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Network, Learn, Grow

1 July 2024 No Comment

Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar

Looking at the Joint Statistical Meetings program, I can see program committee chair Debashis Ghosh and the entire JSM program committee, as well as their partners, have put together a high-quality and exciting program. Thank you, program committee members, for your dedication and service.

While this is my first Joint Statistical Meetings as an ASA president, I have attended many times as either a student, early-career professional, ASA section chair, or statistics group leader. Those experiences helped me with the following top 10 tips for a successful conference.

1. Plan Ahead

Preparing for JSM is like preparing for an exam. You need to review the program; highlight sessions, meetings, and presenters that align with your interests and professional goals; and download the conference app to create your schedule and have the most up-to-date information on hand.

I typically search for invited sessions cosponsored by the ASA sections (disciplinary areas) with which I identify best; I also search for keywords of interest such as “countering misinformation” or “public policy,” parts of this year’s theme. Once I have my mornings and afternoons planned, I search for receptions/mixers, which offer a chance to meet old friends and new colleagues and provide free food (bonus). These receptions are a great place to meet people and reflect on the ideas and approaches that were part of the day’s program.

Of course, serendipity will take over once the meetings begin, but it is helpful to have a tentative plan on which to build.

2. Set Objectives

What do you want to achieve from JSM 2024? Are you looking to expand your knowledge, meet potential collaborators, find volunteer opportunities, or explore new job opportunities? There are many excellent options, so you will need to prioritize and make choices.

In addition to your professional goals, I encourage you to make one of your objectives doing something fun in Portland. A benefit of attending a conference is exploring the location. My list includes the Peninsula Park Rose Garden, the food cart scene, and Powell’s Books.

3. Network Strategically

Be ready to introduce yourself or stand by someone who can introduce you. At my first JSM in Anaheim, California, we stood by our Penn State Department of Statistics chair Jim Rosenberger because he appeared to know everyone—and would kindly make helpful introductions for us. Jim has been an incredible mentor to many!

In the JSM app, you will find information about social events (mixers) and open business meetings, which you should try to attend. Also, don’t hesitate to strike up conversations during breaks. JSM is a celebration of our community, so seize the opportunity to meet colleagues and make new friends.

Before JSM, you may want to practice an elevator pitch. You never know who you might meet while riding your hotel elevator.

4. Attend the Plenary Sessions

The plenary sessions often reflect the JSM theme or major developments in the field. The President’s Invited Address speaker is Jason Matheny, CEO of RAND, a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges. In his keynote, titled “Working at the Intersection of Statistics and AI Policy,” he will discuss open problems in artificial intelligence and statistics.

Jason is a recipient of the Intelligence Community’s Award for Individual Achievement in Science and Technology, the National Intelligence Superior Service Medal, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He was named one of Foreign Policy’s top 100 global thinkers, and his work has been called one of the “ideas of the year” by The New York Times. I hope to see you at Jason’s talk, as well as my address and the awards ceremony, followed by a celebration (with DJ and dancing).

There are star-studded plenary talks every day of the conference:

Monday, August 5, 2:00 p.m.
Medallion Lecture I
Annie Qu
Data Integration for Heterogeneous Data

Tuesday, August 6, 10:30 a.m.
IMS Grace Wahba Lecture
Nancy Reid
Models and Parameters: Inference Under Model Misspecification

Tuesday, August 6, 2:00 p.m.
Medallion Lecture II
Jing Lei
Uncertainty Quantification with Nonparametric and Black-Box Models

Tuesday, August 6, 2:00 p.m.
COPSS Elizabeth L. Scott Lecture
Regina Liu
Fusion Learning: Combining Inferences from Diverse Data Sources

Tuesday, August 6, 4:00 p.m.
Deming Lecture
William H. Woodall
Innovation: Deming’s Views and the Role of Statistics

Wednesday, August 7, 4:00 p.m.
COPSS Distinguished Achievement Award and Lectureship
Robert Tibshirani
Pre-Training and the Lasso

In addition to featured speakers, the introductory overview lectures and late-breaking session are great opportunities to hear from leaders and innovators. Here are a few highlights: “Quantum Computing for Statisticians” (Monday, 8:30 a.m.), “Statistics and Large Language Models” (Tuesday, 8:30 a.m.), and “Statistics in the Age of AI: A Town Hall with an Expert Panel” (Monday, 2 p.m.).

Looking at the featured speakers and sessions, I am inspired and proud of our community.

5. Participate actively

Asking respectful questions makes a session more memorable for the speaker while reinforcing your learning. If you do not have a question, introduce yourself to the presenter after the talk and express appreciation for the session and their work.

6. Share via Social Media

Follow #JSM2024, post photos and insights, and participate in online discussions. This helps you connect with like-minded colleagues. Also, encourage folks to attend your presentation! Let’s create a buzz.

7. Visit the EXPO

The EXPO contains a treasure trove of information about the latest products, services, and innovations. Take the time to visit the booths, engage with exhibitors, and gather information that could benefit your work or organization. Also, JSM Spotlight is inside the EXPO. There is something new and fun to try every day. Rumor has it that Portland’s famous (and vegan) Blue Star Donuts are on the menu.

8. Take Notes

Bring a notebook or use a digital device to take notes during sessions. Jot down key points, interesting ideas, and potential follow-up actions. The phrase “drinking from a fire hose” comes to mind when thinking about all the knowledge presented at JSM. Having notes will help you when you return home and want to implement what you heard about.

9. Follow Up After Conference

After JSM, follow up with the people you met. Send emails or connect on LinkedIn. It is fun to reminisce, and connecting will open doors for future collaborations.

10. Implement What You’ve Learned

Share what you learned with your team, propose new ideas, and implement strategies that could open new pathways.

Summer brings long days in the northern hemisphere and an invitation to relax; unwind; and catch up on reading, friends, and family. Also, we are at the start of July, or the halfway point of my presidential year. I have learned so much from the ASA community and am excited to meet many of you at the meeting. Let’s talk at JSM and beyond about how we can grow our ASA community by broadening our collaborations and opportunities.

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