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|
|News of Members|
|Useful Public Domain and Other Free to use Data|
|ISI Membership Elections 2005|
|Report of the ISI Nominations Committee|
|Historical Anniversaries: W.G. Cochran|
|ISI Honorary Member Interviews: W.R. van Zwet|
|ISI Committee Matters: Publications Committee|
|Memories of the Past|
|Calendar of Events|
|News from ISI sections Volume 29, No. 3 (87) 2005|
Three ISI Committees have since then worked toward obtaining Section status: the Irving Fisher Committee for Monetary and Financial Statistics, the Committee for Environmental Statistics and the Committee for Statistics in Business and Industry.
The Irving Fisher Society (IFS) was granted provisional Section status at the General Assembly in Berlin in 2003, but after surveying their members decided to postpone further steps, and the General Assembly in Sydney in 2005 accepted Council's proposal of extending this provisional status until further notice. The intention behind this is to see whether the ongoing discussions on the structure of the ISI might offer a more desirable format for the activities of the IFS.
The Committee for Environmental Statistics conducted a considerable effort in uniting several existing international activities in the area, culminating with proposing that the existing International Environmetrics Society (TIES) join the ISI family as a new Section. This proposal was ratified by the General Assembly in Sydney in 2005, and the TIES members are now voting about this.
The third effort resulted in the creation, at the General Assembly in Sydney in 2005, of the International Society for Statistics in Business and Industry (ISBIS). We are very happy to welcome ISBIS into the ISI family. ISBIS's focus on statistics in the broad areas of business and industry, including engineering, manufacturing, quality management, business and finance, service and healthcare industries, and relevant aspects of pharmaceutical industries, will provide a welcome and dearly needed supplement to the classical focus on official statistics production and various statistical techniques and statistical theory.
Do we need more Sections?
Coming from biostatistics myself, let me elaborate a little on the situation there. A standing ISI Life Sciences Committee (founding Chair: Peter Armitage, UK) was created in the aftermath of the Tokyo Session in 1987, where several influential ISI members lodged a formal complaint about the alleged meagre content about life sicences in the Tokyo Scientific Programme. The Life Sciences Committee has since then contributed to the Programme at each Session, and the International Biometric Society (IBS) has a representative on the Committee. I am working with the IBS Executive at the moment with regard to stimulating cooperation and joint arrangements at each organization's biennial Sessions/Meetings, which fortunately have been out of phase for the last several decades, ISI Meeting in odd-numbered years, IBS in even-numbered years.
Readers will note the new ‘face’, or should I say ‘faces’, adorning the cover of this issue of the ISI Newsletter. The statisticians depicted on our new cover represent but a few of the pioneers who influenced the development of statistics. We have also introduced design improvements throughout the Newsletter, and hope that these enhance the Newsletter’s readability and attractiveness. We are grateful to Statistics Netherlands employees Nanou van der Elst and Ben Rehorst for their helpful graphic design advice. Readers of this issue will also note the introduction of a new photographic column, which will provide members with some visual impressions of the ISI’s long and distinguished history. This issue includes an interesting shot taken during the Cairo Session of 1927 (note the presence of Ronald A. Fisher in the foreground). Also in this issue, the ISI History of Statistics Committee profiles the work of William Gemmell Cochran. We are grateful to Professor Willem R. van Zwet for his contributions to this issue’s ISI Honorary Member Interviews.
Recognising the importance that the ISI’s financial health is
to the continuity of our Society, special attention has been focussed on
financial issues. The ISI Investments Committee, chaired by Mr. Rudi Acx,
has been working to review the ISI’s investment policies. A new ISI Finance
Committee, chaired by Mr. Olav Ljones, has been introduced to prepare future ISI
programme budgets. In addition, the ISI Executive Committee is reviewing
publications, membership and other fundamental policies in line with the ISI
Strategic Plan’s objective #5 (amongst others!) to “put the ISI and its Sections
on a sound financial footing” (ISI Strategic Plan details can be found at
With ISI finances in mind, I would appeal to all ISI and Section members who have not yet paid their 2005 membership dues to kindly do so without delay. We have sent e-mail reminders out to those of you who still have outstanding dues payments, and would be grateful to receive your speedy payment. Should you have any questions regarding your own payment status, please contact Mr. Sieriel Hoesenie ( @cbs.nl) for details. We are grateful to all members who have already made their membership payments!
We are also beginning preparations for the 2006 financial year. Members should note that in 2006 payments are to be limited to only one currency, the Euro. For those of you who will be paying by credit card (the preferred method of payment), once we have received your authorisation to charge your credit card, the appropriate Euro amount will be charged to you, according to the daily market rate, against your own currency. To obtain an indication of what the daily market currency exchange rates are, you may wish to consult websites such as http://www.xe.com. Bank transfers and cheque payments may be processed, but only using the Euro.
Several ISI representatives were in attendance at the ASA’s August 7-11 meeting in Minneapolis, helping to promote the ISI Lisboa Session (August 22-29, 2007) as well as the other activities and products of the ISI and its Sections. We are grateful to the ASA’s management for providing us with booth space and the opportunity to interact with JSM participants.
ISI President N. Keiding and President-Elect D. Lievesley
I was pleased to attend the 25th European Meeting of Statisticians, held July 24-28, 2005, in Oslo. The Conference was very well organised, with more than 600 participants, including many young statisticians attending for the first time.The quality of the scientific presentations was high, and the Conference provided the opportunity for many Bernoulli Society members to meet and discuss Society affairs.
25th EMS Conference attendees enjoy coffee break discussions
Mr. Oscar Fernandes (left) greets ISI Director
On July 28, 2005, the Honourable Indian Minister for Statistics and Project Implementation, Mr. Oscar Fernandes, led a delegation who visited the ISI Permanent Office in Voorburg to discuss plans for the next edition of the ISI Mahalanobis Prize, as well as other issues of mutual interest. The ISI Mahalanobis Committee, chaired by Professor Lynne Billard, has kindly agreed to serve as the jury to select the next Mahalanobis Prize winner.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the 104 persons who have obtained ISI Elected Membership in the first round of the 2005 ISI membership elections. I would also like to congratulate our newest Honorary member, Mr. Dennis Trewin, who has helped to support the ISI family in many ways for several years, including his role as Chairman of the National Organising Committee for the ISI Sydney Session.
Mr. Dennis Trewin
News of Members
This past June, Professor Ehsanes A.K.M. Saleh of Carleton University and Professor James V. Zidek of the University of British Columbia (UBC) were awarded Honorary Memberships in the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC). An Honorary Member is a statistical scientist of outstanding distinction who has contributed to the development of statistics in Canada.
Professor Emeritus Saleh, ISI elected and Bernoulli Society member, was awarded the rank of Honorary Member of the SSC for his outstanding research and development of nonparametric methods for preliminary test and shrinkage estimation, auto-regression quantiles, and order statistics; for his superb service towards the development of graduate programmes at Carleton University and the training of Ph.D. and young postdoctoral fellows in statistics; for his dedicated service to the profession, especially in the creative organisation of symposia with edited volumes.
An ISI elected member, Professor Zidek's fundamental research contributions range from theoretical foundations for decision making to environmental modelling of spatial air pollution data. For his work, he has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was awarded the SSC Gold Medal in 2000, the Ninth Eugene Lukacs Symposium Distinguished Service Award, the Distinguished Achievement Medal of the Environmental Statistics Section of the ASA, and the Izaak Walton Killam Research Prize. He has served the statistical community in many ways, including as NSERC Group Chair of the Mathematical Sciences and President of the Statistical Society of Canada. Professor Zidek was also the first Head of UBC's Department of Statistics.
At the same time, the SSC awarded ISI elected member Professor Jiahua Chen of the University of Waterloo the CRM-SSC Prize for 2005. The SSC-CRM Prize is awarded annually by the SSC and the Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) in recognition of a statistical scientist’s professional accomplishments in research during the first fifteen years after earning a doctorate.
Professor Jiahua Chen
Professor Chen's research is remarkable for its breadth, depth and quality. Within 15 years of his Ph.D., he has made major sustained contributions to three areas: design of experiments, inference for mixtures and survey methodology. Professor Chen combines powerful mathematical ability with keen insight into what is statistically important. His work combines deep theory and practical methodology for dealing with difficult issues. Professor Chen has written papers on many other topics including fish surveys, fractals, genetics and robust estimation.
Professor David F. Andrews
In June, the SSC also awarded Professor David F. Andrews of the University of Toronto, an ISI elected and IASC member, the 2005 SSC Gold Medal. The Gold Medal of the Society is awarded to a person who has made substantial contributions to statistics, or to probability, either to mathematical developments or in applied work. The Gold Medal is intended to honour current leaders in their fields.
Professor Andrews was awarded the Gold Medal for his pioneering research contributions in the areas of robustness, graphics and symbolic computation, for his leadership at the University of Toronto and in the Canadian statistics profession, and for inspiring many students with his infectious teaching and his love of statistical science.
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 recognised by the Bangladeshi-American Foundation, Inc., as the most distinguished Bangladeshi-American statistician and was awarded the “Our Pride Award” by the Foundation at a convention held in the Greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. The Award was given in recognition of Professor Ali’s distinguished career as an academician and his significant contribution in the field of statistics. Present at the Award Ceremony were, among others, Officials of the United States State Department and the Bangladesh Embassy.
Please send in news items! We depend on our members to make "News of Members" newsworthy!
The ISI regrets to announce the death of our colleagues:
In Memoriam: M.P. Singh
Dr. Mangala P. Singh (1941-2005)
Dr. Mangala P. Singh was born in India on December 26th, 1941, and received his Ph.D. in 1969 from the Indian Statistical Institute, with a specialization in survey sampling. He joined Statistics Canada in 1970, where he rose to the position of Director of Household Survey Methods Division in 1994, a position he held at his death.
M.P., as he was known to everyone, was a leading figure in the application of statistical methods at Statistics Canada. He was probably most closely associated with the Labour Force Survey, one of the agency’s most important surveys. He directed the methodology of the LFS through redesigns in the 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s and early 21st century, introducing innovations at every turn, but always ensuring that changes were well-tested and sound. In the later years of his career, he also oversaw the development of several new and innovative health surveys and directed the development of statistical programs in the areas of household expenditures, education and justice.
M.P.’s role as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Survey Methodology had a transformative effect on the profession of survey methodology, both in Canada and abroad. M.P. was the founding editor of the journal, and for 30 years he guided its evolution into a flagship publication of Statistics Canada. Thanks to his ability to attract a stellar team of associate editors and contributors, Survey Methodology is now recognized as one of the pre-eminent journals of its kind in the world. Even in recent years, M.P. continued to introduce innovations such as the Waksberg series of papers and electronic publishing.
M.P. was a source of many other “big ideas” throughout his career at Statistics Canada. During the 1970’s, he was instrumental in gaining support for the idea of stable funding for methodology research, and he personally chaired the Methodology Research and Development Committee in its formative years. He encouraged numerous researchers and went out of his way to make them feel at home at Statistics Canada. Turning 60 did not stem the flow of ideas in any way. M.P. devoted considerable energy in the past four years to his proposal for a major overhaul of the way household surveys are conducted in Canada. As a result of his efforts, people throughout Statistics Canada are working on ways to implement his vision, and his influence on Canada’s household surveys will be felt for many years.
M.P. had a special love for statistical research and for statistics as a profession. He personally authored over 40 papers in international journals, co-edited two books published by Wiley and Sons, and organized sessions and presented papers at numerous statistical conferences. He served on various committees and task forces of the Statistical Society of Canada, the International Statistical Institute and the American Statistical Association. He also served as Secretary of Statistics Canada’s external Advisory Committee on Statistical Methods. In turn, the profession honoured him; he was elected to the International Statistical Institute in 1975, and in 1988 he became a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.
However, it is his influence on an entire generation of statisticians that may be his greatest legacy. He was a mentor, a coach, a patriarch and a friend to all who knew him. He inspired others to give their best, and they did. He was always ready with a laugh, a smile and a friendly word of encouragement. He dedicated his life to the profession of statistics and it is through those whom he touched that his true contribution is measured.
He is survived by his wife Savitri, his two daughters Mala and Mamta, and his son Rahul.
Don Royce and Jack Gambino
Useful Public Domain and Other Free to use Data
There is a great deal of data available on the web, but often use of these data required a lot of permission, and sometimes permission is difficult to obtain.
On the other hand, the United States Government has data on a
variety of topics, for example, GDP, infant mortality, popula-tion, literacy
rates, energy consumption and production, and food consumption for most
countries of the world, and even trend data for some of these, and the use of
these data do not require any permission as they are public domain. According to
the U.S. Copyright Office, in Circular 1, Copyright Basics, “Works by the U.S.
Government are not eligible for U.S. copy-right protection.”
There are also a few other sites with data, not public domain, but which are free to use for academic and non-commercial use, and which do not require permission. These include the Food and Agricultural Organization, The PRIO/Uppsala Armed Conflict Dataset, EuropaStat, and the Penn World Tables.
I will first describe the U.S. Government data, and then the additional data sets.
The data at the U.S. Government is not always organized for easy access, e.g. existing in html format only or in many separate tables. However, when reorganized, these data may be useful for research and for teaching many topics. For example, I have posted data sets compiled from U.S. Government data, at http://gsociology.icaap.org/dataupload.html . These data sets contain many of the variables described below. I used these data to prepare presentations showing population and population growth trends for the world and by region. I have also created a data set with the U.S. data, and with additional variables from other sources, such as the Freedom House, literacy rates from UNESCO, and two quality of life scales. This data set can be used to show that GDP per capita, literacy rate and infant mortality rates correlate very well with these quality of life scales (0.71 to 0.85). Thus, use of these public domain data can show that quality of life can be understood as a fairly simple concept. Also, creating this data set makes resources for research or teaching about social topics such as quality of life much more accessible to everyone.
U.S. Government Data
Population data are available from
http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbnew.html , the U.S.
Census Bureau’s International Data Base. As described in a previous Newsletter
(Vol. 27, No. 1), this data set contains fairly complete data for vital rates
and infant mortality for the years 1990 to 2000, and age distribution is almost
complete for 2000. There is also complete population data
and projections for 1950 to 2050. Data for most other variables are not as
complete.The Department of Energy has a database on energy consumption,
production, and prices for the world, regions and countries at
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/ . Most of
these data are in xls format. There are data sets for total energy and by type
(petroleum, electricity, coal, etc.) There are also data for carbon dioxide
emissions, GDP and GDP per capita and population. These data are available from
1980 through 2002. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has international
food consumption patterns at
This data set includes share of budget spent on food for 114 countries, and
income and price elasticity for food and broad consumption groups. These data
may be used for teaching, for example, in pointing out that share of the budget
spent on food correlates highly with GDP per capita and infant mortality rates
(0.7 or above). The CIA World Factbook,
The Eurostat website http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/pls/portal has this copyright notice, “Reproduction is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged, save where otherwise stated.” at http://europa.eu.int/geninfo/legal_notices_en.htm . This site has population, health, economic and other data for EU countries. Many of these tables are predefined and so easy to transport to spreadsheets. For example, there is GDP per capita for 34 countries from 1995 to 2006, gross wages and salaries for most of these countries for 1996/7, and consumer price indices for most countries for most of these years. A lot of other data are available through selection boxes, although I did not find these easy to use. Eurostat also has PDF publications, such as the Eurostat Yearbook at http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/pls/portal/url/page/pgp_ds_yearbook/pge_ds_yearbook_01 . This has demographic and social data (e.g. marriage, divorce) in tables that can be copied to spreadsheets.
The Center for the Study of Civil War at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) & Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, http://www.prio.no/cwp/ArmedConflict/ has the Uppsala Armed Conflict Dataset. This web page offers access to the 1946-2003 armed conflict data, structured for quantitative analysis. These data are available for research and teaching use, and do not need permission for use (personal communication, 2005).
Penn World Tables
Penn World Tables at Center for International Comparisons at the University of Pennsylvania, http://pwt.econ.upenn.edu/ . These data include population, GDP, GDP per capita, sector shares of GDP, savings, ratio of GNP to GDP, among others. Many of these variables are available for more than 120 countries from 1990 through 2000. The data can be downloaded as one complete file or by selected variable, selected countries and selected years. These data are also available for use without the need for requesting permission (personal communication, 2005).
Use and Citation of Data
While all of these data sets are freely available for use for research and teaching, in most cases, they cannot be used for commercial purposes, at least not without specific written permission. Also, researchers and educators should include full citations and links back to the original data.
ISI Membership Elections 2005
We would like to congratulate our new Honorary member and the 104 new ISI elected members, who were elected in the first round of the 2005 ISI membership elections. For those who wish to contact any of these individuals, please note that the ISI website contains a component including the names and addresses of all ISI members (see https://www.isi-web.org/404?ISImembers.PDF ), and these new members will be added to this list in the coming weeks.
Trewin, Dennis J. (Australia)
Kano, Yutaka (Japan)
Report of the ISI Nominations Committee
At the ISI Session in Sydney, the Nominations Committee, consisting of the
following members, was designated with the
The Committee took into consideration the geographical distribution of the Council, as well as the different areas of statistics, and examined in detail the proposals of ISI members given both before and during the Sydney Session. The final slate that resulted is:
Proposals for President-Elect (2007-2009):
Orhan Güvenen (Turkey)
Jef L. Teugels (Belgium)
Proposals for Vice-Presidents (2007-2009):
Louis Chen (Singapore)
Len Cook (New Zealand)
Stephan Morgenthaler (Switzerland)
Vijayan N. Nair (Malaysia)
Yutaka Tanaka (Japan)
Norbert Victor (Germany)
Proposals for Council Members (2007-2011):
Jaromir Antoch (Czech Republic)
Carolee Bush (USA)
Alicia L. Carriquiry (Uruguay)
Tim Dunne (South Africa)
Ursula Gather (Germany)
Mathisca de Gunst (The Netherlands)
Genshiro Kitagawa (Japan)
Jung-Jin Lee (Korea)
Individual members of the ISI may nominate candidates by petition provided
Historical Anniversaries: William Gemmell Cochran
Professor W.G. Cochran (1909-1980)
It has now been twenty-five years since the statistical community lost one of its leading members. William Cochran died March 29, 1980. During the 1970’s, I was part of the younger generation of statisticians. At that time, I had the privilege of meeting him twice, once at the ISI Session in New Delhi and once when he visited my department at the University of Western Ontario. I recall him as a warm and generous man with a wonderfully dry sense of humour.
Born in Scotland, Cochran received his undergraduate education at the University of Glasgow. From there, he studied at Cambridge and it was there that he took his first statistics course from John Wishart. While Cochran was working on a doctoral degree, Frank Yates persuaded Cochran to drop his academic studies. Yates felt that Cochran would learn more about statistics doing practical work. Cochran left Cambridge in 1934 and joined Yates at Rothamsted Experimental Station. It was at Rothamsted that Cochran began work in two of the fields for which he is famous, experimental designs and sample surveys. After a visit to the Iowa Statistical Laboratory in 1938, the next year Cochran immigrated to the United States where he held several prominent faculty positions (Iowa State, 1938, Princeton, 1943, North Carolina, 1946, Johns Hopkins, 1949, Harvard, 1957) until his retirement in 1976 from Harvard University. It was at Johns Hopkins that Cochran became involved in medical applications of statistics, thus leading to the third field for which he is famous, biostatistics. He continued his work in all three fields for the rest of his career. His books, Sampling Techniques and Experimental Designs, co-authored with Gertrude Cox, were first written while he was at Johns Hopkins. Although he never held a Ph.D. degree, he supervised over forty Ph.D. students during his academic career.
Cochran did much research work outside the walls of academia. For example, he served for many years on an advisory panel to the U.S. Census. He also did work for the U.S. Public Health Service, serving as the statistical representative for their research programme on the effects of smoking on lung cancer. He also chaired an advisory committee to the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee for Research on Problems of Sex that looked into the use of statistics in the famed Kinsey Report (the subject of a recent movie), whose real title is Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male.
Between his own research and his work on advisory committees, Cochran fit in other important contributions to the profession. He not only served as President of the International Statistical Institute, he also took on the presidencies of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the American Statistical Association and the International Biometric Society.
ISI Honorary Member Interviews: Professor Willem R. van Zwet
Professor Willem R. van Zwet
You have been associated with the University of Leiden throughout your career. Why Leiden?
A few months after my Ph.D., I accepted an appointment at Leiden starting January 1, 1965. However, in October ‘64, I got an offer to spend a semester in the United States, also starting in January ’65. In those days, such opportunities were still fairly rare and I really wanted to go. With some trepidation, I approached Dr. Hofstee, the Secretary of the University of Leiden at a reception and asked him what his reaction would be if I’d ask for six months’ leave of absence starting the day I was appointed. He looked at me in silence for a while and then said: “This University has done quite well without teaching statistics for 390 years, so I don’t think another six months would do any great harm”. This attitude has prevailed throughout my 34 years of tenure. Leiden always encourages its scholars to spend time at other interesting places. Though we have no formal sabbaticals, I think that I spent some 15- 20% of my time as a visitor elsewhere, at Berkeley and Chapel Hill in particular. Being a visitor has many advantages. You can work with excellent people without having any administrative duties, and everybody is nice to you because you are not competing with them for promotion, etc. In short, I never felt an urge to leave Leiden. When I retired in 1999, I was the longest serving full professor at the University, so even for Dutch standards my loyalty was somewhat exceptional.
Who influenced your career the most and how?
I must be easily influenced because my career took some sharp turns under the influence of a number of people. I started out as a physics student, but in those days you needed two majors, typically physics and mathematics. While the mathematics teachers tried to instill some sense of rigor into you, the experimental physicists who taught us seemed to be using mathematics in really strange ways. At first, I thought it was due to my own stupidity that I could not understand their arguments, but a superb mathematics teacher, algebraist and number theorist Kloosterman made me see that I just wasn’t cut out to be a physicist and I switched to pure mathematics. Later, I experienced the lure of probability and statistics, first as a master’s student with Van Dantzig and then as a Ph.D. student of his successor Jan Hemelrijk, who taught me the fun of extracting unexpected information from numbers. As a fourth influence from a distance, I should mention Erich Lehmann whose books and later his personality deeply impressed me. I’m very proud that Erich is an honorary doctor of the University of Leiden.
Of all your accomplishments, which one in particular are you most proud of achieving?
I don’t suppose you want me to discuss theorems since proving them is a matter of joy rather than pride. From 1970 on, I was heavily involved in the organization of the European Meetings of Statisticians. Some of us felt that these meetings would be an ideal vehicle for establishing and maintaining scientific contacts with our colleagues in Eastern Europe (including the Soviet Union) many of whom suffered from complete isolation. It was a long process, but working together with some of these colleagues, we did succeed in enabling some of them to attend meetings in Western Europe and – even more importantly – organizing European Meetings in Budapest, Prague, Varna, Wroclaw and East Berlin, and finally a world meeting in Tashkent. Especially in the Soviet Union, this was an exercise in doing what was possible. Thanks to our friends, we could avoid dealing with formal organizations or agents of the communist regimes, but there was a limit to what could be achieved. It quickly became clear, for instance, that inviting known dissenters was hopeless. Of course, there were people who felt that one should strictly uphold the principle that anyone should be free to travel, and therefore never take part in a meeting as long as some people were not allowed to participate. On the other side were those who felt that one should simply accept whatever delegation the communist authorities decided to send. We sailed a middle course between these extremes and adopted the rule of behavior that we would take part in a joint activity as long as our Eastern European friends felt we should do so. Clearly, we found the right friends and in statistics there were much better contacts between East and West than in most other sciences. I’m a little proud of having taken part in that effort.
You have been associated with Charles University in Prague for a long time, including receiving an honorary doctorate in 1997. How did this relationship start?
Early on in the sixties, I attended a meeting in Prague on information theory and related topics which provided one of the first opportunities to meet Czech statisticians. Later, I met Jaroslav Hajek the head of the department at Charles University. He was in a position where he could travel and one day he showed up at a meeting at the German institute at Oberwolfach in an old car with a trunk full of Czech beer, which is the best in the world. Apart from the beer, we had quite a few common interests. We met in various places and I was much impressed by his work. Unfortunately, he died of kidney failure a few years later, but by that time I had come to know his collaborators in Prague and decided to keep in touch. Over the years, some of them visited The Netherlands and I took every chance to go to Prague, which incidentally is the most beautiful city in Europe.
At different times you were president of the Bernoulli Society, IMS and ISI, and a member of the board of Directors of ASA. Can you comment on the similarities and the differences between these statistical societies?
Bernoulli and IMS are very similar. Both are international academic societies for mathematical statistics and probability, within the field of the mathematical sciences. Their main business is organizing top level journals and scientific meetings and doing so at minimal cost to their members. IMS has a long history in publishing excellent and inexpensive journals, and perhaps Bernoulli organizes slightly better meetings. They are run by academics in a usually friendly atmosphere. Right now, their main problem is how to cope with electronic publication. The ISI has a much wider scope. To my mind, its role is to keep open channels of communication between all of the many kinds of statisticians. I confess that when I chaired the organizing committee for the Centenary Session of the ISI in Amsterdam in 1985, I had never before met Begeer, the Director General of Statistics Netherlands, and I think our collaboration was an eye opener for both of us. Because the different types of statistician often have very different interests with sometimes relatively little overlap, the ISI is always in danger of discussing the empty set. This is why the Sections are of fundamental importance to the ISI: next to a forum for general discussions, we need meeting points for experts. When the Bernoulli Society was founded, I remember Maurice Kendall warning us that the Sections should not become the tails wagging the dog. At the same time, the wise ISI Director Bart Lunenberg kept telling us that at some point the ISI should properly define its relationship with the Sections, but I’m afraid this is still not entirely clear. The ASA has as broad a constituency in the US as the ISI has worldwide, but since it is much larger, the problems of keeping things together are even more difficult and its infrastructure of sections and chapters doesn’t seem to be strong enough to achieve this. Their large hotel meetings are fragmented but JASA is a strength to be treasured.
You have been Editor of The Annals of Statistics and Bernoulli. Can you tell us a little about your experiences in this area?
I became Editor of The Annals after I had been Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Leiden for some time. I felt I needed to get back into statistics and this seemed an excellent opportunity. The Annals still had a single editor in those days and for three and a half years, I spent 80% of my time on the job handling nearly 400 submissions a year. I had a superb editorial board whose judgment I could trust 99% of the time, but I still read many papers myself to keep a feeling of what we were doing. The main difficulty of a journal editor is the inherent conflict between authors, referees and associate editors. Understandably, authors want their papers reviewed and accepted as quickly as possible, and some already start complaining after a month or so. Good referees are in much demand and for most, refereeing is not the first order of business. Usually things turn out all right and, in most cases, reports are forthcoming within a reasonable amount of time. However, after a few years, you see the first cases of associate editor’s burnout: someone who has been performing wonderfully well suddenly stops doing anything at all. It takes a while before you find out, but then you have a real problem that can only be solved with a little patience of all concerned. Some authors lack this patience and start to write angry or insulting letters to the editor. I always sent a civil reply and only drew the line when one author compared me with Adolf Hitler. Later, when I was on the Board of IMS, I was told that there was a file of letters to the President of IMS at the time requesting that I be fired. Luckily, there were also many authors who were pleased with their treatment and with the help they received from the editorial board to improve their papers. Compared to these years in the trenches, the editorship of Bernoulli was a breeze; only 125 submissions a year and Sara van de Geer as an able Co-Editor to help out. I also noticed a change in authors’ behavior, as I received only one insulting letter and there were no requests to have me fired. I’m not sure whether people have become more civilized, or whether they just became more scared of me with increasing age.
What was the most memorable part of your involvement with the ISI?
There were so many memorable moments, but most are unfit for publication! Perhaps I performed one service for the ISI that was really helpful. I chaired a committee to consider possible changes in the format of the ISI Sessions. In this committee, we tackled the problem of the working languages of the ISI. There was a rule that every invited paper meeting at a Session had to have simultaneous translation into the working languages, English and French. This was hideously expensive for the organizers, and as a result there was another rule that there could be no more than 30 invited papers meetings. This severely limited the scope of the Session and made a broad coverage of statistics impossible. Moreover, for technical topics, the translators were usually unable to provide a reasonable translation anyhow. The committee proposed to have mandatory simultaneous translation only for a limited number of specific meetings. In due course, the new policy was adopted and we now have some 80 invited paper meetings which allow sufficient coverage of the field.
As a past organizer of an ISI Session, do you have any advice for future Session organizers?
When I acted as master of ceremonies during the Opening Ceremony of the Centenary Session of the ISI in Amsterdam, I asked someone to put the text of my opening remarks on the lectern so that I wouldn’t have to fumble with sheets of paper when I got on the podium. Of course he forgot, and I was standing there without notes and with only a vague idea of what to say, whom to thank, etc. Somehow I survived, but when I sat down again, Queen Beatrix who attended the ceremony said something like “That wasn’t very smart, was it?” Since then, I would strongly recommend keeping your text with you at all times.
Can you please tell us something about your involvement with EURANDOM?
From 1989 to 1992, I served on a committee that was supposed to report to the Dutch Minister of Education about the state of mathematics in The Netherlands. I wrote parts of the report and inserted a suggestion to start a European institute of statistics, probability and probabilistic operations research. In the many preliminary versions of the report, this suggestion disappeared and then returned a number of times, but in the end after an apparently even number of transitions, some form of it survived. European science collaboration was a popular topic at the time. To my surprise, it turned out that there was startup money available for such an initiative, so I enlisted the help of my colleagues Jaap Wessels in operations research and Mike Keane in probability and we wrote a proposal. Jaap came up with the name EURANDOM which is an acronym for something that is impossible to remember. Supported by the Ministry of Education and Eindhoven University of Technology, we started in 1997 with money for some 25 postdocs for 5 years and I signed up as Scientific Director for the first 3 years. After 8 years, EURANDOM is doing fine!
If you were to start all over again and choose a profession other than statistics, what would you want to be?
When I retired in 1999, my friend and colleague Jaap Fabius wrote in a liber amicorum that he would have been interested to see how my career would have developed if I had studied classical languages. I think I can answer that question since I have first hand experience with classicists such as my mother and sister. Let me assure you that in my family talent for these subjects runs strictly in the female line.
Has any member of your family been active in statistics?
My father was a lawyer, but as an amateur statistician he owned a copy of the book of Yule and Kendall and was one of the first members of The Netherlands Statistical Society when it was founded after World War II. In those days, certain bond issues were redeemed over a period of 10 years by drawing the numbers of 10% of the bonds at random each year and redeeming the bonds corresponding to these numbers. Of course, it could be an advantage or disadvantage if the bonds you owned were redeemed, depending on the change of the interest rate since they were issued. Using a chi-squared test, my dad showed quite convincingly year after year that these lotteries were a complete fake. These findings actually got published, but nobody seemed to mind! My son Erik is a professional statistician who got his Ph.D. in 1999 with Richard Gill and spent time at Chapel Hill, Hannover, Perth and Seattle as a graduate student. As a postdoc, he worked on travel time prediction at Berkeley and is now back in The Netherlands.
ISI Committee Matters: Publications Committee
The Publications Committee is responsible for advising the ISI President and the Permanent Office on matters concerning publications. The principal ones are the International Statistical Review (ISR), Short Book Reviews (SBR) and Statistical Theory and Method Abstracts-Zentralblatt (STMA-Z). The Committee consists of members appointed by the ISI President, members appointed by ISI Sections, and the Editors of the publications.
The Committee met on April 8th at the 2005 ISI Session in Sydney. The ISI Permanent Office representative, Shabani Mehta, also attended. The agenda and proceedings included substantial discussions of the ISR, STMA-Z and SBR. The great value of each publication was acknowledged by those present. The representative of the International Association of Statistical Education (IASE) wished for greater coverage of educational journals and concern with the special needs of small universities. There was no disagreement concerning that.
For the last two years, the work of the ISI Council and Permanent Office has been dominated by the problem of declining revenues and rising costs. This situation has strongly affected the discussions of the Publications Committee. The next remarks address the principal publications individually.
1. ISR: Asta Manninen’s term as Joint Editor with responsibilities including official statistics has ended. Ms. Manninen’s many contributions are valued. Her replacement is Jarig van Sinderen, Deputy Director- General of Statistics Netherlands. The possibility of outsourcing all or parts of the production and marketing (with the purpose of increasing income and/or decreasing expenses) is being explored by an ad hoc committee, which will report to the Council.
2. STMA-Z: Constance van Eeden, Bert van Es and Klaas van Harn’s terms as Editors of STMA has ended. The ISI is appreciative of their contributions. STMA is being published by FIZ Karlsruhe as part of their Zentralblatt where it will be known as STMA-Z. The ISI website version will remain free to members until the end of 2005. There will be a reduced STMA-Z subscription rate for ISI members and enhanced coverage of topics.
3. SBR: Agnes Herzberg’s term as Editor will end 1 July 2006. We are grateful to Dr. Herzberg for her many years of service. Her replacement is David Bellhouse of the University of Western Ontario. SBR will become a component of the ISR starting 1 January 2007.
4. Web publication will continue to the extent possible.
The Council has voted on and approved several of these items.
Great thanks from the Committee are due to many: Steve Stigler, ISI Past President; Daniel Berze, Director ISI Permanent Office; Asta Manninen, retired Joint Editor of the ISR; Shabani Mehta, ISI Permanent Office representative to the Committee; Agnes Herzberg, retiring SBR Editor; Constance van Eeden, retired Editor of STMA; Eugene Seneta, Joint Editor of the ISR. My personal thanks go to the Committee members.
David R. Brillinger
Memories of the ISI's Past
Participants of the ISI Cairo Session of 1927 in front of a
sphinx and pyramid
|News from ISI Sections:|
|Volume 29 No 2 (86) 2005|
|Volume 29 No 1 (85) 2005|
|Volume 28 No 3 (84) 2004|
|Volume 28 No 2 (83) 2004|
|Volume 28 No 1 (82) 2004|
|Volume 27 No 3 (81) 2003|
|Volume 27 No 2 (80) 2003|
|Volume 27 No 1 (79) 2003|
|Volume 26 No 3 (78) 2002|
|Volume 26 No 2 (77) 2002|
|Volume 26 No 1 (76) 2002|
|Volume 25 No 3 (75) 2001|