Director's Notes - NISS Parameters Newsletter, November, 2019

Welcome to the Fall 2019 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 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 still exceedingly low.  The need for reliable data remains critical for making informed policy decisions as these numbers change.

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 owns 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. 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 through improved methods. 

NISS Upcoming Events:  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.

On other fronts, there are a couple of very exciting events in the works.  We are planning upcoming Ingram Olkin Forums under the theme “Statistics Serving Society” to address the opioid crisis and to see how the statistics community can contribute to methodologies needed to understand its origin, prevention, and recovery.  A small one-day workshop is planned for this spring to engage the community, and then followed by a larger two-day forum.  A future topic for the fall will focus on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or algorithm fairness, which has become a growing concern as AI is being implemented in many diverse applications, from banking to criminal justice.  Stay tuned for more information!

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