Harris Award Description

Description: The Bernard Harris Award provides financial support for certain speakers in invited technical sessions organized by the ASA's Section on Risk Analysis at the annual Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) and/or at conferences or symposia organized by the Section on Risk Analysis.

Invited sessions at the JSM and other meetings foster free exchange of scientific information. At JSM or other conferences or symposia organized by the Section on Risk Analysis, a program chair of the Section on Risk Analysis organizes sessions and selects the speakers, including at times speakers from both inside and outside the field of statistics. A diversity of speakers broadens the knowledge and perspective to these sessions. The Bernard Harris Award will provide a resource for the Risk Analysis Section to enhance diversity.

Speakers receiving the award would generally fall into one or more of these categories:

  • A speaker who would bring valuable knowledge and perspective to the session but who typically is not a statistician and would not ordinarily attend.
  • A speaker who is a recent graduate of an accredited university program whose thesis or published work shows unusual promise and potential value to the body of statistical knowledge.
  • A speaker who is a statistician with a wide body of statistical research whose experience and insight would challenge and inspire colleagues.

About Bernard Harris

Bernard (Bernie) Harris (June 20, 1926 - January 28, 2011) led a distinguished research, consulting and teaching career in statistics and mathematics. Bernie graduated from Townsend Harris High School in New York City, entered City College of New York, and graduated with a degree in Business Administration in 1946. He was drafted into the army, assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, and sent to Germany in the aftermath of World War II. Upon discharge from the Army, he worked for the U.S. Census Bureau, then decided to pursue an academic focus in theoretical mathematics and statistics. He undertook coursework at George Washington University to earn a Master's Degree, and eventually was employed at the National Security Agency as a mathematician. He secured a generous scholarship to Stanford University and completed his Ph. D. in one year under the guidance of Charles Stein. Moving from government service to the academic world, Bernie joined the Mathematics Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln serving as the Director of the Statistics Division. Very soon he was offered a joint position at the Mathematics Research Center (MRC) and a professorship in the Statistics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research over the years involved work in random mappings, combinatorics, risk analysis, reliability, probability, statistical inferences, and terrorism concerns. He published many articles and reviews in professional journals. His first book, Theory of Probability, was published in 1966. He was the editor of Spectral Analysis of Time Series (1967) and Graph Theory and its Applications (1970). Bernie became a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA), a member of the Honorary Society of the International Statistical Institute (ISI), and received the Army Wilks Award (1982) and the Pioneers of Science Award (1982). He served on various committees for the ASA, ISI, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Classification Society of North America. In addition to his work at the University of Wisconsin, he enjoyed appointments as a visiting professor at the University of Technology in Eindhoven, Netherlands; the Technical University of Munich, Germany, the University of Lund, Sweden, University of Southern California, U.S.A., the Steklov Institute of Mathematics in Moscow, Russia, the Westfalische Wilhelms University in Munster, Germany, the Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany, and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. He greatly valued the insights gained through international consultation with colleagues.

After joining the Mathematics Research Center (MRC) at the University of Wisconsin, Bernie became acquainted with a number of unresolved problems in Reliability Theory arising in governmental and industrial applications. He was fascinated by the fact that these problems had a simple and natural formulation, yet, despite this, there were no satisfactory solutions. While working on an advisory committee of the American Statistical Association (ASA) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he was introduced to the concept of Risk Analysis. He thought of Reliability Theory as a body of statistical and probabilistic methodology whose purpose was to determine or estimate the probability that a device, process, or system performed its intended function satisfactorily. If it failed to do so, then there were presumably some unwanted consequences. Those consequences had probability distributions which could be subjected to statistical analysis. Thus, Risk Analysis extended Reliability Theory a step further. Bernie found the analysis of the questions in Risk Analysis to be highly interesting and realized that many traditional statistical methods were inadequate.

With colleagues lee Abramson, Harry Martz, Lisa Weissfeld and others, he worked to establish the Risk Analysis Section of the American Statistical Association in the early 1990's. Bernie served as the first chairperson of the Risk Analysis Section. Interests within the section have evolved over the years to encompass a wide variety of fields, often touching on the topics defining other ASA sections. A few examples include medicine, biostatistics, product quality, worker safety, environmental issues, and national security. Many of these fields intersect to require multi-disciplinary approaches to define and solve problems. The fund established in Bernie's name seeks to support the evolution of the Risk Analysis Section of the ASA.