Director's Notes - NISS Parameters Newsletter, February, 2020

Welcome to the Winter 2020 edition of the NISS Parameters Newsletter!James Rosenberger - Director of NISS

As we watch the world respond to a growing crisis from the emerging epidemic caused by the newly discovered coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, we rediscover how uncertainty and the unknown can create fear in the public.  As of this writing, some 70K people have been reported infected worldwide, and 1,770 have died so far from the disease, about 2.5%.  By contrast, the flu (influenza) causes an estimated 19M illnesses in the U.S.A. and 10K deaths this season, or 53 per 100,000, or 0.05%.  So the 2019-nCoV death rate is roughly 50 times higher than that of the common flu, hence the concern.  However, the risk of infection in the US, if the epidemic can be contained, is exceedingly low.  The need for reliable data is critical for making informed policy decisions.

NISS Events:  NISS has sponsored numerous successful events; some aimed specifically for our affiliates and others open to the entire profession.  NISS sponsored a virtual meetup to discuss ‘Collaborations between Academia and Industry’ as summarized on page 3 below.  There are numerous barriers that inhibit the full range of collaborations that could occur, including financial issues, who own potential intellectual property, and publication restrictions.  The quarterly NISS-Merck Meetup tackled the controversial and complex topic of Adaptive Trials for Drug Development.  As described on page 5 in this newsletter, these adaptive trials have the potential to both limit the exposure to the less beneficial treatment and also provide more patients access to the more beneficial treatment regimen, and they are also potentially more cost effective when the winning treatment reveals itself early in the trial.  

NISS sponsored the first Virtual Government Career Fair, with speakers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Bureau of the Census, and the National Agriculture Statistics Service.  As noted (page 4 below) these agencies provide very high quality statistics demanded by the important impacts their output has on the US economy and health of our democracy, and thus the jobs provide deep satisfaction to those engaged in these efforts. 

NISS was also a sponsor of the 13th International Conference of Health Policy Statistics. Two excellent keynote speakers, Daniel Polsky, Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Economics, Johns Hopkins University and Susan Murphy, Professor of Statistics and Computer Science Harvard University framed the conference with stimulating talks challenging the audience to contribute to improving society and health though improved methods. 

NISS Upcoming Events:  On February 19 a third industry career fair, with speakers from a variety of industries, Amazon, AT&T, Medtronic and RAND, will describe their working environment and the opportunities for statisticians and data scientists.  These virtual career fairs are open to NISS affiliates to attend live, and the recordings and visuals are made available to the public the following month on the NISS website.

The NISS affiliate program has a strong tradition of bringing experts together to address needs of the profession, many on a regional basis.  The 7th Annual NOGGINS workshop, and the 2020 Bradley Lecture at U Georgia given by Bin Yu (Berkeley), the 13th Annual conference on Statistical Issues in Clinical Trials: Cluster Randomized Clinical Trials (CRTs): Challenges and Opportunities, at U Penn, and the 8th Annual Workshop on Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, at GSU, are all regional gatherings available to NISS affiliates, who can utilize their Affiliate Award Funds to attend.  Later this spring, NISS has co-sponsored the Conference on Statistical Learning and Data Science/Nonparametric Statistics (SLDS 2020), in Newport Beach, CA, and the 2020 Quality and Productivity Conference in Tallahassee, Fl.  See the for the up-to-date schedule.

If you are organizing a local or regional conference or workshop, please let us know if you would like NISS to co-sponsor it and advertise it on our platform and through our network and affiliates.   

NISS affiliation demonstrates a commitment to outreach with other academic institutions and across government and industry sectors. Half of the cost of an academic affiliate membership can be utilized as travel expenses and registration at NISS-sponsored events for faculty and graduate student participants, who build their career network by engaging in these activities.  To find more information about our affiliate program, please see our affiliate information page on our website or contact me.

by Jim Rosenberger
NISS, Director