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Let’s Celebrate!

1 April 2023 383 views No Comment

April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month. It began in 1986 as Mathematics Awareness Week with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan, who said in part:

Despite the increasing importance of mathematics to the progress of our economy and society, enrollment in mathematics programs has been declining at all levels of the American educational system. Yet the application of mathematics is indispensable in such diverse fields as medicine, computer sciences, space exploration, the skilled trades, business, defense, and government. To help encourage the study and utilization of mathematics, it is appropriate that all Americans be reminded of the importance of this basic branch of science to our daily lives.

In 1999, Mathematics Awareness Week became Mathematics Awareness Month and, in 2017, the theme was extended to include statistics. The goal, according to the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, is to celebrate mathematics and statistics and those who are contributing to “furthering discoveries, solving problems, and finding beauty in the world.” Thus, it seems fitting that we celebrate and highlight the amazing contributions of our community to science, policy, and the public good. It is impossible for me to include a comprehensive list of noteworthy work in this column, so I encourage you to join me in celebrating by sharing on LinkedIn using #MathStatMonth and tagging the American Statistical Association.

I will begin by recognizing the outstanding slate of ASA candidates for our 2023 election. Reading the candidate statements, I am truly inspired. Their records of scholarship and service exemplify the impact of our profession. Voting begins on April 3 and continues through May 1. I encourage you to read their statements and participate in the election process.

The Journal of the American Statistical Association was established in 1888 and is considered the premier journal of statistical science. The breadth of our impact is highlighted by the most-read articles within the last 12 months. The research presented includes a machine learning approach to measuring housing vitality, an exploration of A/B testing and causal effects evaluation, and an investigation of causal inference for social network data.

There are many more examples of our community driving discovery. For example, you can explore the most-cited Technometrics articles published in the last three years. You can also delve into the latest open-access articles. I am partial to Statistics in Biopharmaceutical Research, but there is something for everyone. I encourage all to take advantage of this membership benefit and explore the articles in JASA and the other ASA publications, as well as the statistics and mathematics journals from Taylor & Francis for which ASA members have complimentary access.

In February, I was honored to give the opening keynote for the 2023 Conference on Statistical Practice. The many excellent presentations at CSP and all our conferences truly support this statement from the original proclamation: “It is appropriate that all Americans be reminded of the importance of this basic branch of science to our daily lives.” The names of our conferences (e.g., Symposium on Data Science and Statistics, International Conference on Health Policy Statistics, Women in Statistics and Data Science, and the International Conference on Establishment Statistics) demonstrate the breadth of our influence.

In this month focusing on awareness, it seems appropriate to highlight some of our trailblazers. Annie T. Randall was the first professional African American in several government agencies in which she worked. In the 1960s, while working as a mathematical statistician at the National Institutes of Mental Health in the Theoretical Statistics and Mathematics Branch, she contributed to the book Human Aging, which is still used today for behavioral and biological studies.

In 2022, the David R. Cox Foundations of Statistics Award was established to recognize another trailblazer and acknowledge Cox’s contributions to the foundations of statistical inference, experimental design, and data analysis. Cox was the inaugural recipient of the International Prize in Statistics. The 2023 prize will be awarded to C. R. Rao at the International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress in July. The description of the International Prize includes the statement, “Statistics is the soul of scientific enquiry.” The contributions of those who have been honored so far—David Cox, Brad Efron, Nan Laird, and C. R. Rao—exemplify this statement.

Prizes and awards are one form of recognition. Another is to receive funding from the National Science Foundation or National Institutes of Health. The competitive and prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program recognizes outstanding research. Exciting projects in statistics include “Detecting Structured Anomalies in Large-Scale Sequential Decision Problems and Latent Variable Models” by Xiaoou Li of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and “New Challenges in Statistical Genetics: Mendelian Randomization, Integrated Omics, and General Methodology” by Jingshu Wang of The University of Chicago.

I have only touched the surface of our many contributions. We have much to celebrate in April and beyond as we continue to inform decisions and drive discoveries.

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