Director's Notes - NISS Parameters Newsletter, August, 2021

Welcome to the Spring 2021 Edition of the NISS Parameters NewsletterJames Rosenberger - Director of NISS

This Newsletter celebrates the end of a busy spring and summer with many activities.  

During August when JSM was again virtual NISS celebrated the year with a combined Affiliate ‘luncheon’ gathering and NISS reception to announce the Sacks Award and the Distinguished Alumni and Service Awards, usually held at the NISS reception at JSM.  In addition to presenting the awards, we invited the ASA Task Force on Statistical Significance and Replicability to describe the import message of the statistical sciences highlighted in the report.  See the newsletter for more details

During JSM I chaired the invited panel, NISS at 30: Highlights from the Early Years, and Emerging Trends organized by Lingzhou Xue, NISS Associate Director, which looked back when the vision for NISS was formed and looked forward to the emerging issues that NISS is now addressing. Dan Jeske highlighted the many activities during the past few years aimed at the NISS affiliates. David Banks reminisced from the initial workshop that birthed NISS, to the many years NISS and SAMSI cooperated on programs and shared space in the NISS building in RTP. Nell Sedransk, who wrote “NISS: From Vision to National Institute” described the evolution of NISS over three decades.  Nancy Flournoy, described the events leading up to the NSF report that identified the need for an institute to promote cross-disciplinary and cross-sector activities for the statistics community.  Nancy also described the Ingram Olkin Forums, which began in 2019, under the banner Statistics Serving Society which were named to honor Ingram Olkin’s role in NISS’ formation and his unflagging efforts to have statistics serve the public good.  Contributions are invited to support the Ingram Olkin Fund which supports ongoing forums. 
Other activities at JSM included the NISS statistical graphics competition session organized by Brian Habing, NISS Associate Director, and Andrew White of NCES, which supported the competition.   

Despite (or due to) the pandemic, NISS hosted an increasing number of events important to our affiliates and continued to co-sponsor events organized and hosted by our affiliates.   These events covered many themes related to the role of statistics and data science during the pandemic, but the critical role of statistical concepts/foundations for proper interpretation and inference was the focus of our activities.  

Beginning in December, NISS hosted 15 Data Science Webinars jointly organized with COPSS, focusing on COVID-19 issues.  These webinars ranged from “flying the plane while improving it” as a metaphor for the need to develop novel ways to collect and analyze data to understand the science behind this quickly evolving public health crisis, to “pandemics, poverty and public health” by Jim Yong Kim, former president of the World Bank.  These webinars, and all our public events are available on our YouTube channel, available by searching for NISS communications.

 In May, we organized and hosted a joint CANSSI-NISS Workshop on Health Data Science, originally planned to be held at University of Waterloo, but move online due to the pandemic.  Five sessions and two plenary talks, by Xiao-Li Meng and Mary Thompson, and four short courses were given over three days in May.  

NISS again hosted the Writing Workshop this year, held since 2007 with 29 new researchers and 16 mentors participating.  The speakers emphasized the importance of good writing, a life-long quest that requires dedication and continuous effort, and described the range of journals, how to collaborate and agree on authorship, and how to navigate the many ethical issues that arise in research and publication.  NISS has hosted this event with strong support from NSF and the statistical societies and leaders in the profession. 

As noted, Ray Bain has completed two years as board chair, and was acknowledged with the distinguished service award from NISS.  The newly elected board chair, Jim Booth, Professor at Cornell University in the Department of Statistics and Data Science, has served on the NISS board for the past 9 years.  The board vice-chair is Mimi Kim, Professor and Chair, Dept of Epidemiology & Population Health Division of Biostatistics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

On a personal note, I have now completed four years at NISS, having stepped into this role after the 2017 JSM in Baltimore, and I’ve asked the board to search for new leadership for the next era.  The board of trustees appointed a search committee to find the next leader of NISS and they are now seeking nominations.  The director position could be full or part-time, work from the NISS Washington DC offices, the RTP location, or at a host university hub as I have been at Penn State.  See the search ad at Careers on the NISS homepage.  In addition, there are other open positions at NISS for post-docs, pre-docs and internships.

Jim Rosenberger
Director, NISS