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Evolving Statistical Data Science: Celebrating 30 Years of Mason Statistics

1 July 2023 419 views No Comment
Rena Malai, Inchi Hu, Brett Hunter, and Jiayang Sun

The Conference on Evolving Statistical Data Science recently celebrated 30 years of research, teaching, and collaboration. George Mason statistics professors, students, and professionals—as well as national and international leaders in statistics and data science from academia, government, and industry—came together for two days of panels and networking.

Welcoming remarks from the college of engineering and computing dean, Ken Ball, and divisional dean of the school of computing, Gurdip Singh, kicked off the event. Attendees celebrated the progress of statistics over the last three decades and anticipated what to expect moving forward when it comes to future curricula and jobs.

Statistics department chair Jiayang Sun, a Bernard Dunn Eminent Scholar, said the event was fantastic: “It not only spotlighted our faculty, students, staff, and alums but also brought in some of the best minds in statistics and data science in the world. We had an extremely inspiring keynote presentation, a thought-provoking closing talk, and distinguished panel discussions from leaders in various sectors.”

She added that the posters, awards, and social events showcased student research and their creativity.

Keynote speaker Xiao-Li Meng, Whipple V.N. Jones Professor of Statistics at Harvard, gave a talk titled “Evolving ChatGPT: Data Engineering, Data Minding, and Data Intelligence.” He emphasized data “minding,” not “mining,” as a key point in the current AI revolution. ChatGPT can synthesize human collective intelligence at scale and with speed, but he said the fact that it doesn’t provide the emotional intelligence involved in reaching a consensus from any large group of people should not be overlooked.

“The absence of emotional entanglement is both powerful and dangerous because the entanglement creates inefficiency but also a mechanism for avoiding extreme outcome,” Meng said.

There is still a lot to think about in the future, especially when it comes to AI, ethical issues, and data privacy. Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association, joked that ChatGPT could always generate a code of ethics for AI.

Also according to Wasserstein, the future looks bright for statistics jobs. During the panel “Future of Statistics and Data Science,” Wasserstein forecasted that job growth will rise three to four percent per year over the next decade.

“This could allow us to have more faculty and be able to train more people,” he said.

Other distinguished speakers included the following:

  • Tigran Markaryan, a distinguished alumnus and vice president of analytics, Lifelenz
  • Jean Opsomer, vice president, Westat
  • William Rosenberger, statistics professor, George Mason
  • John Stufken, statistics professor, George Mason
  • Sterling Thomas, chief scientist, Noblis

The takeaways included information about grant opportunities from internal and external sources and a poster presentation of statistics research projects from students.

Closing remarks were given by Heping Zhang, Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Biostatistics, professor in the child study center, and professor of statistics and data science at Yale University. His talk, titled “Genes, Brain, and Us,” focused on the breakthroughs and challenges at the triangular interface between each pair of genes, brain, and health.

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