ASA at 175 – Significant developments at Significance magazine

By Ronald Wasserstein posted 03-20-2014 11:28


The American Statistical Association publishes two outreach magazines, Significance and Chance.  In separate blogs we’ll look at each of them.  Today we’ll focus on Significance, because there is major news to announce.

Significance is a partnership between the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) and the ASA.  The RSS has been publishing the magazine since 2004.  The ASA became a partner in 2010.  Significance is aimed at a broad audience – anyone who is interested in how statistical matters affect their lives.  It is an entertaining and thought-provoking magazine, demonstrating how statistics benefits society in general and each of us in many aspects of life.

A unique and essential feature of Significance is that its editor is NOT a statistician.  The contributors are (generally) statisticians, and the editorial board is made up of statisticians and journalists, but the editor is a professional journalist and magazine editor.  This choice makes sure that the magazine retains a voice and style that speaks to a broad audience, educated and thoughtful, but not necessarily trained in statistics.  As it turns out, the magazine is a great read for statisticians as well, a fact that is known to all RSS and ASA members, who get Significance delivered to their doorsteps six times a year.

Since 2005, Julian Champkin has been the editor of Significance, and has done a fantastic job of developing the magazine.  Julian provided leadership through several transitions: the change from an RSS publication to a joint publication, the creation of a strong website, and moving from four issues a year to six.  He has been a terrific leader and a delight to work with, and I am pleased to be able to call him a friend as well as a colleague. 

As the magazine has grown, however, it became clear that the editor should be a full-time employee of the RSS as opposed to a part-time contractor, the role which Julian has held so ably these past few years.  In collaboration with the ASA, the RSS set out on the difficult task of replacing Julian, and today is announcing its choice for the editor of Significance.

We are pleased to join the RSS in announcing the appointment of Brian Tarran.  Brian will be joining us from the UK-based Market Research Society where he has previously been the editor for Research Magazine and now responsible for the launch and editorial direction of Impact magazine and  His work on Impact won the “Launch of the Year” award at the 2013 International Content Marketing Association (CMA) Awards.  In his application and interview, Brian presented an exciting and compelling vision for the future of Significance, and the ASA and RSS are delighted that he will take the helm on June 16.

By the way, if you’ve ever seen Significance, you’ve noticed the beautiful covers designed by Charles Trevelyan.  We’re pleased that these great designs will continue to grace the magazine.

Another important announcement is that New York Times journalist Alan Schwarz, winner of the 2013 ASA Excellence in Statistical Reporting Award, has agreed to serve on the Significance editorial board as an ASA appointee.  The full list of ASA appointees on the editorial board is as follows:

  • James J. Cochran, Louisiana Tech University
  • Michelle Dunn, National Cancer Institute
  • Wendy Martinez, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Alan Schwarz, New York Times
  • Susan Spruill, Applied Statistics and Consulting
  • LeAnna Stork, Monsanto
  • Howard Wainer, National Board of Medical Examiners
  • Scott Zeger, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Perhaps you are not yet receiving Significance magazine. You are missing a feast for your brain and your eyes.  You can subscribe, or better still, join either the ASA or the RSS and get the magazine free as part of your membership.

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.