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SRCOS Advances Statistics, Biostatistics with Summer Research Conference

2 October 2023 No Comment
Michael Kutner, Darcy Mays, and John Wierman

    The Southern Regional Council on Statistics fosters the advancement of statistics and biostatistics in the southern region of the United States via cooperation with and collaboration between universities in the region. The most visible activity of the council is the Summer Research Conference, created to fulfill the need for a small gathering of statisticians and biostatisticians in the US’s southern region. The 60th conference will take place in June 2025 at Villas by the Sea resort on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

    The Summer Research Conference was initiated in the mid-1960s to bring together statisticians and biostatisticians with a wide spectrum of interests. Locations range throughout the southern region, varying from sea coast to inland forest. Young statisticians and biostatisticians, including graduate students, can present their research and interact in an informal setting with senior colleagues. All talks are invited, and sessions are held in the morning and early evenings, leaving afternoons free for attendees to meet informally or enjoy local attractions together.

    ASA Past President Katherine Ensor (right) meets with students from the Statistical Undergraduate Research Experience program during a snack break at the 2021 Summer Research Conference, hosted by Emory University’s Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics.

    ASA Past President Katherine Ensor (right) meets with students from the Statistical Undergraduate Research Experience program during a snack break at the 2021 Summer Research Conference, hosted by Emory University’s Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics.

      While preserving its original spirit, the conference has undergone changes over the years, including the following:

      • Graduate student poster sessions were introduced in 2000 and funded by the National Science Foundation. Approximately 30 graduate students per year present posters and receive travel grants. The best graduate student and honorable mention posters are recognized with certificates and cash awards.
      • In 2009, the Southern Regional Council on Statistics introduced a poster session for junior faculty and isolated faculty at smaller institutions. This allows them to present their research and receive feedback from established faculty. Up to 10 such faculty members receive travel grants, and a best poster prize is awarded.
      • The council created the Statistical Undergraduate Research Experience program, designed to motivate under-represented and marginalized undergraduate students to consider graduate programs in statistics and biostatistics, in 2019. The NSF funds approximately 30 students per year to participate in the conference.

      In the last two decades, the council has recruited additional biostatistics departments as members. It is now possible for institutions with both a statistics and biostatistics department to have both participate as members with full voting rights and privileges. Biostatistics departments make up approximately one-third of the council’s membership. Accordingly, there has been an increase in biostatistics plenary and contributed talks at the Summer Research Conferences. Adding several prominent plenary speakers from outside the southern region has also increased the conference’s national impact in recent years.

      While the council has pursued these initiatives, it has continued its traditional activities. Annual business meetings of institutional representatives are held in the fall at one of the member institutions. Non-voting observers from institutions that are potentially interested in joining the council are invited to attend. Besides planning for future Summer Research Conferences, representatives share success stories and best practices and provide insights for enhancing or creating new statistics and biostatistics programs.

      The council recognizes valuable contributions to the discipline by awarding the Paul Minton Service Award annually.

      Learn more about the council or register for an upcoming conference.

      Read about the origin and evolution of the conference and council from 1966–2004 an article from the Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation. Also available is an update covering 2005–2023.

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