Elizabeth L. Scott Award Acceptance Speech
August 3, 2016
Amanda L. Golbeck
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
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I am deeply humbled by this honor. I am grateful to the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies. Likewise, I am grateful to those who participated in my nomination, and to those who supported my selection for this award.
Barry Graubard mentioned a few things that are well known about Elizabeth Scott. I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about some things less known … some things that I discovered while writing a book about Scott that is being published by Chapman and Hall. Here are a dozen things that might surprise you:
Scott wasn’t the only person in her family who had a PhD in astronomy. Her aunt also had earned a PhD in astronomy from Berkeley in 1913. Now there is an observatory named after her aunt at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
All of Scott’s degrees were in astronomy, but she didn't aspire to observe through the telescopes. Rather, she wanted to work with the measurement data, and became an expert in statistical aspects of astronomy.
Scott published early, and a lot. She published 12 papers in seven years about the orbits of comets. This was already before she finished her PhD coursework. As a statistician, she went on to publish in a broad range of areas.
Scott was involved as a statistician in World War II in the strategic bombing campaign against Germany. She was so involved in the war effort that it took her 10 years to finish her PhD.
Then the department of defense tried to recruit Scott to a permanent position. In 1947, Vassar College also tried hard to recruit her to the faculty as an astrophysicist, promising her the department chairmanship and observatory directorship. But Scott decided to stay at Berkeley and become a statistician.
Scott was very kind and generous to many. In 1963, she did fundraising for Martin Luther King, Jr. Every Saturday, she brought bakery into the office for statistics students and faculty. She was even known to give students her own money when they ran out of theirs.
In 1965, Scott was instrumental during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. She kept many students out of jail. She knew activist-‐leader Michael Rossman personally and asked the judge that he be released upon her recognizance.
At Berkeley, only men used to be allowed into The Faculty Club. Women had to climb through windows to attend faculty meetings there. In 1969, Scott wrote a letter of complaint to the president of the Club. A result of her letter was that the club opened its membership to women.
In 1970, Scott’s research uncovered that only 2% of full professors at Berkeley were women. For 22 years, she was the only woman in a tenure track appointment on the Berkeley statistics faculty.
Some thought Scott was scary; some thought she was a holy terror. But as you were talking to her, you often thought she was falling asleep. She would then surprise you by opening her eyes and interjecting a lucid critique of the research problem at hand. She had been listening intently.
Scott helped to start the “equal pay for equal work” movement in this country. In 1974, her national research uncovered that, among those with regular faculty appointments, women who had equal qualifications to men were being paid much less. This difference was not explained by interruptions in women’s careers.
In 1988, Scott was the keynote speaker at a pioneering conference, called Pathways to the Future, which produced many women statistics leaders. Conference leaders Nancy Flournoy and Lynne Billard still remember that Scott blew everyone's socks off at that meeting with her data analysis.
Ten years before she died, Scott already knew that work on the status of academic women would not be completed in her lifetime. Which brings us to today.
Previous Scott award winners know that women in statistics are still being underutilized and under-‐recognized. These winners have contributed to elevating the status of women in our profession in so many different and important ways. I am in awe of these statisticians and deeply honored to be in their company.
I remain grateful to the late Elizabeth Scott, who was my advisor and mentor when I was a statistics and biostatistics graduate student at Berkeley. Her work has awakened and inspired me.
Today I would like to especially thank the Phoebe W. Haas Charitable Trust and the Waterman Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation for their generous support of my work toward preserving the memory of Scott and her advocacy collaborators.
I would also like to offer thanks to my husband Craig, and my son Dan; to all those who contributed to our recent book on Leadership and Women in Statistics; and to the many who helped with my forthcoming book on Scott.
The Scott Award is important. It carries the promise that Scott’s work will continue. Thank you again for this award!
Golbeck, Amanda L. Equivalence: Elizabeth L. Scott at Berkeley. Chapman and Hall / CRC, forthcoming.
Golbeck, Amanda L., Olkin, Ingram, and Gel, Yulia R. Leadership and Women in Statistics. Chapman and Hall / CRC, 2016.