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Call for SPAIG Award Nominations to Recognize Successful Collaborations

1 January 2017 No Comment
Willis A. Jensen and Fanni Natanegara, SPAIG Committee Members

    Collaboration is one of those words that means many things to different people, ranging from work between two individuals to vast efforts involving many people across multiple organizations. It is something we statisticians do to be successful, regardless of our area of work.

    Because we recognize its importance to our profession, it is not surprising that the American Statistical Association wants to encourage and recognize outstanding collaborations. The Statistics Partnership of Academic, Industry, and Government (SPAIG) Committee has been given the charge to accomplish this goal through its mission to “identify, lead, and promote initiatives that foster partnerships between academe and business, industry, and government.”

    SPAIG Committee Contacts

    Willis Jensen
    Fanni Natanegara

    It is essential to bridge the gap between statistical practice and theory, and we want to encourage partnerships that seek to bridge this gap through collaboration. Beyond collaboration with other disciplines, it is crucial to collaborate within our own discipline. We cannot expect to be strong collaborators with other disciplines if we do not collaborate well among ourselves.

    What Makes for Good Collaboration?

    Effective collaboration generates tangible problems and the use of rich data to create insights, spark questions, and advance science and innovation. Collaboration between academe, industry, and government organizations leads to improved statistical methods that are relevant to real-world problems and makes connections between statistical practice and theory.

    What Kind of Collaboration Does the SPAIG Committee Encourage and Recognize?

    Examples include workshops and training provided by universities for industry partners, internship programs, joint research efforts motivated by real-world problems, sharing of industry or government challenges resulting in theses and dissertations, and funding and consulting opportunities. With the rapid changes happening in our profession, we are also interested in promoting new kinds of partnerships and collaboration involving new application areas. As technology becomes ever more present and the world gets smaller, we imagine new collaborations may have a virtual component to them. Highlighting a diverse set of collaborations will stimulate more creative collaboration that can continue to advance the field.

    The SPAIG committee promotes collaboration by recognizing successful examples through the SPAIG award, which is given on an annual basis. What does it mean to earn this award? We spoke with two past winners to learn more about what goes into earning an award like this. John Kolassa from Rutgers University noted:

    The Rutgers Department of Statistics and Biostatistics developed a very successful collaboration with Pfizer Inc. Our department developed at the same time that rigorous assessment of drug safety and efficacy developed, and the pharmaceutical companies in our geographic area are innovators in this area. Pfizer has long been a key industrial partner. Aspects of this collaboration included a very generous fellowship for one of our PhD students, a number of internships for both MS and PhD students, a research symposium that alternated between Rutgers and Pfizer, and ongoing research and other collaborations between Rutgers faculty and students and Pfizer personnel. These collaborations, in turn, lead to high-quality publications and career development for our students and alumni.

    We are grateful that SPAIG recognized our activities; such recognition increases the visibility of our program and increases the visibility of biopharmaceutical activities within Rutgers and within our department. In the universal struggle for resources, the SPAIG award demonstrates to our administration that statistics is a vital discipline and that our departmental activities are externally recognized for excellence. Building relationships with outside institutions, and, in particular, with institutions outside our sector, took time and energy; in our case, we were fortunate to have counterparts at Pfizer who are easy to work with and eager to participate. Building the types of relationships the SPAIG award recognizes carries great benefits to one’s home institutions and to one’s neighbors.

    Karen Price from Eli Lilly and Company was part of a collaborative effort that won the SPAIG award in 2012 and praised the effort:

    Baylor University and Eli Lilly and Company began its collaboration in 1996 when one of the students joined the company after completing her PhD at Baylor.

    The development of this long-standing partnership can best be described in different phases:

    1. Natural follow-up on dissertation research between the former student and adviser
    2. Lilly statisticians partnering with a series of graduate students and/or Baylor faculty on dissertation work and/or research thaat ultimately led to publications and presentations
    3. Baylor faculty and students providing formal consultation on Lilly projects, including evaluating various Bayesian methods, providing seminars, education modules, and building Bayesian computational tools to implement the broad use of Bayesian methods at Lilly

    The strong and enduring collaboration has brought methodological enhancements to both clinical and nonclinical pharmaceutical applications and provided a successful model for partnerships between Lilly and other universities. The number of graduate students and faculty supported by Lilly, as well as the hiring of Baylor graduate students by Lilly, indicated that the partnership is highly valued by both entities.

    Have you seen great examples of collaboration? Are you part of an organization that has an effective partnership with another organization? Then we want your help. We want nominations that recognize excellence among collaborating organizations for the ASA SPAIG award.

    For nomination instructions and a form, visit the SPAIG website. The winner will be recognized before the President’s Invited Address at the 2017 Joint Statistical Meetings in Baltimore, Maryland. Nominations are due by March 1.

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