Published three times a year, the ISI Newsletter provides a broad overview of the Institute's activities, and also includes additional information of interest to statisticians. The Newsletter is sent to all members of the ISI and its Sections (approx. 5,000) as part of their membership.
|In this Online Issue|
|Message from the President|
|Message from the Director|
|Highlights from the 55th ISI Session|
|56th ISI Session Lisbon|
|ISI Strategic Plan 2006-2009|
|News of Members|
|ISI Honorary Member Interviews|
|Calendar of Events|
|News from ISI sections Volume 29, No. 2 (86) 2005|
Message from the President
The Sydney Session: A Success
Well, back from an exciting and successful ISI Session in Sydney, our heartfelt thanks are due to Dennis Trewin and our Australian colleagues for their hard and dedicated work organising the Session and to Stephan Morgenthaler and the many international colleagues for their imagination and judgment in putting together such a rich, varied and high-quality programme.
Behind the scenes, many members of the governing bodies and Committees of the ISI and the Sections hastened to conduct their business, often in meetings in the early morning or in the short lunch breaks. Many important decisions were taken and new plans outlined.
The new Section: International Society for Business and Industrial Statistics was finally formed, and the ISI gave its final go-ahead to granting Section status to The International Environmetrics Society (which will consider this matter finally itself in August). We will return to these important matters in the next issue.
Here, I want to focus on the Strategic Plan 2006-2009, the framework for the work of the Executive Committee and Council during the coming years.
Strategic Plan 2006-2009
In his last Message in the previous issue of the ISI Newsletter, President Stephen M. Stigler gave an historical perspective and advance notice about this work, which was developed by an ad hoc committee in close consultation with the Executive Committee and Council, including particularly valuable inputs from Section Presidents. The Plan is printed in this issue of the Newsletter (see page 8/9, and I want to comment on some specifics. The ISI is the only international organization having the explicit purpose of promoting all aspects of Statistics worldwide. How to do that in practice needs continual updating, so that the governing bodies can decide on concrete actions.
As Steve Stigler documented in the last issue, this has led generations of ISI leaderships to stop and attempt to think in longer perspectives. This time we have done that in the now common framework of a Strategic Plan, well known to some, quite alien to other ISI members. A Strategic Plan is a framework for planning and budgeting activities next year and in subsequent years. Such a framework will usually contain the purpose of the enterprise (here: the ISI), called the Mission, its key goals over the next several years (Strategic Objectives), and how it plans to achieve these goals (Strategies).
We present in this issue these components, and will later add Measures of Success as well as Annual operational plans that will of course be intimately connected with the annual budgets. The Strategic Plan itself will also be reviewed annually and updated accordingly.
In our inaugural meeting in Sydney, the Incoming Executive Committee (President-Elect Denise Lievesley, Vice-Presidents Len Cook, Nick Fisher, Gilbert Saporta, and I) decided to organize our work according to the eight Strategic Objectives with contact persons as indicated.
Message from the Director
Participants at the 55th Session in Sydney experienced a very enriching and enjoyable conference. The Session tallied a total of 2,012 delegates coming from 103 countries. We are extremely grateful to the Session Organisers. Special appreciation must be directed to the Chairman of the National Organising Committee (NOC) and ISI former President Dennis Trewin, who had originally taken the initiative to bring the ISI Session to Sydney and who steered a steady course to ensure the resounding success of ISI 2005. Our gratitude also goes out to the NOC Vice-Presidents Nicholas Fisher and Siu-Ming Tam for their manifold contributions, as well as NOC members Graeme Hope, Geoff Lee, Jonathan Palmer, John Struik, Eden Brinkley and NOC Executive Secretariat Chair Helen Vallance (and Annette Hants), as well as the many other persons involved in the organisation of this memorable Session.
The Scientific Programme for the Session included 606 oral contributed papers, 69 contributed poster presentations and 279 invited paper presentations. Our thanks go out to the ISI Programme Co-ordinating Committee, in particular Chairman Stephan Morgenthaler, as well as the various ISI Section Programme Committees (Chaired by Leopold Simar, Frederick W.H. Ho, Chris Wild, Pedro-Luis do Nascimento Silva and John A. Eccleston, respectively) and the ISI General Topics Committee (Chaired by Graham Kalton). The herculean task of co-ordinating the local Scientific Programme arrangements was successfully realised by Local Programme Committee Chairman Geoff Lee with the able assistance of Anna Poskitt and Craig McLaren amongst others.
Most importantly, we are grateful to those 2,012 delegates who invested their time, funds and intellectual contributions to make the ISI 2005 Session a resounding success.
The ISI Sydney Session provided an opportunity for the various administrative bodies to meet and plan the road for the coming two and a third years. Some particular highlights of important decisions taken during the ISI General Assembly meeting include the following:
- The General Assembly supported the proposal presented by the High Commissioner of South Africa, His Excellency Mr. A. Mangalo, to host the 57th ISI Session in Durban, South Africa, in 2009. It was noted that an invitation has also been received from the Central Statistics Office of Ireland to host the 58th ISI Session in Dublin in 2011.
H.E. Mr. A. Mangalo
- The EC Report to the General Assembly was
officially adopted. Details regarding the Report can be found at:
The ISI Service Certificate Awards, the ISI
Mahalanobis Award, the ISI Jan Tinbergen and IASS Cochran-Hansen Awards were
officially conferred during the General Assembly (details regarding the names of
the various prize-winners can be found in the
previous edition of the ISI Newsletter.
An announcement regarding the availability of the Sydney ISI Session Proceedings (on CD-ROM) will be made in the next edition of the ISI Newsletter. These Proceedings will eventually be placed on the ISI/Section ‘members only’ portion of the ISI website (see https://www.isi-web.org/404?loginisi.htm ).
Prize Winners and foreign dignataries at the ISI General Assembly
From left to right: Mrs. Kiregyera, Professor Ben Kiregyera (recipient ISI Mahanalobis Prize), the Honourable Indian Minister Mr. Oscar Fernandes and Mrs. Fernandes
The new ISI Executive Committee, Chaired by ISI President Niels Keiding, met for the first time in Sydney. Details regarding the composition of the new ISI Council can be found at https://www.isi-web.org/404?council.htm.
Looking forward towards the 2007 ISI Session in Lisboa, ISI Programme Co-ordinating Committee Chairman Pedro Luis do Nascimento Silva has provided his Committee’s report (see page 5 of this Newsletter), which includes a tentative list of the invited paper topics. Preliminary details regarding other aspects of the Lisboa Session can be found at www.isi2007.com.pt/ . Please mark August 22-29, 2007, on your calendar!
All ISI/Section members are invited to subscribe to the new STMA-Z at reduced rates. Details about this abstracting and reviewing service can be found on page 39 or at https://www.isi-web.org/404?stma.htm.
This issue’s ISI Honorary Member Interview is with former ISI President C.R. Rao, a distinguished ISI member since 1952. Also in this issue, the ISI History of Statistics Committee profiles the work of W.S. Gosset.
Finally, I would invite members to visit our ‘Career Opportunities’ website at www.cbs.nl/isi/AD.htm . We welcome any new submissions, which are posted free of charge.
With the National Organising Committee making initial preparations for the 55th ISI Session four years ago, there have been many people behind the scenes that worked together to ensure it was a success.
Geoff Lee was one of the twelve people on the ISI
National Organising Committee (NOC). He is the Head of the Australian Bureau of
Statistics’ Methodology Division and he was Chair of the Local Program Committee
for the ISI Sydney Session. Below, he gives some personal insights into the
One of the personal highlights for Geoff was the President’s Invited Papers Meeting with Lord May, Hermann Habermann, and Willem van Zwet. These papers exemplified the aims of the ISI Session by bringing all the different strands of the profession together and looking at different aspects of and viewpoints on statistics in an easy to understand (and entertaining) way. Sir Clive Grangers talk was also well worth listening to - a very accessible and humble presentation for a Nobel Prize Laureate.
There were many important benefits of the 55th ISI Session beyond professional education. The Session gave young statisticians opportunities to witness the different career paths available, female statisticians the chance to raise their profile internationally, and all statisticians the opportunity to network with their peers against the backdrop of picturesque Sydney Harbour.
Surprisingly for the statistician who had the most
insight into all the papers being presented at the 55th ISI Session
in Sydney, Geoff Lee missed many of the presentations he wanted to go to. Partly
because work was still ongoing behind the scenes with last minute changes to
accommodate presenters who needed for some reason to change their presentation
time, but mostly because he became engrossed in conversations with colleagues.
Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Level 2
|Coffee Break Discussions|
|Sydney Opera House||Entrance to Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre|
See you in Lisbon!
The 56th Session of the International Statistical Institute (ISI) will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, from 22 to 29 August 2007.
This Session will be an excellent occasion for
delegates to make new contacts and to discuss fresh developments in the world of
The history of Portugal goes back many centuries.
The country has a rich and original culture, having been open to many influences
over time. In spite of being very varied in geographical terms, Portugal is a
nation with a very strongly developed sense of national identity.
The Session will take place in Lisbon’s Congress
Centre (Centro de Congressos), which is not far from the historic heart of the
city and directly overlooks the broad estuary of the River Tagus.
You’re invited to visit our ISI 2007 web page ( www.isi2007.com.pt ), where you may become informed about all developments and news about the preparation of the 56th ISI Session in Lisbon.
ISI 2007 Executive Secretary
Report of the Programme Coordinating Committee for the 56th ISI Session – Lisboa – 2007
|Chair:||Pedro Luis do Nascimento Silva (Brazil)|
|Vice-Chair:||Maria Ivette Leal de Carvalho Gomes (Portugal)|
|ISI General Topics Committee:||Richard Smith (USA)|
|Bernoulli Society:||Jane-Ling Wang (USA)|
|IAOS:||Richard Barnabé (Canada)|
|IASE:||Alan Rossman (USA)|
|IASS:||David Steel (Australia)|
|IASC:||Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi (Italy)|
|Wing K. Fung (Hong Kong, SAR China)|
The ISI Programme Coordinating Committee (PCC) for the 56th Session of the ISI – Lisboa – 2007 met three times during the 55th Session in Sydney, after having worked via e-mail correspondence in the period from September 2004 up to the Sydney Session. Section Programme Committees were appointed by the Bernoulli Society, IAOS, IASE, IASC and IASS. The General Topics Committee was appointed by the ISI Executive Committee and is chaired by Richard Smith. All committees worked to prepare lists of topics for invited paper sessions, and also to assess proposals received directly or via the ISI website, where members could present proposals using an electronic submission form. The General Topics Committee considered proposals from several other ISI bodies (including the Irving Fisher Society, the Life Sciences Committee, the Environmental Statistics Committee and the Statistics in Business and Industry Committee) before forwarding them to the Programme Coordinating Committee. The last two Committees handled proposals for the two new ISI Sections, TIES and ISBIS, whose formation was formally voted upon in Sydney. For future ISI Sessions, these sections will have their own representation on the Programme Coordinating Committee.
Overall, 167 proposals for invited paper topics were
received. Out of these, the majority (113) came from the various Section
Programme Committees or other ISI bodies, but a substantial number were also
submitted via the ISI website: 54.
We thank all those who contributed proposals or volunteered to organise meetings, even if they may not have reached this list as yet. An alternative for these proposals would be to generate Special Topic Contributed Paper Meetings, where an organiser coordinates presentation of papers on the topic, each paper having the same length of time for oral presentation as a regular Contributed Paper. We also thank the members of the various Section Committees and ISI bodies who contributed proposals and carried out the analysis, ranking and selection of proposals. Finally, special thanks are due to Geoff Lee, Stephan Morgenthaler and Daniel Berze who provided valuable information on the work of the Programme Committee for the Sydney Session, which helped pave the way for the work of our Committee.
Table 1 - List of Invited Paper Meetings Selected for the 56th Session of the ISI – Lisboa – 2007
|Topic Number||Topic Title||Committee||Joint With|
|IPM01||Shapes and Constraints in Statistical Inference||Bernoulli|
|IPM02||Statistical Challenges in Brain Structure and Dynamics||Bernoulli|
|IPM03||Statistics and Finance||Bernoulli||IFS|
|IPM04||Non- and Semi-parametric Regression Models in Survival Analysis and Econometrics||Bernoulli||LS|
|IPM05||Functional and Comparative Genomics||Bernoulli||LS|
|IPM07||Bias Reduction in the Estimation of Parameters of Rare Events||Bernoulli|
|IPM08||Recent Advances in Spatial Statistics with Environmental Applications||Bernoulli||TIES|
|IPM09||Multiscale Lifting in Statistics||Bernoulli|
|IPM10||Extremes, Risk and the Environment||Bernoulli||TIES|
|IPM11||Stochastic Analysis and Financial Mathematics||Bernoulli|
|IPM12||Robustness and Data Analysis||Bernoulli|
|IPM13||Model Checking and Longitudinal Studies||Bernoulli|
|IPM14||Interacting Particle Systems||Bernoulli|
|IPM15||Bayesian Theory and Practice||Bernoulli|
|IPM16||Strengthening ties between producers and users of official statistics||IAOS|
|IPM17||Do users need indicators or statistics?||IAOS|
|IPM18||Updating international statistical standards: does the process work?||IAOS|
|IPM19||International comparative city and regional statistics on social cohesion and economic diversity||IAOS|
|IPM20||Latest developments in urban, regional and migration research||IAOS|
|IPM21||Current issues in Seasonal Adjustment for official statistics||IAOS|
|IPM22||Promises and Realities of Synthetic Data||IAOS|
|IPM23||Internal standards and Quality management in official statistics||IAOS|
|IPM25||Green GDP vs Greening of the National Accounts||IAOS||TIES|
|IPM26||Business statistics in a globalised economy||IAOS||ISBIS|
|IPM27||The impact of new information technologies: on survey research design; on a totally new information production model||IAOS||IASS|
|IPM28||Model selection for supervised learning||IASC|
|IPM29||Discovering Data Structures with the Forward Search||IASC|
|IPM30||Interval and Imprecise Data Analysis||IASC|
|IPM31||Computational Statistics for Metabolomics||IASC|
|IPM32||Financial Data Mining and Modelling||IASC|
|IPM33||Computational Econometrics and Finance||IASC|
|IPM34||Exploratory multiple table analysis||IASC|
|IPM35||Statistical challenges in data mining applications||IASC|
|IPM36||Statistical algorithms and software||IASC|
|IPM37||Research on Reasoning about Distribution||IASE|
|IPM38||How modern technologies have changed the curriculum in introductory courses||IASE|
|IPM39||Preparing Teachers of Statistics||IASE|
|IPM40||Research on the use of simulation in teaching statistics and probability||IASE|
|IPM41||Optimising Internet-based Resources for Teaching Statistics||IASE||IASC|
|IPM42||Observational Studies, Confounding and Multivariate Thinking||IASE|
|IPM43||Teaching of Official Statistics||IASE||IAOS|
|IPM44||Teaching of Survey Statistics||IASE||IASS|
|IPM45||Studying variability through sports phenomena||IASE||Sports
|IPM46||Use of Symbolic Computing Systems in Teaching Statistics||IASE||IASC|
|IPM47||Information integration: statistical theory when combining and using multiple data sets in concert||IASS||IAOS|
|IPM48||Designing and Updating Longitudinal Samples||IASS|
|IPM49||Statistical disclosure control of survey microdata||IASS|
|IPM50||Using multiple modes to collecting data in surveys||IASS||IAOS|
|IPM51||Confidentialising tables and data with geographically fine breakdown||IASS|
|IPM52||Prioritising non-response follow-up to minimise mean square error||IASS|
|IPM53||What Censuses and administrative sources can tell us about Non Sampling Errors?||IASS|
|IPM54||Measuring and reporting quality of small area estimates||IASS|
|IPM55||Randomisation-assisted model-based survey sampling||IASS|
|IPM56||New methods of sampling||IASS|
|IPM57||Opinion Polls: Do they do more Harm than Good?||IASS|
|IPM58||How ISI can encourage donor and international organizations to strengthen their own statistical capacities||IASS||IAOS|
|IPM59||Recent advances in statistical methods for genetic epidemiology||GTC||LS|
|IPM60||Fitting biological process models to time series data.||GTC||LS|
|IPM61||Are extreme weather events more prevalent now than before?||GTC||TIES|
|IPM62||Data mining for environmental science and management||GTC||TIES|
|IPM64||Stochastic Volatility Modelling: Reflections, recent developments and the future||GTC||ISBIS|
|IPM65||Statistical tools used in financial risk management||GTC||IFS|
|IPM66||Macro and micro Demography||GTC||LS|
|IPM67||Statistics of Numerical Weather Forecasting||GTC||TIES|
|IPM68||Issues in Business and Industrial Statistics in the Developing world||GTC||ISBIS|
|IPM69||When Genomics meets genetics: How to combine linkage, allelic association, gene expression, and proteomics studies to dissect complex traits.||GTC||LS|
|IPM70||Design of Experiments in Marketing and Advertising Testing||GTC||ISBIS|
|IPM71||Statistics of risk aversion||GTC|
|IPM72||Risk-Utility Formulations for Statistical Disclosure Limitation Problems||GTC||ISBIS|
|IPM73||Statistical issues in Biobanking||GTC||LS|
|IPM74||Six Sigma: A Business Strategy or a Management Fad?||GTC||ISBIS|
|IPM75||Statistical Issues in Wired, Wireless, and Sensor Networks||GTC||ISBIS|
|IPM76||Species-wide collected data||GTC||TIES|
|IPM77||Integrated chemical and biological modelling||GTC||TIES|
|IPM78||Karl Pearson’s 150th Birthday||GTC|
|IPM80||Indicators of women and children||GTC|
|IPM82||Integration of the -omics||GTC|
|IPM83||Measures of output and prices of financial services||GTC||IFS|
|IPM84||Measures of flows and stocks in financial accounts||GTC||IFS|
Pedro Luis do Nascimento Silva
Chair, Programme Coordinating Committee
ISI Strategic Plan 2006-2009
To promote the understanding, development, and good practice of Statistics worldwide.
The ISI will pursue its mission by
Professor Mir Masoom Ali, George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Ball State University, USA, ISI elected and Bernoulli Society member, has recently been inducted as a Fellow of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences. The Academy recognises and promotes high caliber scientific research done by scientists to strengthen scientific and technological work and to foster social and economic development for the welfare of the people of Bangladesh. The Academy also advises the Government of Bangladesh on scientific and technological matters.
The Weldon Memorial Prize is a prestigious prize that was first awarded in 1911. It used to be awarded once every three years, but it is now awarded every year. It is awarded "without regard to nationality or membership of any University to the person who, in the judgement of the electors, has, in the ten years next preceding the date of the award, published the most noteworthy contribution to the development of mathematical or statistical methods applied to problems in Biology". The Weldon Memorial Prize of 2004 has been awarded to Professor David Sankoff, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. (McGill); Canada Research Chair, University of Ottawa.
News from the ISI Permanent Office
On May 28, 2005, Mr. Daniel Berze, ISI Director, celebrated fifteen years of service at the ISI Permanent Office.
We would also like to congratulate Mrs. Ann Daniels, Executive Editor of the International Statistical Review, on celebrating her twenty years of dedicated service to the ISI on July 18, 2005.
Professor Mir Masoom Ali
Mrs. Ann Daniels
We received the sad news that Jan Hemelrijk passed away on March 16, 2005, after a long illness. From 1959 until his retirement in 1983, Hemelrijk was Professor of Statistics at the University of Amsterdam and Head of the Department of Mathematical Statistics of the research institute Mathematisch Centrum in Amsterdam. He received his Ph.D. in 1950 with David van Dantzig as his advisor. His research was mostly in nonparametric statistics.
With a solid mathematical background, Jan Hemelrijk was an applied statistician par excellence. His greatest delight was to find an intuitive and novel solution to a practical problem. In theoretical research, he also preferred topics that were suggested by applications. He played an important role in the Delta Project that produced a statistically sound methodology to determine the height of the sea dikes after the Dutch flood disaster in 1953. A decade later, his testimony in court attributing a widespread skin disease to the use of a particular brand of margarine was another milestone for statistics in The Netherlands. In an interview, he once described his colleagues Van Dantzig and Sittig as the prophet and the missionary of Dutch statistics, respectively, and himself as its traveling salesman. Though this clearly underestimates his central role in Dutch statistics, I am sure he would like to be remembered as one who brought statistics to the attention of a broad segment of society. Two books and a TV program for a general audience were examples of this.
During World War II, Jan Hemelrijk and his wife Aleid played an important role in the Dutch resistance movement. In Amsterdam, Jan ran an organization providing safe addresses, forged identification papers and food rations for those who were hunted by the German occupiers. He and his wife took great personal risks, but thanks to Jan’s organizational talents and prudence, they were never caught.
We have lost a man who was an inspiration to many of us and a good friend.
Willem van Zwet
The ISI regrets to announce the death of our colleagues:
Practical work on small sample inference first began in earnest on July 12, 1905, when William Sealy Gosset (1876-1937) visited Karl Pearson (1857-1936). Both were on vacation outside London, but only about 20 miles apart. Gosset bicycled from his place in Weldon, Oxford, to where Pearson was in East Ilsley in Berkshire. Gosset said of his interview with Pearson, “He was able in about half an hour to put me in the way of learning the practice of nearly all the methods then in use before I came to London a year later.”
Gosset had studied at Oxford where he obtained a first class in Mathematics in 1897 and another first class in Chemistry in 1899. Shortly after graduation, Gosset took a position at Guinness Breweries in Dublin, where he eventually rose to the position of Chief Brewer. Soon after joining Guinness, Gosset found himself among a mass of data that had been collected relating to the whole brewing process from the cultivation of the ingredients to the finished product.
It was then that Gosset decided to meet with Pearson. In 1906, with Guinness’s approval, Gosset went to London to work at Pearson’s Biometric Laboratory for a couple of terms during that academic year. Gosset returned to Dublin where he was put in charge of the company’s Experimental Brewery, a position that also put Gosset into contact with more data. Pearson had been highly impressed with Gosset and tried to convince him to take an academic position. By this time, Gosset was married and had a child. His current salary at Guinness was £800 per year; the average academic salary for a professor at the time was £600. Gosset wrote his first paper while at Pearson’s Biometric Laboratory. Guinness agreed to let Gosset publish his statistical research provided that he used a pseudonym (he used “A Student”) and that none of the company’s data appeared in the publication. They wanted to keep their trade secrets secret, an attitude that remains prevalent in business today. The paper for which Gosset is most famous appeared in 1908. This is the paper in which the Student t distribution for small samples was obtained; as required, Guinness was not mentioned and illustrative data were taken from other sources. Later, Gosset corresponded with Fisher and maintained good relationships with both Fisher and Karl Pearson despite the animosity between the latter two.
What Gosset learned from Pearson was large sample inference; out of necessity through time and cost, Gosset was interested in small samples and had to develop new techniques. Gosset said of his work at the Brewery, “… the Experimental Brewery which concerns such things as the connection between the analysis of malt or hops, and the behaviour of beer, and which takes a day to each unit of the experiment, thus limiting the numbers …” By, contrast, Pearson was able to obtain scads of data through his Biometric Laboratory and so could never fully understand why Gosset concerned himself so much with small sample inference. It was not until Fisher followed up on Gosset’s research that small sample inference became more widely used beyond Guinness Breweries. The statistical needs of Pearson, the leader in the field at that time, had not changed. Fisher’s needs, based on designed experiments with relatively few observations compared to Pearson, were quite different. Because of these needs, a new statistical era was dawning.
I am aware that you received your M.A. in Mathematics from Andhra University in India, your M.A. in Statistics from Calcutta University and your Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Could you tell us when did your interest in Statistics originally start? Have any family members, even distant ones, followed your statistical interests?
I received the M.A. degree in Mathematics from Andhra University in 1940 and, after six months of frustration of applying for jobs and not getting any response, I joined the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in 1941 to undergo what was called a one-year training course in statistics to improve my prospects of getting a job. The course was elementary, but it gave me an opportunity to start doing research in collaboration with K.R. Nair, one of the mathematicians recruited by P.C. Mahalanobis, the founder of the ISI, as that was the best way of learning statistics in the absence of books and advanced courses in statistics at the universities at that time. When I was half way through the training program at the ISI, Calcutta University started a Master’s course in Statistics, which I took and earned an M.A. degree in Statistics by the end of 1943, with a first class, first rank and record number of marks, which remains unbeaten till today. Mahalanobis offered me the job of Technical Apprentice at the ISI on Rs. 75 a month in 1943, which was the beginning of my career as a statistician.
During the period 1941-46, I published 33 research
papers; one of which published in 1945 is the most quoted one in literature and
generated the technical terms, Cramer-Rao Inequality, Rao-Blackwell Theorem,
Fisher-Rao metric and Rao distance in statistical inference. Another paper
published in 1946 contained a combinatorial arrangement called orthogonal
arrays, which is widely used in industrial experimentation to design new
products. Mahalanobis doubled my salary to Rs. 150 per month. This encouraged me
to pursue my career as a statistician! In 1946, I got an offer from Cambridge
University, UK, to do statistical analysis on some skeletal measurements, based
on methods developed in India. I was glad to accept the offer considering it as
transfer of technology from an underdeveloped country to an advanced country. I
arrived in Cambridge in the fall of 1946 and started working at the University’s
Museum of Archeology and Ethnology as a Research Fellow on £20 a month and also
received admission in King’s College (of which I am now one of the 11 Life
Fellows) and registered myself as a research scholar under the supervision of
R.A. Fisher for a Ph.D. degree. I completed the project by the middle of 1948
and also wrote a thesis for my Ph.D. degree that was approved by the examiners.
I returned to India in the fall of 1948 to continue my research work at the ISI.
Who were the three people who influenced your career the most, and why?
The three people who had an early influence on my career in statistics are P.C. Mahalanobis, R.A. Fisher and R.C. Bose. Mahalanobis encouraged me to pursue research in statistics and put me in a responsible position at the ISI as the Head of the Research and Training School for the development of statistical education and research in India. R.A. Fisher was a frequent visitor to the ISI and he was an inspiring guide when I was working at Cambridge. R.C. Bose made remarkable contributions to combinatorial mathematics, the most famous of which is disproof of Euler’s Conjecture on the nonexistence of orthogonal Latin squares of certain orders, and my work on orthogonal arrays was inspired by his contributions.
Of all your accomplishments, and there are countless, which one in particular are you most proud of achieving?
I have some intellectual satisfaction for the esteem I earned from the peers in my profession, who introduced some technical terms in statistical inference, attaching my name to them. The most widely quoted term in the literature on statistics, engineering and lately in quantum physics is the Cramer-Rao inequality. Perhaps, my greater contribution is the encouragement and guidance I provided to my Ph.D. students (fifty to date), some of whom have made outstanding contributions to statistics and who, in turn, produced about 300 Ph.D.’s (according to the information on the genealogy website). This is a matter of great pride for me.
I understand that you have received numerous honorary degrees from universities and institutions around the world. How do you feel about all that you have achieved so far?
Up to date, I have 29 honorary degrees from universities in 17 countries. This statistic may or may not be meaningful, but what I value most is my Sc.D. degree from Cambridge University which, I am told, is based on a peer evaluation of published research work and its contribution to natural knowledge.
If you were to start up a statistics department at a new university, what advice would you give to the new Department Head?
Statistics is not a discipline like physics,
chemistry or biology where we study a subject to solve problems in the same
subject. We study statistics with the main aim of solving problems in other
disciplines. So, the teaching of statistics must be different from that of other
disciplines. Of course, curriculum of a statistics course should include the
established statistical methods in common use, and also selected areas of
mathematics and probability necessary to develop new statistical methodology.
But emphasis should be given to the application of various tools using real data
Can you identify any gaps in statistical methodology that are most deserving of the profession’s attention? What new statistical challenges are awaiting you in the forthcoming years?
The methods of statistical analysis are changing with the advent of computers, availability of large data sets and refined measurement techniques. Model based techniques developed for analyzing small data sets using hand driven computers are being replaced by algorithmic and computer intensive methods without model assumptions. A new brand of statistics is coming up in the name of data mining. There are different schools of statisticians postulating different approaches to statistical inference and it is not unusual for different statisticians working on the same data arriving at different conclusions. It is not so much the gaps in statistical methodology that we have to worry about. Judging from the current trends of drop in the demand for courses in statistical theory, static or diminishing number of members of statistical societies and assumed advantage of each subject matter department developing its own courses in statistics with special applications to the concerned subject, there is an apprehension that autonomous university statistics departments may cease to exist. There are some serious discussions among statisticians concerning development of statistics in the 21st century. We have to think of the future of statistics as a separate discipline with a well-defined philosophy and methodology, and the role of autonomous statistics departments in educating statisticians and developing research in statistics.
One of the problems that many universities (and the
International Statistical Institute) are currently faced with is the decreasing
number of young students. What can you say to anyone who is considering a career
in the statistical profession? What would your advice be to young academic
You have held professorships and taught in different countries such as India and the United States of America. Were there differences in the academic philosophy in the institutions you attended that you found to be significant?
The courses in statistics offered at the Indian universities are somewhat rigid. All students have to take a prescribed set of courses covering theoretical and applied statistics. The syllabus followed in all the Indian universities are more or less the same. In the USA, the students can exercise their choices depending on their interests. However, in the USA there is greater emphasis on mathematical statistics, whereas some areas of statistics like design of experiments and sample surveys are not covered in many universities. In India, courses seem to be well-balanced between theory and practice. But the academic philosophy is the same, since the courses are taught using the same set of text books.
How many ISI Sessions have you attended? Do you have any suggestions as to how the ISI Session concept can be improved? As an ISI Honorary member, what new roles do you think that the ISI can play in the international statistical community in the future?
I have attended quite a number of ISI Sessions. I
am glad to find that the scientific program of these Sessions is becoming more
and more broad based to meet the increasing demand for statistical methodology
and statistical thinking in diverse areas of human endeavor.
You have published a large volume of work. Have you ever stepped back and tried to identify the genesis of the creative process in yourself? For example, some people find that they are more creative in certain environments, or at certain times in the day. Are there any “common denominators” in your own creative process?
When I was working in India during the period
1941-1978, there were only a few people to consult or collaborate with in
research work. About 76% of my published papers are authored by me and 19% with
one joint author and 5% with more than one joint author. The source of problems
on which I worked arose from the applied work I was involved in or questions
raised or not fully answered by authors in statistical journals. Under these
circumstances, there is plenty of scope for doing creative work. You have to
think for yourself. My 1945 paper, where the Cramer-Rao Inequality is derived,
actually arose out of a question put to me by a student when I was teaching
estimation theory. There is no particular time or environment conducive to do
research work. I generally do research work in the early hours of the morning, a
habit which was forced on me by my mother who used to wake me up from my bed at
4AM in the morning, light up the lamp and made me study. Some researchers prefer
to work late in the night and wake up late in the morning. I do have some
experience of going to bed thinking of some difficult problem and finding an
easy way of arriving at a solution on getting up in the morning. Perhaps the
brain keeps working even if you are not in a fully conscious state!
Of the twelve books and hundreds of research papers you have (co-) authored, which one(s) was (were) the most challenging/satisfying? Which do you find to be your most defining work?
It is difficult to answer this question as every piece of work, a research paper or book, needs some imagination and hard work, and is never completed to the author’s satisfaction. Usually, the author is not aware how important his work is until he comes to know how well it is received. Some of my books and papers are mathematically oriented and written for advanced students. The most challenging and satisfying book I have written is Statistics and Truth: Putting Chance to Work (published by the World Scientific Press, Singapore and translated into 6 languages), which is not a traditional book summarizing available knowledge, but discusses philosophical and practical aspects of knowledge and the role of statistics in acquiring knowledge on which we can act upon. Two of my papers, which generated some technical terms with my name attached and are reproduced in the book on Breakthroughs in Statistics (1890-1990), will probably be part of statistical literature for some time.
There are a number of theorems credited with your work and name. Which one did you find to have the most interesting process prior to becoming a theorem?
I have already mentioned four of my papers
published during 1945-1949 provided some technical terms named after me. There
are a few other papers published after 1949 that also generated technical terms
bearing my name. Some results catch the attention of the researchers immediately
after publication, a few others take time and many go unnoticed and unreferred
to by other writers. My result on the lower bound to the variance of an unbiased
estimator published in 1945 was named as Cramer-Rao Inequality by Neyman and
Scott in 1948. It is a simple result obtained by using the Cauchy-Schwarz
Inequality and it generated considerable research. It is frequently quoted in
papers on statistics, engineering and has begun to appear in papers on quantum
physics. I introduced a new asymptotic test criterion called the Score Test in a
paper published in 1948. It took almost 40 years for it to be recognized as a
useful criterion and find a place in text books as Rao’s Score Test. I mention
these two as they are the most quoted results. My paper on orthogonal arrays
developed during 1945-1949, on which there is a full-length book, led to
considerable research in combinatorial mathematics and applications in industry,
coding theory and experimental designs.
I learned that there was only a limited amount of literature available on statistical theory and practice when you were a student of statistics, in particular, Sir R.A. Fisher’s Statistical Methods for Research Workers. How greatly has R.A. Fisher influenced you and your work? Are there any other individuals you feel have done the same?
As I mentioned before, R.A. Fisher is the statistician who influenced my work in statistics. Long before I met him, I learnt all my statistics from his book, Statistical Methods for Research Workers. I think it is a classic that served as a guide to research workers over a long period of time; especially, to those working in biology, where the assumption of normality of measurements holds at least approximately, and the number of observations is limited. There are, however, some controversial issues, which are inevitable when someone is creating a new branch of knowledge. He was involved in bitter controversies over some of them. However, the three methodological problems, specification, estimation and testing of hypotheses enunciated by him as relevant to statistical analysis of data, constitute the framework for all statistical theory and research.
If you could relive any part of your career, which
part would it be? If you would prefer to omit any part of your career, which
part would it be? If you were to start again and choose a profession other than
statistics, what would you want to be?
The choice of one’s profession, however, depends much on what is attractive in terms of job satisfaction and remunerative to meet the needs of the family. Statistics provided such opportunities when I completed my university education. Under the present circumstances, I might have chosen some areas of information science and technology, which offers greater challenges.
You will be eighty-five this September. What plans do you have to mark this special occasion?
There are several unfinished tasks. I only hope that I will be able to complete some. The Government of Andhra Pradesh (one of the states in India) has announced plans to develop an Institute for basic research. They have named the Institute as C.R. Rao Advanced Institute for Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, the three basic sciences that have a fundamental role in the improvement of natural knowledge. Perhaps, I will spend some time in developing this Institute
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News from ISI sections Volume 29, No. 2 (86) 2005