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In Praise of ASA Membership

1 August 2015 No Comment
Jay Devore, Professor Emeritus of Statistics, California Polytechnic State University

I taught in the department of statistics at California Polytechnic State University for more than 30 years and served a sentence as department chair for seven of those years. Cal Poly puts more emphasis on teaching than research, though all faculty are strongly encouraged to engage in broadly interpreted professional development activities. I recently became aware that some of the younger faculty members in the department were skeptical of the value of membership in the American Statistical Association. I sent those individuals a message, and several of them responded saying they would like to be convinced. I responded to them more or less as follows:


I just received the newest issue of Amstat News. Inside, there is a list of all people who have belonged to the ASA for at least 35 years. Roughly 250 people have belonged for at least 50 years, and about 300 for between 45 and 49 years (I am in this latter category). I conjecture that most of those folks are retired, but they continue their membership. Not, I think, because they any longer derive significant direct benefits from doing so, but because they see membership as a way of showing their support for and strengthening the profession. I don’t think direct benefit should be the driver of a decision to belong, any more than it plays much of a role when people make charitable contributions. I really like the feeling of being part of a large and hopefully growing statistical community.

By the way, among other tidbits in the issue, there is an amusing interview with several members of The Imposteriors, a band of statisticians who will be playing at the upcoming JSM. Without membership, I would not have read the publication and would have missed out on this story about our musical brethren. I also find that having my own copies of The American Statistician and JASA makes me less inclined to neglect reading those; I especially enjoy the book reviews, without which it would be difficult to identify new candidates for textbook adoptions.

I continue to be aware of how demoralized many faculty members are because of lack of progress in increasing compensation. I felt the same way for years after I came into the California State University system. But during that period, I never considered discontinuing my ASA membership. The larger the organization, the more impact it will have in exerting a constructive influence on the direction of statistics in our country and the world. That, to me, is a very good thing.

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