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JSM Session Set to Remember Thomas Jabine

1 July 2023 390 views No Comment
Photo of Jabine from 2008, wearing dark plaid flannel button down shirt

Jabine, 2008

A memorial session dedicated to the life and contributions of Thomas Jabine (1925–2022) is scheduled to take place at the Joint Statistical Meetings on August 9 at 2 p.m. Members of the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights will revisit Jabine’s work touching on global governance, the American Statistical Association, and the intersection of statistics and human rights.

From MIT to Transforming the Census Bureau

Jabine, educated at MIT, embarked on a distinguished 20-year career that shaped the fabric of the United States Census Bureau. As chief of the statistical research division, Jabine’s expertise in survey sampling transformed the landscape of census methodologies. His influence extended beyond national borders, as he also lent his expertise to the census programs of the United Nations and Kingdom of Thailand. Jabine’s legacy as a bridge between statistical science and human rights began to take shape during these formative years.

Unveiling Statistical Human Rights Monitoring

In collaboration with political science professor Richard Claude of the University of Maryland, Jabine co-edited a seminal 1986 special edition of Human Rights Quarterly, which introduced the concept of statistical human rights monitoring to the social sciences literature. The impact was profound, prompting a wider dialogue on the critical role of statistics in exposing and addressing human rights violations. Their work evolved into the book Human Rights and Statistics: Getting the Record Straight in 1992, drawing on historical examples to shed light on the power and limitations of statistics in highlighting human rights atrocities.

Empowering Voices and Advocating for Change

Under Jabine’s leadership, the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights expanded its reach and influence. Collaborating with human rights advocacy organizations, committee members drafted letters and circulated petitions, leveraging statistical expertise in support of Soviet ‘refuseniks.’ One notable achievement was the drafting of a letter delivered by the ASA to the Soviet Academy of Sciences urging an end to political retribution in the form of academic degree revocations. These efforts, alongside similar actions by other scientific organizations, are thought to have influenced the Soviet government to cease these revocations. The committee’s growing prominence catalyzed the expansion of its mission, advising other scientific societies—including the American Association for the Advancement of Science—on the quality assessment of governmental human rights reporting.

Championing Statistical Excellence for Governance

Jabine’s influence reached beyond human rights, as he played an instrumental role in numerous studies conducted by the Committee on National Statistics. As a panel member or staff consultant, he contributed to influential reports that revolutionized census, survey, and small-area estimation methodologies, providing vital information for effective local and national governance. Reports such as Cognitive Aspects of Survey Methodology: Building a Bridge Between Disciplines and Counting People in the Information Age are emblematic of Jabine’s dedication to advancing statistical science for the betterment of society.

In work separate from the Committee on National Statistics, Jabine improved data quality through evaluation of quality profiles for several federal statistical programs and early work on the quality of administrative record data.

A Legacy of Distinction and Recognition

Jabine’s election as a fellow of the American Statistical Association in 1966 attests to his exceptional contributions to survey sampling and unwavering commitment to statistical and human rights communities. His efforts serve as a testament to the transformative potential of statistical science as a catalyst for positive social change.

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