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During this 175th anniversary year of the ASA, issues that have a major statistical component have been at the forefront of major policy discussions. 

  • Who does data belong to, especially when it is collected using federal funds?
  • What are the most effective ways of sharing data so that science is advanced while protecting the intellectual property of those who collected it and any personal data it might contain?
  • How do we make sure research results are widely available, especially research that was supported by federal funds?
  • How do we make it possible to check the reproducibility of research results?  (By “reproducibility” we mean that analyzing the same data the same way gets the same results.)
  • How can we make sure the work is replicable? (If the same experiment is conducted another time, do we get the same result?)
  • How generalizable is the result?  (If we a similar experiment - for example, with a different population - do we get a similar result?)

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We are pleased to report that has once again listed “statistician” as one of the top jobs in 2014 in the US, coming in at #3 in its “Jobs Rated Report.” (“Mathematician” was rated #1, followed by “University Professor (Tenured).”

We’ve written previously in this blog about where to find information about statistics as a career, noting a March 4, 2014, article in the Careers section of Science magazine. 

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One of the most distinguished awards given to ASA members is the designation “ASA Fellow.” As I write, the ASA Committee on Fellows is meeting downstairs in the ASA HQ in Alexandria, VA, to finalize the selection of 2014 Fellows.  Committee members have been working hard over the past six weeks to review and rate 119 nomination packets, and now they must whittle the list down to at most 63 people.

According to the ASA By-Laws (Article I, part 5), “By the honorary title of Fellow, the Association recognizes full members of established reputation who have made outstanding contributions in some aspect of statistical work.”  The criteria for selection is succinctly stated in the same portion of the By-Laws: “In selecting Fellows, the Committee on Fellows shall evaluate the candidate's contribution to the advancement of statistics, giving due weight to publications, the position held by the candidate in the organization in which the individual is employed, activities in the Association, membership and attainments in other societies, and other professional activities. The case for each candidate shall be judged individually, with no one of these criteria governing selection to the exclusion of the others.”

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On April 11, NIST issued a call for its Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), a newly established structure to strengthen forensic science. While issuing a broad call across the forensic science community, NIST has also asked the American Statistical Association (ASA) to share this call with the statistical community, recognizing the important role of statistical scientists in forensic science reform.  

The ASA urges its members to see the NIST page on OSAC roles and responsibilities and to apply. The important role that statistical scientists can play in forensic science reform is widely recognized but the demand for statisticians is beyond what the ASA Forensic Science Ad Hoc Advisory Committee can fulfill. So we are extending this call more broadly to help ensure that statistics and statisticians can fully contribute to forensic science reform.
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One of the ways the ASA promotes the practice and profession of statistics is by supporting efforts to increase the visibility of our profession here in the US and around the world.  The largest of these efforts is The World of Statistics (TWOS), the successor to 2013’s highly successful International Year of Statistics. 

It is incredibly important for statisticians and statistical organizations to become involved in The World of Statistics. Today’s blog will highlight the many ways you can participate, and conclude with reasons WHY you should.

Here are several ways to participate.  Some of them require very little time on your part, and yet are still very important.

  • Subscribe to the News from The World of Statistics.  You’ll get information from this e-newsletter about what is going on around the globe in statistical practice, news that you won’t get anywhere else in a single place.  Some of it you’ll just skim and some you will read with interest, but in whole the e-newsletter will give you a larger picture of the worldwide statistical community every three weeks.
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According to an April 1 NSF press release, NSF announced 2000 recipients of the Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF). 11 of these were awarded to statistics students. Congratulations to these 2014 recipients: ​
Name Baccalaureate Institution
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The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee advanced S. 2022, the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2014, in a unanimous voice vote on April 9. The bill, sponsored only by the committee's Chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), was amended based on negotiations between Republican and Democratic staff. The bill's broad aim is to "establish a national forensic science research program to improve, expand, and coordinate federal research in forensic sciences." In early March, ASA President-Elect David Morganstein sent Chairman Rockefeller a letter of support for his forensic science reform efforts (just as 2012 ASA President Bob Rodriguez sent a letter of support when Chairman Rockefeller introduced his forensic science reform bill in 2012.)   

Reflecting the extensive negotiations between the two parties on this bill, the amount of time the committee spent considering the bill in its April 9 executive session was only minutes. (See minute 36:00 of this video
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April is Mathematics Awareness Month (MAM), and you will thoroughly enjoy a visit to the MAM website to explore “Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery,” the 2014 MAM theme.  In fact, I recommend you suspend reading this blog for a bit, click on the MAM link, and go have some fun.  Then drop back here for some additional background.

(Time out for some math fun here.)

Welcome back!  By the way, I took my own advice, stopped writing, and explored the site a bit further.  As you noticed, new mathematical secrets are revealed each day throughout April.  Each day can be explored as deeply as you wish to go, so it is entirely possible to spend/squander many hours on these puzzles and activities.  (Trust me, I KNOW!)

Mathematics Awareness Month is a project of the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM). Its goal is to increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics.  The four societies involved in JPBM are the

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Last week, the ASA Board of Directors adopted an “ASA Statement on Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment.”  What the statement says, and why the ASA makes such statements, are the topics of today’s ASA at 175 blog.

As noted in the ASA’s press release on the statement, use of value-added models (VAMs) has become more prevalent, perhaps because these models are viewed as more objective or authoritative than other types of information. VAMs attempt to measure the value a teacher adds to student-achievement growth by analyzing changes in standardized test scores. VAMs are sometimes used in high-stakes decisions such as determining compensation, evaluating and ranking teachers, hiring or dismissing teachers, awarding tenure and closing schools.

The ASA position statement makes the following recommendations:

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Because my blog entry last year, Big Data Sessions at JSM, was so well-received, I'm doing it again for the 2014 JSM. The first list is based on titles that contain Big Data (using Quick Search on the JSM 2014 Preliminary Online Program.) The second list is where Big Data appears in the abstract of a talk or session (using Abstract Keyword Search). There is also a 3rd list of talk abstracts containing Data Science. Let me remind people that this list is not exhaustive. Please let me know of any I missed or add them through the comment section below.

Also, after this blog entry appeared last year, someone pointed out the many more sessions at JSM on Causal Inference. Please point out similar omissions this year!

See other ASA Science Policy blog entries. For ASA science policy updates, follow @ASA_SciPol on Twitter.
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About 45 years ago, I spent a whopping $1.95 on a little book titled "How to Lie with Statistics."

Besides the catchy title, its bright orange cover has a comic character sweeping numbers under a rug.  Darrell Huff, a magazine editor and a freelance writer, wrote the book in 1954.  It went on to become the most popular statistics book in the world for more than half a century.  A translated version was published in China around 2002.

It takes only a few hours to read the entire book of about 140 pages and 80 pictures leisurely, but it was a major reason why I pursued an education and a professional career in statistics.

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If you read any news about the ASA, you’ll quickly figure out that the ASA is a volunteer-led and volunteer-sustained organization.  The thirty-four staff of the ASA have important roles to play, but without member commitment, we would be a much smaller, less vibrant, and far less influential organization.

Thankfully, the ASA has a long and sustained history of volunteer participation in ASA activities.  Perhaps you are interested in joining the ranks of member volunteers making their mark on the association and the profession.  Today’s blog will outline the opportunities available, and how to connect with them.  I’ll offer a personal testimony as well.

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During 2014, it is easier than ever for ASA members, and everyone else, to find out what is going on at the ASA and in the statistics profession.  There are now FOUR great places to look.  Here they are, in order that they came into existence:

  1. Amstat News online

    Amstat News has been around since the 70’s, became a colorful magazine in the 90’s, and in the 00’s ASA launched the online presence of the magazine.  Amstat News Online has the full contents of the print magazine plus bonus content, and has the additional feature that readers can comment on the articles.

  2. ASA website

    Originally created in the 90’s, the website remains the number one place for fast-breaking news.  When you visit, be sure to check out “Statisticians in the News” and other informative features.

  3. Significance website

    Significance magazine was launched in 2004, and the ASA joined the Royal Statistical Society

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The Board wrapped up its two-day (Friday and Saturday) meeting and we wrap our look behind the scenes at an ASA Board meeting in today’s blog.  The Board spent 6.5 hours with an interesting and at times intense agenda, and still managed to do its work with good grace and even a bit of levity from time to time.

The day began with an update from the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), an important partner of the ASA.  Rob Santos, President of AAPOR, talked about the diverse membership of AAPOR, about the various collaborations between our two societies, and about his hopes for future collaborative efforts.

A review of the ASA’s finances, an important part of every Board meeting, was next on the agenda.  ASA Treasurer Mingxiu Hu reported on the state of the ASA’s investments, reminding the Board about the status of our portfolio and the guidelines under which investments are made.  He pointed out that we are in the second longest bull market since 1945, and wondered about its duration.  Steve Porzio reviewed the ASA’s 2013 operating results, noting that we’ve done well and are in good shape financially.  The Board also accepted the 2013 audit report, congratulating the staff on another clean audit.  As it always does, the audit report will appear in Amstat News.

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Today was the first day of the ASA’s two-day Spring meeting.  I’ll paint a picture of the day’s events, as we continue our series that takes you behind the scenes and on the set of an ASA Board of Directors meeting.  Tuesday's blog provided an overview of the Board and its meetings.  Wednesday's we looked at the preparations for the meeting, and yesterday we looked other things we ask Board members to do while they are in the DC area for the Board meeting.  Now, however, the main event has begun.

The Board meeting takes place in the first floor conference room at the ASA HQ on North Washington Street in Alexandria, VA.  Washington Street is the part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, so if you have ever landed at Washington National Airport, you were just four miles or so north of the ASA Office.

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Is there a list of all Universities that have a Biostatistics Department offering PhD programs?

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The Division of Marine Fisheries has posted a job opening for a fisheries stock assessment biologist.   Although the job is not strictly statistician, it requires strong quantitative skills.  The link has the details


The Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries, seeks qualified applicants for the position of Stock Assessment Specialist (Aquatic Biologist III).

The Stock Assessment Specialist is responsible for conducting, in cooperation with other state and federal agencies, stock assessments for recreationally-important finfish species landed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and serving on several technical committees related to these species. Responsibilities will also include identifying data inadequacies, and implementing projects to address these inadequacies, resulting in improvements to assessment and management. This position is funded by the Massachusetts recreational saltwater fishing permit fees.

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We continue our series that takes you behind the scenes and on the set of an ASA Board of Directors meeting.  Tuesday's blog provided an overview of the Board and its meetings.  Yesterday we looked at the preparations for the meeting.  Today we’ll take a glimpse at other things we ask Board members to do while they are in the DC area for the Board meeting.

Frequently, we ask the Board, particularly the ASA presidents, to help us call upon various federal agencies to introduce the ASA and statistics to them, or to further develop connections that we already have.  This week, for example, ASA Past President Marie Davidian will join ASA staff members Steve Pierson (Director of Science Policy), Lynn Palmer (Director of Programs) and me in making two stops at the National Institutes of Health.  We’ll meet with the

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This week's ASA at 175 blog takes you behind the scenes and on the set of an ASA Board of Directors meeting.  Yesterday's blog provided an overview of the Board and its meetings.  Today we'll look at the preparations for the meeting.

I mentioned yesterday the 250+ pages of reading Board members need to do.  At the upcoming meeting, the Board will, among other things:

  • review the financial results for the 2013 calendar year, including the association's annual audit, and also review the status of our investment portfolio
  • hear detailed recommendations from our public relations consultant, Stanton Communications, about a national public relations campaign aimed at high school and college students
  • receive recommendations from our development consultant, Campbell and Company, about enhancing the ASA's fundraising capacity
  • consider a policy statement about the appropriate statistical use of value-added models in education, and discuss another potential policy statement that might need to be developed
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