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Getting to Know the ASA’s Government Employment Sector

2 October 2023 No Comment

Dionne Price

Lunch with colleagues is always enjoyable, but it is especially true when the colleagues share a common passion for making a positive impact on the practice and profession of statistics. A recent virtual lunch conversation with Claire Bowen, Simone Gray, and Bob Sivinski renewed my appreciation for the many experiences and dimensions each member brings to the association.

Claire, Simone, Bob, and I met to talk about the important dimension of employment sector. You may know the ASA presidents and vice presidents reflect the broad employment sectors of business/industry, academe, and government. Serving as a representative of government statisticians is an important part of my role on the ASA Board. In this column, I will focus on this dimension of my role and share highlights of my conversation with Claire, who is the current chair of the Government Statistics Section; Simone, who is the past chair; and Bob, who is chair-elect.

Claire Bowen, Simone Gray, and Bob Sivinski

For those who do not know about the Government Statistics Section, what is its primary mission or purpose?

Claire: Last year, there was an article in CHANCE about GSS that included our mission statement:

The special interests of the Section on Government Statistics are in the production and use of statistics by the governmental bodies at all levels of government—federal, state, and local—and in the practice of statistics in the public sector. These interests include concern with statistical policy issues, quality and usefulness of governmental data products, special problems of state and local data, and the role of professional statisticians in public programs.

I also feel that part of our job and role with GSS is about community. It is important to have a community that can support statisticians and data scientists, regardless of their career stage. We have amassed several helpful career tips, as well as broad experiences, we hope to share within our community. For example, we hosted a webinar about updating your government résumé.

Simone: I echo what Claire said. I think, inherently, our main mission is really to bring people who generate data (in the government) and those who use that data together. Together, we can communicate, learn from, and grow with each other.

What inspired you to become a volunteer leader for the section?

Simone: I’ve been in the field for 13 plus years, and I still get overwhelmed attending JSM and figuring out how to be involved. Somebody I knew in graduate school reached out to me to ask if I would be part of the section. Even though I did not have complete knowledge of what I was saying yes to, I said sure. My thought was, if she has confidence in my ability to serve the section, I will volunteer. I would not have had the opportunity if not for someone else.

Bob: For me, I used to help write the speeches for the chief statistician of the United States to deliver the Jeanne E. Griffith Mentoring Award. That award, and others organized by GSS, are special and valuable tools for encouraging federal statisticians and demonstrating appreciation from outside of their specific programs and agencies.

Claire: I love connecting with people. You never know where you can meet people, how you get connected, and what experiences you will have. I guess having difficulty saying “no” can also be good. I will share that a friend and I have a “No” card. It has 10 punches, and I’m at six. Once I get to 10, I get ice cream from my friend.

What do you find most rewarding about your role as a volunteer leader?

Simone: Common responses to this question are often building your network or increasing your visibility as ways of progressing your career, which are important. However, I will honestly say getting to know people. For me, I think it has been building relationships that has been most important. Relationships are far more than knowing a person from this committee or that working group. It is also knowing when someone’s child is sick and they cannot attend an event or meeting. As a volunteer leader, you really get to know people. They are not just faces or names you send emails to. At the end of the day, relationships are more important than anything else. I am so thankful to have these opportunities and to have made these connections.

Claire: I agree! I get to meet all these cool people whom I might not otherwise meet and get to know them personally. For example, I learned there is an open water swim group at JSM that includes Sally Morton. I swim, too, because I’m a triathlete, so I joined. There is a statistics and stitching group, too. I’m a knitter, so it is awesome to share this hobby. I’ll share one more group, the “wanna’ be” foodies. Reach out if you want to join!

I’m a first-generation college student and a first-generation born in America, so my parents could not tell me how to prepare for college. This is why I know and appreciate the importance of mentorship and having those lasting relationships.

Bob: I’m also passionate about mentorship and bringing data talent into federal service. GSS is a great forum to communicate the importance of tackling the toughest data and evidence problems facing the federal government.

Simone: GSS wants to establish relationships not just with federal employees but also users of our data or people who are potentially interested in using our data. Maybe they have questions about the data, how it is collected. We keep going back to the word “community,” but that’s really the selling point here. We are trying to create this open community for dialogue and development. That’s what we hope to continue as GSS moves forward.

Claire: I wanted to point out that I’m not working for a government entity, and there are other members who aren’t, either. Anybody who is interested in the government statistics side of things should consider joining GSS.

Another benefit of GSS membership is we are working to showcase the contributions of our members through awards and recognition. For example, we have a committee that supports the nominations of GSS members for ASA Fellow.

Bob: In addition to the other benefits mentioned by my colleagues, I want to add that a good listserve can be priceless. The GSS listserve is a great tool for learning about events, new research and publications, and relevant job openings.

Are there any upcoming events, webinars, or initiatives you would like readers to know about?

Claire: We have a mentoring program organized in collaboration with the Washington Statistical Society.

We have the Pat Doyle Award as a tribute to Pat’s dedication to the statistical field and GSS during her lifetime. When Pat died, she left her imprint on an astonishingly wide range of projects and activities in the US federal statistical community. The award is given to a person who contributes to the GSS in a way that leaves a lasting impact on GSS and the ASA. Recipients receive a plaque and are recognized at the GSS business meeting during JSM, as well as on the GSS website and in the GSS newsletter.

The section is a co-sponsor of the annual Data Expo Challenge, which is open to students and professionals from the private or public sector. Held in conjunction with JSM, contestants analyze a given data set(s) using statistical and visualization tools and methods. Learn how you can get involved.

We are seeking nominations for officers. We have four positions: chair-elect; program chair; secretary treasurer; and publications officer. The most important qualification is enthusiasm.

Simone: If you are passionate about this and want to get involved, this is a great way to. And guess what? This was my first involvement in GSS, and it was Claire’s first involvement with GSS. You know, sometimes you just need a yes, and we welcome self-nominations.

Claire: If you are eager to become more actively involved (we are actively seeking nominations for new officers), take a moment to complete the form.

Simone, Claire, and Bob, it has been wonderful to learn more about GSS! Thank you for taking time to have a (virtual) lunch with me!

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