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1 December 2014 No Comment

David Blackwell, an eminent statistician at the University of California, Berkeley who was the first black admitted to the National Academy of Sciences and an ASA Fellow before his death in 2010, has been named a 2014 National Medal of Science honoree posthumously. Established in 1959, it is the premier honor for American scientists and engineers. Conferred by the U.S. president, the medal has been awarded to nearly 500 pioneering individuals. Several ASA members—including John Tukey (1973), Calyampudi Radhakrishna (C.R.) Rao (2002), Bradley Efron (2007), and S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan (2011)—previously were honored.

Stephen J. Blyth will be the next president and CEO of Harvard Management Company (HMC), which manages Harvard University’s endowment and related financial assets. Blyth serves as HMC managing director and head of public markets and will assume his new position January 1, 2015. He was selected by the company’s board of directors following a nationwide search. An alumnus of Cambridge University and Harvard, Blyth also has served in recent years as a professor in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, teaching the statistics department’s course on applied quantitative finance.

In a single week, Keith E. Muller and his co-investigator, Deborah H. Glueck, received two grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Muller is a professor in the department of health outcomes and policy in the University of Florida College of Medicine. Glueck is an associate professor of biostatistics and informatics in the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health.

The grants provide funding to create educational materials for the design of multilevel and longitudinal research studies. Multilevel designs involve observations related to each other, creating clusters of data points, while longitudinal designs collect repeated data points over time. The designs give greater precision in analyzing how individuals and groups change over time. Both types of studies are crucial for biomedical scientists and researchers in a wide variety of related fields.

The first grant, which is from the National Library of Medicine and totals $50,000 per year for three years, will allow Muller and Glueck to write a textbook about how to design multilevel and longitudinal studies effectively. The textbook will be titled Power and Sample Size for Multilevel and Longitudinal Designs in Health Research.

The second grant, which is from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, will facilitate the creation of a short course on multilevel and longitudinal health studies.

The textbook and course build upon Muller and Glueck’s efforts to make effective study design more widely available to scientists. With key collaborator, software engineer, and biostatistician Sarah Kreidler, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Muller and Glueck have built a free website and open source power and sample size software. The work has been funded by a current $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“Better-designed studies will help scientists understand the origin of disease and choose safe and effective treatments, ultimately improving the health of Americans,” explained Muller, who is a fellow of the American Statistical Association.

The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS), a nonprofit organization that fosters high-impact cross-disciplinary and cross-sector research involving statistical sciences, held a workshop for its affiliates and others on October 17 at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Conference Center in Washington, DC. More than 70 people attended the workshop, titled “Analyzing Complex Survey Data with Missing Item Values.”

The workshop focused on the current state of research and applications for work with incomplete data and imputation for complex designs, technology transfer, application context, and dominant features that affect feasibility and statistical properties. Later in the day, the group discussed prospective joint work they could conduct.

Speakers included John Eltinge, Bureau of Labor Statistics; Phil Kott, RTI International; Rod Little, University of Michigan; Shu Yang, Harvard School of Public Health; Joe Schafer, U.S. Census Bureau; Kirk White, U.S. Census Bureau; Martha Stinson, U.S. Census Bureau; Tim Keller, USDA National Agricultural Research Service; Jerry Reiter, Duke University; Jae-kwang Kim, Iowa State University; and Paul Biemer, RTI International and The Odum Institute at The University of North Carolina. There also was a working session, “Challenging Problems with Incomplete Data and Imputation in Large-Scale Federal Surveys,” with Geoffrey Paulin of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Copies of all the presentations can be found at the NISS website.

Spiegelman  Photo Credit: Emily Cuccarese/HSPH Photography

Photo Credit: Emily Cuccarese/HSPH Photography 

Donna Spiegelman, professor of epidemiologic methods at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), has received a Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of 10 researchers honored, Spiegelman is believed to be the first epidemiologist and biostatistician, and the first faculty member from a school of public health, to receive the award.

The five-year $500,000/year prize recognizes “individual scientists of exceptional creativity, who propose pioneering, and possibly transforming, approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research,” according to the NIH website. Recipients, along with other awardees in the NIH Common Fund High-Risk High-Reward program, will be honored at a symposium held December 15–17 at the NIH.

Spiegelman intends to use this opportunity to refocus her career on the development of new methods needed to advance the field of implementation science—an area of research that seeks to establish through rigorous quantitative methods which public health interventions directed at achieving the same goal are most effective in the real world. The work will be directed toward public health interventions arising in environmental health, nutrition and chronic disease, and HIV/AIDS. Mathematics, statistics, computer science, and epidemiologic methods all will be brought to bear. Empirical methods for cost-effectiveness analysis, design and analysis of stepped wedge studies, methods that combine group-level and individual-level data to optimize resources, and causal inference methods for impact evaluation when interventions affect social or environmental networks, but only some subset of the network receive the intervention, are all topics she will address in the coming years.

Throughout her career, Spiegelman has worked to develop biostatistical solutions to problems that arise in epidemiology. With more than 500 publications to her name, she is the statistician for several long-running studies based at HSPH: Nurses’ Health Study II, Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, and Harvard PEPFAR site in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in addition to a host of studies that have grown out of these efforts. On her HSPH website, Spiegelman shares free software that helps researchers implement nonstandard methods useful in epidemiologic research.

“Winning this award is a tremendous honor,” said Spiegelman, who holds appointments in the school’s departments of epidemiology, biostatistics, nutrition, and global health and population. “It demonstrates a great deal of confidence in the work I’ve accomplished so far and that what I’m proposing to do is really worth the investment by the NIH in this very competitive and contracting funding environment.”

John Stufken recently joined Arizona State University as the inaugural Charles Wexler Professor in Statistics in the school of mathematical and statistical sciences. Stufken will lead the plans to form a department of statistics within the school. That growth will start with hiring two new faculty positions this year and planning for five positions total over the first three years. The initial focus will be to substantially increase the quality and size of the school’s doctoral statistics program.

Stufken is a fellow of the ASA and Institute of Mathematical Statistics and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.

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