From the Director’s Desk

For NISS 2016 was a year of culminations and closure, making ready for a year of beginnings and expansion in 2017. 

In 2016, NISS made its mark on two important national problems.  For NASS (National Agricultural Statistical Services, in the USDA) NISS convened a panel of technical experts to examine how women’s and young farmers’ contributions to US farm operation were represented in data from the US Census of Agriculture.  Recommendations from this panel resulted in significant changes to ensure that women and young farmers are not overlooked. These changes are now implemented for the 2017 US Census of Agriculture.  

Also in 2016, NISS completed the report of a panel of technical experts convened by NISS to review the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, in the Department of Education). The report of this overview of the Center and its function was released early in the new year and can be found on the NISS website.

In 2016 to NISS' great regret, SAMSI decided to end the decade and a half era of NISS-SAMSI kinship as SAMSI’s emphasis continued to shift toward the applied mathematics in its middle name.  SAMSI’s initial decision covered all aspects of the direct relationship with NISS and included, in particular, the joint NISS-SAMSI Affiliates Program. Subsequently, SAMSI determined that it would relocate away from NISS to pursue its path to the future.

SAMSI’s departure opened the door for NISS at the start of 2017 to reconfigure the NISS Affiliates Program benefits to encompass statistical programs and conferences at all the North American mathematics and statistics institutes – including SAMSI, of course.  

In 2017, NISS also reconsidered its own title: National Institute of Statistics. No longer needing to be restricted to a bricks-and-mortar definition, NISS is spreading its wings to create new foci to support sustained activities both in-person and virtual, on the west coast as well as in Washington, DC and in the Triangle in North Carolina (with yet another location just about to start up – watch for an announcement at the JSM Affiliates Luncheon). 

It is impossible not to be nostalgic about the beautiful NISS building in Research Triangle Park.  But with modern institute life becoming heavily virtual/remote and intermittently involving personal presence, NISS is fortunate to be able to make this transition. A (business) purchaser for the NISS building has been identified and terms of sale negotiated that will allow NISS to shed the role of landlord and return the use of NISS assets to the development of research projects and collaborations on problems of national impact.

In Washington, DC, 2017 has brought a major renewed 5-year contract with NCES and renewal of IPA and postdoctoral support agreements with NASS.  After almost a year of paperwork and processing, NISS is now listed on the GSA schedule that allows NISS to be a “preferred contractor” and to join a highly restricted pool of firms eligible to offer proposals to many federal agency requests for services.  The first fruit of this GSA schedule status has come in the form of a contract awarded by NASS for NISS to assemble a panel of technical experts to consider how best to report the new detailed data on farm operators that are about to be gathered in June 2017 as part of the US Census of Agriculture.

There will be more news as NISS spreads it wings wider geographically and expands the scope of NISS activities and programs in 2017.  Join NISS at the Affiliates Luncheon and at the NISS Annual Reception at JSM – and visit the NISS Expo Booth #104 to find out the latest and to sign up to participate.


Nell Sedransk, Director