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Committee Spotlight: ASA Statistical Partnerships Among Academe, Industry, and Government (SPAIG)

1 June 2021 No Comment
Amstat News is spotlighting ASA committees and their activities. To start the series, we asked the ASA Statistical Partnerships Among Academe, Industry, and Government (SPAIG) Committee Chair Fanni Natanegara and SPAIG Vice Chair Ying Ding to answer a few questions about SPAIG’s purpose and goals.

In your own words, what is the purpose of your committee?

Ying Ding: To me, the purpose of our SPAIG committee is to identify and promote initiatives and opportunities for establishing, expanding, and strengthening collaborations or partnerships across multiple entities (academic, industry, and government) in our profession and to acknowledge and recognize those outstanding collaborations that really make significant impacts in advancing research and influencing policy.

SPAIG Committee: John Kolassa (Rutgers), Julia Lee (Northwestern), Ying Ding (University of Pittsburgh), Michelle Shardell (University of Maryland), William Scott Clark (Eli Lilly), Willis Jensen (W.L. Gore & Associates), Fanni Natanegara (Eli Lilly), Renee Ellis (US Census Bureau), and Michael Lavine (US Army)

Fanni Natanegara: Cross-sector and interdisciplinary partnerships are essential in our statistics profession. The SPAIG Committee consists of nine members representing each of the three sectors: John Kolassa (Rutgers), Julia Lee (Northwestern), Ying Ding (University of Pittsburgh), Michelle Shardell (University of Maryland), William Scott Clark (Eli Lilly), Willis Jensen (W.L. Gore & Associates), Fanni Natanegara (Eli Lilly), Renee Ellis (US Census Bureau), and Michael Lavine (US Army). Our mission is to lead and promote initiatives that foster connectivity and collaborations across the sectors providing education, solving real-world problems, and advancing research.

Why did you accept the position to chair and co-chair the committee?

Ying Ding: I was very fortunate to be appointed by the ASA president-elect back in 2017 to serve on the SPAIG Committee, and then was reappointed in 2020 for my second term. Given my working experience in both industry and academia, I have seen first-hand the many successful and impactful collaborations that greatly improve current practices or help solve real-world problems, which motivated me to contribute to this committee’s mission.

During my tenure in SPAIG, I learned a lot from working with all the committee members, as well as from communicating with ASA liaisons and officers. At the end of 2020, I was encouraged by Fanni Natanegara (the new chair-elect), who was my previous colleague at Eli Lilly, to serve as the vice chair of the committee. I am grateful for this opportunity, and I look forward to working with the entire committee toward our mission to further promote and advocate strong partnerships and collaborations in our profession.

Fanni Natanegara: SPAIG Committee members are appointed by the ASA president-elect for a three-year term and can be reappointed for a second three-year term. This year is my sixth and last year on the SPAIG Committee.

I have learned a lot during my tenure in SPAIG. Being part of the committee offered me a glimpse of the ASA’s influence on our statistics community and beyond. I have witnessed the tremendous growth and impact the committee has on our community through our sponsorships of the annual SPAIG Award and scientific conference sessions and webinars. I am energized by the cumulative work and ideas of our diverse committee members and for giving back to the community.

In the last couple of years, I had the privilege to serve as the vice chair of the committee. And this year, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as the chair of the committee. I look forward to continuing the committee’s impactful work and identifying new opportunities consistent with our mission to promote and foster statistical partnerships.

How often does the committee meet to plan activities?

Fanni Natanegara: The SPAIG Committee, along with ASA liaisons, meets once a month virtually to discuss and plan for our group activities. Our activities include organizing the annual SPAIG JSM speaker with lunch event and scientific sessions, publishing short articles highlighting a diverse set of collaborative projects and successes, advertising and judging the annual SPAIG Award, cosponsoring webinars with the ASA and other ASA sections, and updating our website to keep ASA members informed about our ongoing activities. The committee also strives to initiate new projects to promote and foster partnerships across the academic, industrial, and government sectors. Our wonderful ASA liaisons—Donna LaLonde (ASA), Mark Otto (US Fish and Wildlife Service), and Matilde Sanchez-Kam (US Food and Drug Administration)—have been critical in providing us insight into the larger ASA initiatives and making connections with other sections relevant to our mission and activities.

At any given time, there could be multiple ongoing projects. Given that there are nine committee members and we all have our day jobs, we often take the approach of divide and conquer based on our interests and availability. Consistent with our mission, we collaborate with each other and ensure diverse representations to tackle each project by forming smaller pods. Depending on the timelines of each project, each pod will meet virtually and communicate as often as they need. We also have an in-person meeting annually at JSM, which we missed last year due to the virtual nature of the conference.

What are some recent or upcoming committee events you would like to highlight?

Fanni Natanegara: The committee sponsors the annual SPAIG Award. The award is distinct from other ASA awards in that it recognizes outstanding collaborations between organizations, while also recognizing key individual contributors such as statisticians and subject matter experts involved in the partnership. The nominated partnership must be between organizations from at least two of the three sectors: academe, industry, and government. In addition, the collaboration must have resulted in significant contributions to the statistical field with applications to real-world problems in areas such as health, education, agriculture, astronomy, geography, epidemiology, pharmacology, forensic science, demography, law, finance, and the environment. Statistical contributions from these collaborations include innovative methodologies or initiatives, new technologies, novel analytic and evaluation approaches, publications, statistical workshops, internship programs, and rigorous analysis of real-world data to answer urgent questions.

Nominations are due by March 1 each year. The winners are recognized before the President’s Invited Address at JSM that year. For more information or to ask questions about the nomination process, email ASA Director of Awards, Committees, and Elections Elizabeth Henry.

What are some upcoming events you are most excited about?

Fanni Natanegara: Beginning this year, I am excited for the SPAIG Committee to partner with the ASA on the Impact Webinar Series. Statistics: Making an Impact was the theme for JSM 2019 and a challenge to the statistics and data science communities proposed by 2019 ASA President Karen Kafadar. The Impact Webinar Series will explore areas that are ripe for contributions from statisticians and data scientists and where statistics and data science already have had positive effects. This webinar series is free.

I am also excited about our recent collaboration with the ASA Section on Statistics and Data Science Education on the Industry Internships Advising Tips Webinar. From the panel discussion, I learned about the unique and common practices across industry internship programs. From the open floor discussion, I heard the need from our students and their university advisers to be able to search internship projects more readily and prepare for successful applications and interviews. There is more work to do here. This is an opportunity for us to show current and future students the advantages of and tips for pursuing internship programs, along with technical and nontechnical skills needed to be successful in post-academic life.

Past and future announcements and recordings of these webinars can be found on the SPAIG website.

Any additional information or news you’d like to share about the committee with ASA members?

Fanni Natanegara: As we plan future Impact webinars, we welcome examples of interdisciplinary teams whose work fits the overarching theme of impact and encourage proposals for work that is in progress or in the exploratory stage. Please share recommendations.

In addition to hearing about successful examples of collaborations, we would like to hear about hurdles you have or have yet overcome in your current collaborations. We are open to partnering with you and your organizations or sections on initiatives that foster connectivity and collaboration across the sectors and provide education, solve real-world problems, and advance research.

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