has made to our profession is work force development. NISS has been a leader in training and mentoring postdoctoral fellows (more than 70 so far) and provides career development opportunities for statisticians and scientists, especially those in the fledgling stages of their careers.

In May, NISS was awarded a two-year grant of more than $750,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a postdoctoral research program in collaboration with NSF’s Division of Science Resource Statistics (SRS).

SAMSI Achieves Much in Eight Years

As I write about NISS’s success, it is hard not to think about the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI), which was established in 2002 and has an ASA representative on its governing board.

On behalf of the ASA, I want to take this opportunity to thank SAMSI’s founding director, Jim Berger, for his service to our profession. I also want to give him the opportunity to share his thoughts about SAMSI as he passes the baton to Richard Smith:

    It is hard to believe that SAMSI is already eight years old. It seems like only yesterday that we opened our doors, not quite sure if anyone would walk in or what to do with them if they did!

    Well, they walked in. Next year, for instance, SAMSI will have eight year-long visitors, 35 semester-long visitors, 15 postdoctoral fellows, hordes of shorter-term visitors, and more than a thousand workshop participants. It also turns out that we never had any trouble figuring out what to do with those who walked in; we just put them together and wonderful things started happening! We did find ways to accelerate the process, for instance, through the introduction of the research working groups, which meet physically at SAMSI, and through web conferencing (since not everyone can be at SAMSI all the time). Typically, 10 to 15 such working groups are concurrently operating during any given year.

    It is also amazing to look back and realize that we have had 26 outstanding research programs. Of course, the success of these programs is primarily due to the extraordinary national and international leaders in statistics, applied mathematics, and disciplinary science who first imagined, then developed, and, finally, led the programs. Space precludes their individual recognition here, but they were at the heart of SAMSI’s success.

    Another of the most satisfying aspects of the job has been seeing all the young researchers and students who had their lives changed by SAMSI. This includes 67 postdoctoral fellows (most of who were here for two years), nearly 140 semester or year-long graduate students, and the thousands who attended the many SAMSI education and outreach events, many of which were specifically focused on enhancing diversity.

    The people who have made indelible contributions to SAMSI are too numerous to mention here, but I certainly want to highlight—and profusely thank—the former and current associate directors: Tom Banks, Steve Marron, Young Truong, Chris Jones, Jim Damon, Ralph Smith, Michael Minion, Pierre Gremaud, and Nell Sedransk. They were central to so much of SAMSI’s development and operation. Alan Karr was also an [associate director], but also much more. For instance, it was his leadership that made the new SAMSI wing of the NISS/SAMSI building possible.

    Of course, SAMSI would not have been possible without the support of the National Science Foundation, since it is the NSF money that goes (almost entirely) toward supporting the many visitors and postdocs at SAMSI. SAMSI also benefits from the involvement of many local statisticians and scientists, whose participation would not be possible without the extensive support of the local universities and the biostatistics, mathematics, and statistics departments therein. To all, my deepest thanks, and a special thanks to Dan Solomon, who, from the beginning of SAMSI, was a major supporter and fount of wisdom.

    While I’m stepping down as SAMSI director, I certainly won’t be leaving SAMSI. Indeed, from now on, I’ll have the fun of being downstairs—in the working group research rooms—rather than upstairs doing admin[istration]. That is one of the many reasons it is great that Richard Smith is assuming the directorship: I’m sure that he will do an outstanding job of ensuring that the research happening downstairs at SAMSI is stunning!

Thank you to all of you for your various contributions to our association and to our profession. See you in Vancouver! Please don’t forget your passports.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Comments are closed.