Providing for our future

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The fourth of our strategic priorities is to secure our financial stability. The financial stability of ISI  supports our pursuit of the three strategic priorities described in previous columns, namely, to encourage statistical communication and networking, to increase the public voice of statistics, and to develop statistical capacity.

I considered a number of titles for this column. One reflected an appreciation of the cohorts of ISI colleagues who preceded us and built our society and provided funds that we use to support ISI work today – “Recognizing our past”. The financial reserves from the past provide income that we use today for special projects such as web site revisions and transitioning to new World Statistics Congress (WSC) models. Another title considered all of the ways we contribute to our profession – “Time, talent and treasure.” Ultimately I settled on a title that focused on the importance of what we do today to establish a foundation for subsequent generations of ISI members – “Providing for our future.”

What is financial stability?

Simply put, financial stability can be achieved when  positive revenue is realized, i.e., revenue  =  income – expenses > 0. All organizations involve a consideration of income and expenses as they consider how to meet their goals.

Many professional organizations find that personnel is the main operating expense, and ISI is no exception. The ISI permanent office staff is a relatively small group of dedicated professionals, and any reduction of staffing support would come with a significant loss of the ability to provide critical services. The ISI Executive Committee has worked to minimize other costs identified, and we believe that expenses are being contained to the fullest extent possible.

What work occurs in a professional society?

The success of a professional society requires resources. These resources include the time and talent contributions of ISI members towards leading and serving on:

  • working groups such as the data science and international year of women in statistics and data science initiatives;
  • associations, special interest groups and other  committees;
  • journal editorial boards (not to mention volunteering as reviewers);
  • scientific program committees for conferences.

Beyond time and talent contributions, there is the contribution of treasure. Income in the ISI supports administrative tasks such as:

  • negotiating with potential conference hosting venues;
  • developing, soliciting and evaluating bids for cities that might host future WSCs and RSCs;
  • coordinating and processing calls for proposals for short courses, presentations, webinars and more;
  • providing administrative support to the numerous ISI volunteers;
  • supporting the website development, evolution and operation;
  • administering membership recruitment and processing.

The impact of a new model for WSCs

The first two bulleted items above reflect one of the items that we promised to address as part of this strategic priority, namely the goal of developing a new financial model for World Statistical Congresses. The venue review and bidding process was fully implemented in the selection of Ottawa for WSC 2023.

As you know, the new model for the WSC 2021 pivoted to virtual from in-person as a result of the pandemic. Our ISI permanent office staff have been working diligently on these tasks. Our initial estimates suggest that with registration numbers matching similar WSC attendance, ISI will have a financial surplus from this meeting even with registration fees dramatically lower than previous meetings. We view this as evidence of the success of our efforts to develop a new financial model for the WSC.

Growing membership = growing income

The primary source of ISI income is membership fees. Simply increasing these fees would be a disaster. Many statisticians and data scientists belong to multiple societies, and a thoughtless fee increase could result in people leaving ISI. If we constrain fee increases, then the only way to increase membership income is to increase membership. (Clear evidence that I can quantitatively reason: Membership Income = Nmembers x Fee will have Income increase if either Nmembers or Fee increases.)

We can increase the number of elected, regular and institutional members. The ISI Executive Committee, Council and working groups continue to explore other strategies for growing individual and institutional membership.

 ISI offers statisticians and data scientists an opportunity to contribute to human development by improving statistical practice and capacity worldwide; and provides opportunities for statisticians to connect and network as part of an international community. Telling this exciting story provides a reason for joining ISI. Finding people who will benefit from joining ISI is a job for all of us.

What can you do?

Have you registered yet for WSC 2021?  If not, please do so now. Encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same.

Have you signed up for a short course yet? Do you have colleagues or students who are interested in professional development opportunities? There is still time to sign up to attend.

Have you renewed your ISI membership? If not, please do so now. While you are doing this, why don’t you also join one or more of our associations? If you are a member of an association but have not joined ISI yet, why don’t you join ISI? Take advantage of a great opportunity connect with our broad community of statisticians.

Do you have colleagues who merit ISI Elected Membership? If so, please nominate them today! I am working on a nomination now.

Do you have junior colleagues or students who are looking for a professional community? Please encourage them to join as regular members. I am delighted to report that one of my former students just joined.

Do you belong to an institution that might be interested in institutional membership? If so, please see if they belong to ISI. If your organization does not belong, please encourage leadership in your organization to join ISI.

Finally, do you want to donate to provide additional financial support for the work of ISI and ISI Associations? You can contribute to support the following funds: ISI Outreach, General Donations or Fund for the Women’s Statistical Literacy Project; Bernoulli Society Kendall Award, General Fund or Young Researchers Outreach Fund; IASS Cochran-Hansen Prize Fund; IASC Young Researcher Travel Fund, Development Fund; and TIES Abdel El-Shaarawi Early Investigator’s Award.

Strategic Plans 2021-2025

During the last 4 months, I described the four strategic priorities from our 2017-2021 strategic plan:

  1. Encourage statistical communication and networking;
  2. Increase the public voice of statistics;
  3. Develop statistical capacity;
  4. Secure our financial stability.

The responses from our member survey are being analyzed now and will help inform the strategic plan for the 2021-2025 period. I won’t be surprised if many of the priorities informing our actions over the last four years continue.

John Bailer (@john_bailer)
ISI President
17 May 2021


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