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ASA at 175 - recognizing excellence in our profession

By Ronald Wasserstein posted 01-12-2014 09:40


Recognizing the excellent work of our colleagues is one of the fundamental roles of a professional society.  It is also one of the most undervalued.

As 2012 ASA President Bob Rodriguez pointed out in Amstat News, ASA awards recognize

  • outstanding contributions through research, teaching, consulting, and applications of statistics;
  • distinguished service to the profession and our association;
  • contributions by students and young researchers; and
  • work by those outside our profession that builds public understanding of statistical science.

The ASA seeks to broaden its portfolio of awards, for several reasons:

  • Statistics is expanding into new areas of science and practice. Our awards should reflect the marvelous breadth of our profession.
  • The contributions of statisticians are not well recognized, sometimes even within our profession, and certainly not outside of it. Each time we recognize statistical excellence, we have the opportunity (if we take it) to articulate the positive impact of what we do.
  • Excellence inspires excellence. Providing a set of awards that acknowledge the successes of our colleagues inspires others to strive for similar success.
  • Excellence occurs in various ways at a variety of stages in people’s careers. A healthy portfolio of awards should recognize outstanding achievement across the career spectrum, acknowledging the senior leaders in our profession, the up-and-comers, and others in between.

What areas of research, practice, or service are we not adequately recognizing?  The ASA leadership and staff are pondering this question, and your insights would be greatly appreciated.

In this 175th year, there are many ways you can help:

  • Speak up: Nominate your colleagues for awards. Yes, this takes work, but there may be no better way to thank someone for their great work, and its impact on you.
  • Pitch in: Serve on award selection committees. Such service is not burdensome, and can be quite inspiring.
  • Give generously: Financial contributions, large and small, to current or prospective ASA awards increase the long-term financial health of those awards. (You can donate online by going to the ASAwebsite, checking the third bullet, and typing in the name of the award. Or you can mail a check to the ASA. Thank you!)
  • Show up: If you are at JSM, take a little time to come to the awards ceremonies, to congratulate and celebrate with your colleagues.

Is the statistics profession worth celebrating?  Are the accomplishments of statistical professionals on par with those of other professions? Of course, of course!  ASA awards are a great way to both “celebrate our past” and “energize our future.”

(Stay tuned for a future blog with information on a new prize in the statistical world.)

In 2014, the American Statistical Association is celebrating its 175th anniversary.  Over the course of this year, this blog will highlight aspects of that celebration, and look broadly at the ASA and its activities.  Please contact ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein ( if you would like to post an entry to this blog.