Thinking Strategically and Acting Accordingly

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ISI strategic priorities are described in our 2017-2021 strategic plan: These include:

  1. encourage statistical communication and networking;
  2. increase the public voice of statistics;
  3. develop statistical capacity;
  4. secure our financial stability.

These priorities reflect the foundation for what we want to achieve as a professional society. In this message and in subsequent monthly messages, I will consider each of these priorities in turn.

The first priority is to encourage statistical communication and networking. The ‘tools’ identified for addressing this include: a) the World Statistics Congress (WSC); b) workshops, satellite events and short courses, attached to the WSC; c) Regional Statistics Conferences (RSC) and corresponding satellite events, short courses, workshops, etc.; d) making more active use of web blogs and social media; and e) video and audio conference facilities for ISI and Association working groups.

You already have heard a great deal about WSC 2021, and I’m excited to announce that the President’s Invited Speaker for the Congress is Professor Kerrie Mengersen. She is Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Queensland University of Technology in the Faculty of Science and an incoming Vice-President of the ISI. Professor Mengersen’s work spans Bayesian statistics, computational statistics, environmental, genetic and health statistics, statistical consulting and more, including citizen science. She was a guest on the Stats+Stories podcast (Stats in Celebration of Earth Day, Explaining Bayes Better) a few years ago, and you can listen to these episodes to get a preview of what you might expect from her WSC 2021 lecture. The short courses as item b) in the list above has evolved from being offered a few days before the WSC to a programme of 20 online short courses in May-June.  Like all activities that were being planned in 2020 and 2021, RSCs (item c) were postponed. We continue to plan for these events, and an RSC in Central America is being planned for 2022. Activity in ISI and Association blogs (item d) have increased and can be followed by simply linking to the ISI home page or to resources such as the IAOS Discussion Platform. Finally, virtual platforms for meetings (item e) is being used more extensively and comprehensively in ISI as in other workplaces and professional societies.

In our strategic plan, the statistical communication and networking priority is described as addressing the “objectives of leading, supporting and promoting the statistical community; disseminating research and best practice; growing the statistical community in developing countries; advancing the development of younger statisticians and encouraging the continuing participation of older members”. I consider each of these objectives in turn.

Leading, Supporting and Promoting the Statistical Community

We are a society of statisticians and data science professionals from academia, business, industry and government. We are not and should not be siloed. As a simple illustration, national statistical offices (also connected to IAOS), industry employers (most obviously connected to ISBIS) and environmental statisticians (TIES) are using computing and visualization tools (IASC) and survey methods (IASS) with strong theoretical foundations (Bernoulli Society) and hiring students who have to learn statistical thinking (IASE). Our connected community is a strength that we need to continue to nurture.

Disseminating Research and Best Practice

The WSC and RSCs are clear examples of one mechanism used by ISI to accomplish this dissemination of research. The journals published by ISI and Associations are clear examples as well. While the first two examples have existed for many years, the webinars that ISI and Associations now host provide a recent and exciting third mechanism for disseminating research. As technology changes, our tools for disseminating research continues to evolve as well.

Growing the Statistical Community in Developing Countries

The RSCs were developed to provide an opportunity to support focused in-person meetings that would be easier to attend for statisticians in the area. Supporting the growth of the statistical community in developing countries is also part of the important work of the ISI Young Statistician Special Interest Group and the ISI Statistical Capacity Building efforts as I’ll discuss in a future president’s message.

Advancing the Development of Younger Statisticians

The ISI Special Interest Group for Young Statisticians is a critical community in ISI and many of the Associations host similar YS communities. A student with interest in data who possesses strong mathematical skills and computational interests has many options for future study. We need to articulate that statistics (and the ISI!) is the home for these students. The ISI SIG for Young Statisticians provides an initial home for young professionals and looks to integrate them into ISI. The webinars and short courses provide continuing professional development for these young statisticians to continue growing in their careers. The future of our profession and the ISI resides in these individuals.

Encouraging the Continuing Participation of Older Members

Long-time members of ISI are critical for providing ISI with their experience, perspective and mentoring. We live in a world where being a member of multiple professional societies is common. Why should you still be involved in ISI?  ISI offers a truly international home for statistics. The desire to be part of a community and connection with international colleagues might be a reason to participate in ISI. The desire to contribute to the global community is another reason to join.

Feeling connected is an important predictor of continuing as a member. What are ways you could to participate in ISI? Would you like to contribute to the Statisticians React to the News blog? Are you interested in sharing your work in a webinar? Are you in serving as a mentor to young statisticians? How could you contribute to statistical capacity efforts? If you have specific ideas for how you might contribute your talents to ISI, please email the ISI Permanent Office, and they will forward your interest to the appropriate committee or working group.

There are two dimensions of communication for any organization: internal communication (within ISI) and external communication (outside of ISI). This first priority had a strong internal focus. The second strategic priority – increase the public voice of statistics – will tackle the challenge of more effective external communication.

You will soon be receiving the survey to help form the strategic plan for 2021-2025. Thank you in advance for your careful and thoughtful responses to this survey.

John Bailer (@john_bailer)
ISI President
10 February 2021


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