After the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee passed a bill in September that would have weakened the stature and autonomy of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), it seemed certain the House and Senate would pass the bill in the lame duck Congress. The House had passed the bill—H.R. 4366, the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA)—this spring with broad bipartisan support and committee staff from both chambers were actively negotiating any changes the Senate HELP would make leading up to its September mark up. It appears however that a few Senators blocked its Senate passage with concerns over the bill's funding of education research and a desire to discuss the bill's contents. First indications of these concerns were referred to in a November 13 CQNews article on a related bill: "The only other [education measure] that may have a chance of final adoption in the lame-duck session, a bill to overhaul federal education research (HR 4366), has been reported out of committee but may be hung up by disputes over funding."

The ASA and the American Educational Research Association had serious concerns with the bill because of its provisions to weaken NCES

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Responding to an October 31 Federal Register Notice on proposed changes to the American Community Survey (ACS), the ASA today submitted comments on the importance of question number 12 asking the undergraduate field of degree. The U.S. Census Bureau proposed the elimination of this question and five others (all relating to marital status) as part of their 2014 ACS Content Review.

As explained in the Federal Register Notice, "The 2014 ACS Content Review is the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by the Census Bureau to review content on the survey, seeking to understand which federal programs use the information collected by each
question, the justification for each question, and assess how the Census Bureau might reduce respondent burden." Their methodology is explained in the Notice.

The American Statistical Association letter
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U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.), according to a November 20 press release, introduced a bill "to establish a 15-member commission to study how best to expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures." Statistics is included as one of the disciplines to be represented on the commission because of its relevance to program evaluation and program management.

With the 113th Congress set to adjourn within days, there will be no action on the bill in this Congress but the bill is expected to be introduced in the 114th Congress.

H.R. 5754, the "Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2014," recognizes randomized control trials as an important tool in its Study of Data Section (4a):

Study of Data.--The Commission shall conduct a comprehensive
study of the data inventory, data infrastructure, and statistical

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This is a very exciting time to be in statistics and biostatistics. The number of undergraduate statistics degrees has nearly doubled in the last four years—making it the fastest growing STEM degree—and Master’s degree are also growing quickly. Further, the number of universities granting undergrad statistics degrees has increased from the 74 in 2003 to more than 110 last year. (See this Amstat News article for more on these developments.) Based on reports we have been hearing about colleges and universities establishing new undergrad statistics programs, this number will continue to grow. To highlight these developments, we assembled the following list of new undergraduate statistics programs. Thanks to the many members who made us aware of these programs. (If you are aware of other new undergrad programs besides those below, please email them to me:
[This list has been updated from its original 16 programs.]
  1. Amherst College, new Major in Statistics
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[12/12/14 Update: Common Core repeal maneuver fails in Ohio House, from AP and Newark Advocate. Effort likely dead for this year but sure to be brought up in new year.]

Anticipating a vote by the Ohio House of Representatives on a bill repealing Ohio's Implementation of Common Core State Standards, the ASA President Elect David Morganstein today emailed its Ohio members urging them to contact their Ohio State Representatives voicing their support of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and urging her/his representative to oppose H.B. 597. See the text of Morganstein's email below.

The ASA supports the CCSS because of its statistical content for grades 6-12. See this May 2010 Amstat News piece for ASA's involvement in the CCSS process: Common Core Standards Reviewed. See also

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In aletter dated November 5, Division of Mathematical Sciences Director Michael Vogelius announced a nationwide search for mathematical sciences professionals to fill Program Director positions. While it's not clear DMS is seeking statistics program directors this year, we urge those in the statistical community to consider this opportunity at some point in their career as a valuable means to (i) better understand the NSF funding process; (ii) serviethe statistical community; and (iii) to raise the profile of statistics across the NSF.

As of September, DMS has two permanent statistics program directors, with Nandini Kannan having joined Gabor Szekely in that capacity. Xiaoming Huo in in his second year as a rotator. This is a return to NSF DMS for Kannan who previously served as a rotator until 2013. The ASA welcomes the conversion of one of the statistics program directors from a rotator to a permanent position. The November Amstat News had this news item

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The top 100 cited articles of all time are featured in the October 30 issue of Nature, and statistics is one of six areas the magazine calls out. The statistics paper in this elite list include:

11. Nonparametric estimation from incomplete observations. Kaplan, E. L. & Meier, P. Journal of the American Statistical Association. 53, 457–481 (1958).

24. Regression models and life-tables. Cox, D. R. J. R. Stat. Soc., B 34, 187–220 (1972).

29. Statistical methods for assessing agreement between two methods of clinical measurement. Bland, J. M. & Altman, D. G. Lancet 327, 307–310 (1986).

57. Maximum likelihood from incomplete data via EM algorithm. Dempster, A. P., Laird, N. M. & Rubin, D. B. J. R. Stat. Soc., B 39, 1–38 (1977).

59. Controlling the false discovery rate: a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Benjamini, Y. & Hochberg, Y. J. R. Stat. Soc. B 57, 289–300 (1995).

64. Multiple range and multiple F tests. Duncan, D. B. Biometrics 11, 1–42 (1955).

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NIST this week announced the final appointments to the the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), the NIST-administered body to strengthen forensic science through the identification and development of standards and guidelines. OSAC is composed of an oversight board, three resources committees, five committees, 24 subcommittees (see schematic below) and totals several hundred appointments of forensic science practitioners and administrators, researchers, professional association representatives, and industry representatives.

Recognizing the importance of statistics to bolstering the forensic sciences, statisticians are well represented in OSAC. This summer, Karen Kafadar, Hal Stern, Bruce Weir, and William Guthrie were appointed to, respectively, the Forensic Science Standards Board, the Physics/Pattern Committee, the Biology/DNA

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I am sad to report that Carl Bennett passed away in early June at 92. Carl played an important role in the development of statistics and its practical uses in the twentieth century. 

Carl was a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan when the Second World War broke out.  He was sent to Oak Ridge where he was the first statistician on the Manhattan Project.  When his work at Oak Ridge was completed he went back to Michigan to finish his studies, but it was not to be. Edward Teller needed Carl at Hanford for the hydrogen bomb project.  Carl finally completed his doctorate long distance from Hanford. 

When that project was completed the US Navy asked Carl to write a book about the use of Statistics in industry. The Navy funded the project.  Carl moved to Princeton and with Norman Franklin wrote the book. “Statistical Analysis in Chemistry and the Chemical Industry” was published by John Wiley & Sons in 1954.  Several generations of statisticians know it as Bennett & Franklin. Hanford was operated by General Electric under contract to the US government. Carl was GE’s Chief Statistician.

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Imagine Tom, your friend from back in school. When you parted with him on the day of graduation with promises of being in touch forever, which, at least then, implied individual initiatives beyond the horizons of convenience, little did you know that you’ll be later pulled back from your own verbal commitments by the very horizons that you planned to escape. The question is what happened?

For about a couple of years post school, you called each other regularly, and each remained updated with the tiniest detail of the other’s life. Things however began to change after that when you realized that your social circles were expanding … only too quickly for you to handle. Finally, the number of calls you made to each other, reduced to the level that only accommodated birthday greetings. What happened next?

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[12/3/14 update: See also this December 2014 Amstat News article by Michelle Schwalbe: Training Students to Extract Value from Big Data.] 

The National Academies' Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics (CATS) released last week a summary of its popular April 2014 workshop, "Training Students to Extract Value from Big Data." You can view the video of the workshop here.

Co-chaired by John Lafferty of the University of Chicago and Raghu Ramakrishnan of the Microsoft Corporation and funded by the National Science Foundation, the workshop was convened to discuss how best to train students to use Big Data. As explained in the summary's introduction, the workshop explored four topics: 

  • The need for training in big data.
  • Curricula and coursework, including suggestions at different instructional levels and suggestions for a core curriculum.
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The University of Washington's Elizabeth Halloran and the University of Florida's Ira Longini are coauthors on two pieces relating to Ebola that were published yesterday.

In a letter to Science on which Halloran was lead author, Ebola: Mobility Data, the authors called for more data "to gain a more complete picture of mobility and infer patterns of disease spread." Noting "the current West African Ebola outbreak is taking place in a region where mobility has changed considerably in recent years," the authors state that additional "data can be used in dynamic transmission models to provide case projections, help focus resources and interventions, and assess the success of interventions." They conclude,

Such data should not necessarily lead to travel restrictions, such as flight route cancellations and border closures, which hamper relief efforts. Rather, the information should be used to create more valid models of transmission, which can then be used to plan and evaluate potential interventions. Better quantification of the impact of potential interventions will be critical in the coming weeks as the outbreak continues to grow.

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[Updates: This blog was updated 10/29/14 to include a University of Wisconsin BD2K grant with significant statistician involvement. Also updated on 11/17 to note involvement of statistician on a Harvard University BD2K grant, o,n 11/19 for statistician involvement on Stanford University BD2K award, on 11/20 for statistician involvement in University of Memphis BD2K award.]

NSF and NIH issued several press releases in the last couple months regarding high-profile solicitations to support administration initiatives. Statisticians were among the recipients. Here I profile a few of them, and one from the Moore Foundation, to highlight the work of statisticians. If I've missed any, please let me know.

The programs are:

  1. Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), NIH
  2. Data Infrastructure Building Blocks (DIBBs), NSF
  3. Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS), NIH/NSF
  4. BRAIN Initiative, NSF & NIH   
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The International Conference on Health Policy Statistics (ICHPS), sponsored by the ASA, will be held in Providence, RI from October 7 to 9, 2015. You and your coauthors/collaborators are encouraged to submit workshop and invited session proposals online until this Friday, October 20, 2014.
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[10/30/14 update: Erosion of Federal Statistical Agencies Puts Sound Policy at Risk,Robert M. Groves and Kenneth Prewitt, Roll Call, 10/30/14.]

In a short September 17 markup, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee approved H.R. 4366, the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA), after minor modifications. As explained in the June 3 blog entry, House Passes Bill Diminishing Stature and Autonomy of National Center for Education Statistics; Senate Plans Unclear, the House-passed bill re-authorizing the Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES) diminishes the stature and autonomy of the

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  • 11/18: House Rules Committee advances "Secret Science Reform Act of 2014" on 7-2 vote, with floor vote expected this week. White House issues veto threat. See more at this The Hill article, White House threatens to veto House EPA bills.
  • The House Rules Committee approved two amendments for consideration on House floor:
    1. Kennedy (D-MA) Amendment: Insertion at end of Bill: SEC. 3. ENSURING THE USE OF THE BEST SCIENCE. Nothing in this Act shall prevent the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from considering or relying upon any peer-reviewed scientific publication even if such publication is based on data that is prohibited from public disclosure.
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At the current rate of development there will be about 10,000 R packages available in 2 years time! Click here to read more.
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Employ your data skills for great causes!  


The Avalon Consulting Group is seeking a statistician to build and validate models and conduct data mining for direct marketing campaigns and program strategy.  Collaborate with our dynamic teams on award-winning campaigns for museums, theaters, and an exciting variety of progressive nonprofits and political campaigns.   

What You Will Do

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