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JSM 2021: Data for Good and the Stories It Tells

1 July 2021 No Comment

David CorlissWith a PhD in statistical astrophysics, David Corliss is lead, Industrial Business Analytics, and manager, Data Science Center of Excellence, Stellantis. He serves on the steering committee for the Conference on Statistical Practice and is the founder of Peace-Work, a volunteer cooperative of statisticians and data scientists providing analytic support for charitable groups and applying statistical methods in issue-driven advocacy.

Get Involved
In opportunities this month, trends indicate the COVID-19 pandemic is decreasing, which means the changes we saw at the start of the pandemic will be changing again. Some will get better, some worse, and others just different as we move toward a “new normal.” This summer and fall will be a tremendously important time for understanding the pandemic and its effects. If you have worked on a COVID project in the past, continuing the work as the pandemic winds down in the US will provide essential data. If you are interested in working on a pandemic project, there are many opportunities to make a contribution for the greater good.

With the Joint Statistical Meetings just a few weeks away, now is the time to plan your participation. One of the largest gatherings of statisticians in the world will be virtual this year, making it easier and less expensive to attend.

The theme for JSM 2021 is Statistics, Data, and the Stories They Tell. The website has lots of great resources, including an online program with a search engine. The search engine can be accessed without registering, so you can see the best presentations to your work and make the case for financial support to attend.

At last year’s JSM, I found the site, search, functions, and streaming all worked really well—kudos to all those who organized it on such short notice! One thing I did hear is that the streaming can be bandwidth-heavy for some folks with slower internet, so a good connection and not having 27 windows open at once (a bad habit of mine) can be helpful if things are slow.

Use the search engine to find papers and meetings in your particular areas of interest in D4G. The window that opens first searches by session or number, so that will work best when you already know which sessions you want. To explore all the presentations, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the searches by name, affiliation, or keyword. Often, the search will find individual presentations that are part of a larger session. In that case, you will want to click on the activity number at the top of the abstract. This will bring up a page for the session containing the paper. Click on the blue “Add to My Program” to add it to your personal conference schedule.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, JSM presentations will explore many dimensions and effects. There are more than 170 papers on just COVID, so JSM is one-stop shopping for the latest data, analysis, methods, and more.

The intersectionality of the pandemic with many other issues is well represented. As one example, Chih-Li Sung has a paper in Session 220717 on the effect of government interventions and even the weather. Another interesting COVID paper from the D4G point of view is Walter Yu’s talk in Session 220667 about creating data sets to help local governments, NGOs, and community groups meet the challenges of the pandemic. Use the search engine to find more great presentations on social, economic, and justice effects of the pandemic.

JSM always showcases important research on climate and the environment. In Session 220741, Robert L. Norton will present on using publicly available data, including EPA Enviroatlas, to demonstrate the benefits of green spaces on urban environments. A number of papers will explore the impact of climate change on health, including one on vector-borne diseases from Nicholas Ogden at the Public Health Agency of Canada.

When looking for Data for Good papers at a conference, it’s important to search for examples of analytic methods, even when the topic of the paper might not be in your area. For example, Session 220738 will have a talk on LASSO regression for poverty assessment by Brian William Sloboda and Dennis Pearson. LASSO regression often works well in situations with many collinear predictors, but poverty isn’t the only area of Data for Good with a group of mutually predictive features.

Capture-recapture is another method becoming important in a wide variety of areas. This method for counting hard-to-count populations is best known in environmental studies for measuring animal populations. In recent years, however, it has been applied to many situations, especially social justice, where it is often called MSE. JSM papers this year using capture-recapture include disease surveillance and leaks in natural gas pipelines. You can learn about it in Session 220474 on Monday afternoon—a whole session on the latest in capture-recapture.

JSM is also a great place to learn about new ASA initiatives. The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Outreach Group is hosting a panel discussion (Session 220490). Thought leaders will address the importance of these issues to statistics and the wider community. The panel members will also discuss the new outreach group, its goals, and ways people can get involved.

When planning for JSM, keep in mind there is more than the presentations. With meetings, special events, networking sessions, panel discussions, and more, JSM provides so many ways to further your work in Data for Good. Use the search engine to find new research. Reach out to authors, panelists, chairs, and project leaders. Ask questions in discussions, panels, and mixers. Look up work related to talks and papers that will help you in your own efforts. Make sure you find a place to get involved. Make JSM the event that will help you tell your own D4G story.

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