Greetings from the NISS Director!

James Rosenberger - Director of NISS

Welcome to the Winter 2019 edition of the NISS Parameters Newsletter 

I have just returned from the AAAS annual meeting in Washington, DC, and was again reminded that Statisticians get to play in everyone’s backyard, as John Tukey once said. With the 2020 census approaching, privacy concerns continue to impact how the statistical summaries of the data will be released. The challenge to protect the privacy of an individual’s data are ever greater with the growth of other publicly available datasets.   Should the question about citizenship be included in the census?  A question not included since 1950 since its presence would likely negatively impact the response rate. The Supreme Court just agreed to hear the case to resolve the impasse. Many issues facing society require a careful scientific response including climate change, risks of floods, more hurricanes, sea level rise, and other global risks such as flu pandemics, earthquakes and related tsunamis and other global issues. 

As big data sources continue to proliferate and are collected without being designed for a particular purpose, statisticians must address the challenges of how these data can be analyzed and utilized without falling victim to unintended biases. The October 4, 2018 NISS-Merck Meet-up on Real World Data (RWD) in the Pharmaceutical Industry describe these challenges and an upcoming Meet-up on April 1, 2019 will explore additional Applications of RWD. These are issues of growing interest to our affiliate members and statisticians can provide insight and contributions to the solutions along with other data scientists. Other NISS-Merck Meetups have covered topics including Estimands, Missing Data, and Immunotherapies. 

This year we also initiated an Academic Meetup series, organized by Mimi Kim, with assistance from Kevin Lee and Ezra Kurum. The latest event in this series is well worth watching if you want to improve your communication and writing skills -- skills every employer values in a new employee. Pulling from her very successful career, Christy Chuang-Stein leads off with a wonderful collection of wisdom about effective communication -- well worth watching. After fielding questions from the audience, she is followed by Limin Peng, who presents tips and insights on successful writing including issues unique to those whose English is not their first language. On April 23 the next NISS Academic Meet-Ups is “Succeeding as a Statistician in Academia: Things I Wish I Knew at the Start of My Career.” This should provide insights and good advice for junior faculty, post-docs and even graduate students aiming for an academic career. 

Upcoming NISS hosted events in Washington, DC

Please check the website for the upcoming events, the next two being held in Washington, DC. The previously offered course, R & Spark: Tools for Data Science Workflows, will be offered again on Feb 25-26 at the Bureau of Labor Statistics near Union Station. This workshop, taught by James Harner, provides the tools needed for efficient analysis of large and distributed databases without the need to move the data into a central computer. On March 11, we are hosting a program organized by Yan Li, University of Maryland, on “Using Surveys to Improve the Representativeness of Nonprobability Samples in Epidemiologic Studies.” This should be of interest to anyone analyzing complex data samples in epidemiological research. 

Nominations invited 

Please submit suggestions or a full nomination packet for someone for the Jerome Sacks Award. Also, I want to remind all former NISS postdocs to submit a nomination for the NISS Distinguished Alumni Award, deadline April 30, 2019. 

Regional and National Events 

The events page shows a variety of regional events. Most of these events are available to anyone but with discounts offered to NISS affiliate members. Being a NISS academic affiliate provides opportunities for faculty to network with other affiliate members. When someone from an affiliate organizes a meeting or workshop the NISS Affiliate Award Funds (AAF) can assist in support of speakers, in addition other affiliate members can use funds from their AAF to pay registration and travel expenses to attend. These funds are useful to support young faculty members, postdocs, and/or graduate students to attend NISS sponsored events and regional conferences such as CSP, ENAR, and SDSS. For more information on becoming an 
affiliate, visit our website:

We are planning our annual affiliate meeting and another writing workshop at the JSM in Denver Colorado this summer. More information will be sent to our affiliates about these events in the next weeks.