ASA President Robert N. Rodriguez Calls for Creating the ‘Big Tent’ for All Statisticians

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At the recent Joint Statistical Meetings in San Diego, ASA President Robert N. Rodriguez called for the association to become the "Big Tent" for all statisticians. In his address to the conference, Rodriguez said it was critically important for ASA to serve statisticians in new fields as society becomes more data-rich and data-dependent. He quoted a recent McKinsey Global Institute prediction that the US will need between 140,000 and 190,000 more professionals with expertise in statistical methods by 2018.

While making the point that the future strength of the organization lies in serving anyone who solves problems using statistical methods, American Statistical Association (ASA) President Robert N. Rodriguez called for the association to become the “Big Tent” for all statisticians.

Rodriguez, who is the senior director of statistical research and development at SAS Institute, Inc. in Cary, N.C., made these remarks during his presidential address at the recently concluded Joint Statistical Meetings in San Diego. The annual worldwide gathering of statisticians drew 6,300 professionals from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, China, India and numerous other countries.

“Now is the perfect time to build ASA as the ‘Big Tent for statistics’,” said Rodriguez. “Today, the landscape for statistical practice is expanding quickly. We must ensure that statisticians of any type—regardless of training, experience and area of practice—find value in joining and remaining as members of our association.”

To make this transformation, Rodriguez said the ASA must attract all kinds of statisticians, serve their professional development needs and promote their societal contributions to the media, the public and policymakers.

Rodriguez said it is critically important that the ASA serve statisticians in new fields of practice, which are emerging because our society increasingly is data-rich and data-dependent. A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute predicts that the United States will need vastly more professionals—between 140,000 and 190,000—with expertise in statistical methods by 2018.

Rodriguez pointed to the example of “Big Data”—or data sets that are so large and so complex they are difficult to work with—and offered steps for the ASA to connect with and serve this emerging field. His three-step plan includes the following:
1. Engaging data scientists outside the ASA who are involved in Big Data problems, research and technology
2. Explaining to the media and the public why statisticians are essential in this emerging field and how their contributions are providing value to consumers of Big Data
3. Providing training that prepares ASA members for work with Big Data

Speaking about the needs of younger statisticians, Rodriguez said they will find three distinct value propositions from participating in the ASA Big Tent.

The first is the power to remain in demand. “The students I meet are career-minded. They know statistics graduates are in demand and they want to know what will keep them in demand after they leave school,” said Rodriguez. “I tell them that the best place for them to keep learning is the ASA. Here is where they will learn from outstanding researchers and teachers, where they will learn to serve and to lead and where they will learn from their established colleagues.”

The second is the power to become purpose-driven and work with a broader view of what they are accomplishing as statisticians. “Purpose-driven statisticians do better science, they transform business, they inform public policy and they empower students,” explained the ASA leader. “Young people want to be part of something bigger, and ASA is the best place for them to meet outstanding statisticians who are purpose-driven.”

The third is the power to reach higher with the statistical profession. “We reach higher by influencing the use of statistics in policy decisions at the national level. This level of influence matters to the young people I meet,” said Rodriguez. Areas where ASA members are having impact and “reaching higher” include shaping how statistics is taught in grades K–12, participating in climate science discussions on Capitol Hill and working with congressional offices to improve the science in forensic science, he added.

“I believe the power of the Big Tent gives us the ability to engage the young people who are the future of our association. Young people who draw on the power of the Big Tent will gain personal success. They will experience that moment of transformation when statistics is more than a job, and they will experience a greater scope of accomplishment,” said Rodriguez.

“By becoming the Big Tent for statistics, ASA will gain the vigor, the vitality and the visibility it needs for the next 25 years,” concluded Rodriguez. “At the 200th anniversary of our association, our members will celebrate what we accomplished in the Big Tent. Above all, they will celebrate what our profession accomplished to improve human welfare and serve society’s deepest needs.”

About the American Statistical Association
Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the American Statistical Association is the world’s largest community of statisticians and the second-oldest continuously operating professional society in the United States. For more than 170 years, the ASA has supported excellence in the development, application and dissemination of statistical science through meetings, publications, membership services, education, accreditation and advocacy. Its members serve in industry, government and academia in more than 90 countries, advancing research and promoting sound statistical practice to inform public policy and improve human welfare. For additional information about the American Statistical Association, please visit the ASA website at or call (703) 684-1221.


For more information:
Jeffrey Myers
(703) 684-1221, Ext. 1865

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