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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.
Editors: Mr. D. Berze and Ms. S. Mehta, Graphic Designer: Mr. H. Lucas
In this online Issue Message from the President Message from the Director ICAS-4 56th ISI Session in Lisboa, Portugal News of Members In Memoriam ISI Officers’ Elections Results ISI Membership Elections 2006 Honorary Member Interviews: Dennis J. Trewin The OECD Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies Memories of the ISI's Past ISI Multilingual Glossary of Statistical Terms Calendar of Events News from ISI sections Volume 31, No. 1 (91) 2007
Message from the President
As I wrote here a year ago, our organisation needs to periodically look at its own structure and update when necessary. To this end, the Executive Committee appointed an ad hoc committee of 10 ISI members, with strong experience and responsibilities in the ISI and its Sections, and chaired by Vice-President Nick Fisher. The Restructuring Committee has worked hard through 2006 and is now putting its final touches to a report for broad circulation.
Before we see the final detailed recommendations, I thought it useful to step back and consider the basic reasons for spending all these efforts on structure. After all, the content of our work is what really matters!
Our mission is
To promote the understanding, development, and good
practice of Statistics worldwide
and here the particularly ambitious issue is that we want to do this for all branches of statistical activity together.
The challenges are not small. We want to maintain a leading role in setting ethical and professional standards and show how statistics and statisticians form a capacity for independent judgment in methods and practice. We would like to help development of statistics in the developing countries of the world. New technologies influence the way we do statistics, but also the way we can operate, not least in less affluent areas of the world. The subject matter area of statistics is changing, with an important example being biotechnology. We need to maintain an up-to-date development of young statisticians. And to close the circle: strengthen the place of statistics in government as well as business, industry and academia.
The Section concept was inaugurated in the ISI in 1957 – exactly 50 years ago – with the dual purposes of stimulating the core ISI consisting of elected members by opening lively windows to important special areas of statistics, and of providing a home for these specific activities on their own merits.
The second of these purposes thrives in this era of increasing specialisation. We have several very well-established Sections with their conferences, journals and courses. Their activities form a very important component of the ISI family, and would in itself justify some organisation.
From the viewpoint of the core ISI, we want however to maintain the ambition of also having a forum for interaction between the different areas of statistics.
In my view, this is primarily for the benefit of ourselves as statisticians: We understand our roles much better when we identify as a member of those whose responsibility it is to provide honest and competent collection and analysis of quantitative data. (For a recent example of interdisciplinary aspects, see my comments in the last issue on conflicts of interest in statistical work.)
At the moment, the most tangible joint ISI activities are the biennial Sessions, which thrive with steadily increasing participation and ever wider and deeper scientific content, and with the International Statistical Review, being at the moment in strong and good hands. These activities would in itself justify a strong and updated organisational back-up.
However, it is also important for statistics as a subject that there is a forum that can formalise the coherence of all statistics toward the outside world. A strong ISI should be able to speak up on the basis of well-developed contacts between our different skills. Maybe we could even enhance our concrete bargaining power by keeping together, across statistical areas and nationalities.
How can we combine our strong assets: The respected distinction of the elected membership, and the strong dynamics of the specialised Sections, to conserve and further develop also the core activities of the ISI?
I mentioned in my column a year ago the possibility of acknowledging the strength of the Sections directly and explicitly by changing to one form of membership, open to all. The Sections would maintain their independence, and would be expected to continue and further develop their current excellent work. They would, in addition, naturally assume stronger responsibility for the core ISI activities. The distinction of the elected membership would be maintained through the creation of a category of ‘fellows’, to which all existing elected members would be transferred, and into which new members would be elected following rules of a similar spirit as now.
The Restructuring Committee has focused on this particular model, which has turned out to require very detailed evaluation. The Committee is coming to the strong conviction that their development of this model will be their recommendation. We will all soon get to the specific discussions of governance, fees, etc. Hopefully, we will not forget the ultimate purpose, which is to strengthen and further develop the ISI family in the 21st century.
Message from the Director
T Recalling the John Henry Newman aphorism that ‘growth is the only evidence of life‘, with the New Year beginning to spread out before us, there is abundant evidence of life throughout the ISI family!
An organisation such as the ISI, which has existed as far back as 1885, must constantly contemplate changes in its structure, operations, products and services in order to remain valid and effective to its members and to society at large. Examples of recent and forthcoming changes are:
• New publishing arrangements: As was mentioned in the previous issue of the ISI Newsletter, beginning in 2007, Short Book Reviews will become a component of the International Statistical Review, which will now be published by Blackwell. We hope that this will provide members with an informative high-quality and cost-efficient flagship publication that is more effectively marketed throughout the world. Also, the Bernoulli Society has announced that beginning in 2007, its journal Bernoulli will be published in association with the IMS, thereby broadening the links of potential subscribers and reducing production and dissemination costs.
• Conferences: Participants at the forthcoming ISI Session in Lisboa (for ISI Lisboa Session details, please see http://www.isi2007.com.pt) will witness several interesting changes. Plans are underway to record a significant portion of the scientific proceedings, which will later be made available to both participants and non-participants (taking advantage of recent web streaming technology). Also, a special effort will be made to embrace new Session participants, with Vice-President Len Cook organising a special event at the ISI Lisboa Session for first-time participants of ISI Sessions. The Session hosts will be providing participants with a booklet containing the abstracts of all scientific presentations in their conference bag, and a CD-ROM of the final proceedings will be available to all participants and ISI/Section members after the Session. ‘Print-on-demand’ facilities will also be available to participants wishing to have specific papers printed out on the spot. Also, Vice-President Gilbert Saporta will be conducting a survey of Session participants (and non-participants) to see how we can better structure ISI Sessions in the future, according to our members’ requirements.
Regarding forthcoming changes in ISI management, it is my pleasure to announce that the results of the recent ISI Officers` elections can be found here. We are grateful to all candidates for their enthusiasm and willingness to support the ISI. The newly elected team, under the leadership of incoming President Professor Denise Lievesley, will start its work at the completion of the Lisboa Session on August 30, 2007.
We are very grateful to those members who have already paid their 2007 membership dues. If you have not already done so, please feel free to utilise the new electronic payment website at https://www.isi-web.org/404?intro-payment.htm. We will be making efforts to improve upon this electronic web service in the future, in addition to continually adding information to the newly structured ISI website (see http://isi.cbs.nl).
The IASE’s ‘International Statistical Literacy Project’ (ISLP) is presently undergoing some interesting changes. Under the leadership of Carol Joyce Blumberg from its start in 2001 up to now, Carol constructed a website that offered a gateway on Internet towards Statistical Literacy and towards the IASE. Juana Sanchez is taking over and has great plans for the future of the ISLP initiative. You can read more about forthcoming plans at http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~iase/islp/.
I am pleased to announce the election of 21 new ISI members in the second round of the ISI membership elections. The total number of new members elected in 2006 is 109. A list of the 109 new members can be found here.
Before the end of 2007, we will witness many more proposals for changes that are being considered, in particular, as pertains to the ISI’s membership structure. While such changes might be unsettling at first impression, we must not forget that we must ensure the long-term continuity of our organisation, as previous ISI members have done before us. At present, we have some serious demographic imbalances in our membership, for example:
1. More than 50% of our membership is 60 years of age or older (with 83% of the membership aged 50 years of age or older). In spite of our intensive membership campaign efforts, we are not attracting enough young members. If we cannot address this problem successfully in the near future, our membership base will disappear as a result of natural attrition.
2. With 86% of our members being male and 14% female, there are a disproportionate number of female members to male. We need to attract more female members.
3. Finally, we have not been successful in attracting a proportionate number of members from developing countries. The majority of our members (89%) come from developed countries. We must cater to the special needs of members from these regions, and be sensitive to their economic limitations.
The ISI Restructuring Committee, chaired by Vice-President Nicholas Fisher, is moving ahead in the process to identify a new potential membership structure. This will require a great deal of flexibility, dialogue and an unprejudiced exchange of ideas in order to ensure its success. However, as Samuel Johnson said, “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome”.
I look forward to reporting upon additional news taking place within the ISI family in the course of 2007. Again quoting John Henry Newman, ‘If you don’t create change, change will create you’.
The Fourth International Conference on Agricultural Statistics (ICAS-4) will take place on 22-24 October, 2007 at the "Friendship Hotel" in Beijing, China. The Conference will be hosted by the National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS) and sponsored by Eurostat, FAO, ISI, UNSD, and the World Bank with the Programme Committee chaired by FAO. It is the fourth in the series of ICAS conferences conducted under the framework evolved by the ISI Committee on Agricultural Statistics.
The Conference will focus on the fundamental issues related to the development of agricultural statistics within an integrated national statistical system. Through discussion and debate, the Conference will provide a forum to facilitate a better understanding of the relationship between economic, social, political, and geographic issues related to rural development and the reduction of poverty; and ultimately to identify, maintain, and establish the core indicators needed for policy and decision making. To promote wide use of agricultural statistics, the Conference will, in particular, stress the importance of statistical harmonization and the need for comparability between countries.
The conference is open to the entire international agricultural statistical community. Given the location of the Conference, agricultural statisticians with experience of Asia are particularly encouraged to participate. Prospective participants are welcome to contribute papers to any of the proposed sessions.
Updated information can be viewed at:
Other enquiries for ICAS4 should be directed to:
56th ISI Session in Lisboa, Portugal
22-29 August 2007, Lisboa, Portugal
Registration and Paper Submission
Registration, abstract and paper submission is open for the 56th Session of the International Statistical Institute (ISI), which will be held in Lisboa, Portugal, 22-29 August 2007.
Did you know that you can also submit your papers online? See Information Bulletin I or the website
http://www.isi2007.com.pt/isi2007 for more details.
Have you received your copy of Information Bulletin I? Information Bulletin I provides the latest details on the arrangements for the 2007 ISI Session and the registration form, which is also available online at
If you have not received your copy or have any difficulty accessing it online, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and a copy will be sent to you.
As you have come to expect, the Scientific Programme for the Lisboa Session of the ISI is wide-ranging and includes world class speakers.
Preparations for the Scientific Programme are going as planned. Organisers were appointed to each of the 94 Invited Paper Meetings (IPM) and 36 Special Topic Contributed Paper Meetings (STCPM). Of course, you can still submit your paper for a Contributed Paper Meeting (CPM), but please be aware of the key dates for submission and registration indicated below.
To date, we already have a substantial number of those involved with IPM and STCPM meetings pre-registered on the ISI website (see counts on table below), and abstracts and titles are available for 100 Invited Papers, 7 STCPM papers, and 44 CPMs.
Type of participant
The Scientific Programme will be supplemented with tutorials and short courses. Full details on the Scientific Programme, including the list of Invited and Contributed Paper Meetings, are available on the 2007 ISI website at http://www.isi2007.com.pt/isi2007. The website will be updated regularly with the latest news about the Scientific Programme as preparations progress, so keep an eye on the website.
There are several Satellite Meetings being arranged either before or after the ISI Session in Lisboa, Portugal. By combining the ISI Session with one of the Satellite Meetings, you may be able to get greater value from the time you will spend travelling to and in Portugal.
Nine Satellite Meetings are already decided:
• Advances in Semiparametric Methods and Applications (Bernoulli Society, Lisbon);
• Statistics for Data Mining, Learning and Knowledge Extraction (IASC, Aveiro);
• Probability and Statistics in Science and Technology (Bernoulli Society, Porto);
• Assessing Student Learning in Statistics (IASE, Guimaraes);
• ISBIS 2007 (ISBIS, Azores);
• Small Area Estimation (IASS, Pisa - Italy);
• International Conference on Statistical Methods for Risk Analysis (ICSMRA, Lisbon);
• Computational Environmetrics: Protection of Renewable Environment and Human and Ecosystem Health (TIES, Mikulov - Czech Republic);
• Innovative Methodologies for Censuses in the New Millennium (IAOS, IASS, Southampton - UK).
Contact and other details for all these are available on the ISI website http://www.isi2007.com.pt/isi2007.
31 October 2006 Deadline for Invited Paper authors to finalise the titles of their papers and upload an abstract of the paper on the website.
30 November 2006 Organisers confirm that titles, abstracts, authors and discussants on website are final.
31 January 2007 Cut-off date for material for Bulletin #2 (final titles, authors, discussants, etc., for Invited Paper Meetings).
28 February 2007 Deadline for Invited Paper authors to lodge the (penultimate) draft of their papers on the website.
20 March 2007 Organisers to have reviewed draft papers, and discussed any necessary changes with the authors.
20 April 2007 Deadline for submission of the final abstracts and manuscripts of Invited and Contributed Papers.
2 May 2007 Deadline for each Organiser to provide the Local Organising Committee with a meeting schedule, indicating the order of presentations and specific time allocated for each author and discussant, for inclusion in the Conference Week Programme.
1 June 2007 Registration deadline for all authors of both Invited and Contributed Papers, and all Invited Meeting Organisers, and discussants.
Papers will be accepted only if the author (or at least one of the authors in the case of joint authorship) has registered as a participant and arranged payment of the registration fee. Authors who have failed to pay the registration fee risk removal from the Programme.
Closing date for early bird reduced cost registration – after this date, all registrations are at the full price.
1 August 2007 Final papers of registered authors to be available for viewing via the Session website.
22 August 2007 56th Session of the ISI starts in Lisboa.
Following the successful idea used in the ISI Sydney Session, there was an attempt to group IPM and STCPM sessions covering similar topics in adjacent days to form theme days for a few selected areas, as indicated below. Please note that there will be no separate registration for these, and full registration to attend the ISI applies.
1. Statistics and Finance (August 23 and 24);
2. Statistics in Genomics and Proteomics (August 24 and 25);
3. Statistics of Extremes and Risk Assessment (August 27 and 28);
4. Environmental Statistics (August 28 and 29).
A preliminary timetable for the Scientific Meetings is included below to help get your planning during the Session under way. Please note that this may change before the final version is reached. Professor Ivette Gomes, Chair of the Local Organising Committee, is in charge of this and queries about this issue should be directed to her.
Download the Administrative Meetings Schedule (PDF )
Lisboa Session Provisional Scientific Programme (PDF )
News of Members
Professor C.R. Rao
Professor Calyampudi R. Rao, US National Medal of Science Laureate, Emeritus holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Statistics and Director of the Center for Multivariate Analysis at the Pennsylvania State University, has received an honorary doctoral degree from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal. This is the thirtieth honorary doctoral degree he has received from universities in eighteen countries on six continents. The award recognizes long-time ISI elected member Rao for the body of his work, and “the high relevance of [his] professional and academic career, as well as [his] important contributions to the foundations of statistical theory and multivariate statistical methodology and their applications”. Previous recipients of this award from the University include Nobel laureates Sir Nevill F. Mott, Robert Huber, Robert Mundell, and Kofi Annan. Immediately after the convocation of this award, Rao presented an invited talk titled “Past, Present, and Future of Statistics” at the 13th International Conference of Forum for Interdisciplinary Mathematics.
Professor Bovas Abraham received the 2006 William G. Hunter Award of the American Society for Quality (Statistics Division) during the Fall Technical Conference in Columbus, Ohio, this past October. The Statistics Division of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) established the Hunter Award in 1987 in memory of the Division's Founding Chair to promote, encourage and acknowledge outstanding accomplishments during a career in the broad field of applied statistics. It is awarded to a person whose qualities mirror those of Bill Hunter. This includes substantial contributions to statistical consulting, education for practitioners, and integration of statistical thinking into other disciplines, as well as demonstrated excellence in communication and implementing innovative applied statistical methods.
Bovas Abraham, an ISI elected member, is Professor of Statistics and a former Director of the Institute for Improvement in Quality and Productivity at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada. He was the founding President of the Business and Industrial Statistics Section of the Statistical Society of Canada and is the current President of the International Society for Business and Industrial Statistics of the ISI (ISBIS).
Mr. Jean-Louis Bodin receiving his decoration from Professor Malinvaud
ISI Honorary member, member of the IAOS and IASS, Mr. Jean-Louis Bodin was decorated with the 'Légion d'Honneur' in a special ceremony which took place in Paris on October 19th, 2006. The 'Légion d'Honneur' award, as declared by the Président de la République in his decree of April 16, 2006, was conveyed to Mr. Bodin by Professor Edmond Malinvaud (past ISI President from 1979-1981).
Professor B.M. Golam Kibria
Dr. B.M. Golam Kibria is the recipient of the 2005 Chapter Service Recognition Award in recognition of outstanding and devoted service to the South Florida Chapter of the American Statistical Association. He is also a member of the Statistical Society of Canada and Life member of the Bangladesh Statistical Association. Dr. Kibria is an elected Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society (FRSS) and an elected member of ISI. He is the tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics at Florida International University (FIU).
The ISI regrets to announce the death of our colleagues:
Born Elected Deceased Mr. Georg Axel Luther 1921 1973 4 June 2006 Professor Arne Amundsen 1915 1974 26 December 2006 Dr. Franz Ferschl 1929 1972 31 December 2006 Mr. Félix Rosenfeld 1915 1967 12 January 2007
ISI Officers’ Elections Results
A tabulation of the 711 ballots regarding ISI Officers resulted in the election of the following persons:
Jef L. Teugels (Belgium)
Len Cook (New Zealand)
Stephan Morgenthaler (Switzerland)
Vijayan N. Nair (Malaysia/USA)
Jaromir Antoch (Czech Republic)
Carolee Bush (USA)
Alicia L. Carriquiry (Uruguay)
Tim Dunne (South Africa)
Ursula Gather (Germany)
Mathisca de Gunst (The Netherlands)
Genshiro Kitigawa (Japan)
Jung Jin Lee (Korea)
Present Council members who will be continuing their service for a further two years (2007-2009) are:
Hasan Abu-Libdeh (Palestine)
Jean-Jacques Droesbeke (Belgium)
Abdel El-Shaarawi (Canada and Egypt)
Wing Kam Fung (Hong Kong, SAR China)
Akihiko Ito (Japan)
Susan Linacre (Australia)
Almut Steger (Germany)
Chris Wild (New Zealand)
The formal approval of the election results is due to occur during the ISI Lisboa Session by the General Assembly, which is scheduled for August 28, 2007. We are grateful to all candidates for their enthusiasm and willingness to support the ISI. The newly elected team, under the leadership of incoming President Denise Lievesley, will start its work at the completion of the ISI Lisboa Session on August 30th, 2007.
ISI Executive Committee (2007-2009)
Jef L. Teugels
Len W. Cook
Vijayan N. Nair
Newly Elected Council (2007-2011)
Alicia L. Carriquiry
Mathisca de Gunst
Jung Jin Lee
ISI Membership Elections 2006
We would like to congratulate the 109 new ISI elected members, who were elected in 2006 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/isimembers.htm), and these new members will be added to this list in the coming weeks.
Newly Elected ISI Members
Acx, Rudi (Belgium)
Alam, Md. Mahmudul (Bangladesh)
Al-Bayyati, Hilal (Iraq)
Baklizi, Ayman (Jordan)
Batcher, Mary K. (USA)
Bidgood, Penelope L. (UK)
Biennas, Julia L. (USA)
Bura, Efstathia (Greece)
Burnham, Kenneth P. (USA)
Cao, Ricardo (Spain)
Chen, Kani (China)
Cheng, Cheng (USA)
Citro, Constance (USA)
Clegg, Limin (USA)
Cohen, Michael P. (USA)
Cui, Lu (USA)
De Oliveira, Victor (Venezuela)
Debón Aucejo, Ana M. (Spain)
Doosti, Hassan (Iran)
Dümbgen, Lutz (Germany)
Einbeck, Jochen (Germany)
Faraway, Julian J. (USA)
Feder, Moshe (Canada)
Ferré, Louis (France)
Fields, Paul J. (USA)
Froda, Sorana (Canada)
Gabler, Siegfried (Germany)
Gardiner, Joseph (USA)
Gel, Yulia (Russia)
Golan, Amos (Israel)
Gregoire, Timothy G. (USA)
Gu, Ming Gao (Canada)
Gurka, Matthew J. (USA)
Hahn, Eugene D. (USA)
Hamdan, Hasan (Jordan)
Hannig, Jan (Czech Republic)
Harvill, Jane L. (USA)
Hopke, Philip K. (USA)
Hossain, Anwar (USA)
Huzurbazar, Aparna V. (USA)
Jacod, Jean (France)
Jansen, Maarten H. (Belgium)
Jensen, Uwe (Germany)
Jeong, Jong-Hyeon (Korea)
Kabaila, Paul V. (Australia)
Kannan, Nandini (India)
Karr, Alan F. (USA)
Lavergne, Pascal (France)
Liang, Hua (China)
Lin, Xihong (USA)
Liu, Chuanhai (USA)
Loh, Wei-Liem (Singapore)
Lophaven, Søren N. (Denmark)
MacEachern, Steven N. (USA)
Madans, Jennifer (USA)
Mansmann, Ulrich R. (Germany)
Marchetti, Giovanni M. (Italy)
Marcus, Sue M. (USA)
Mathur, Sunil (USA)
Mazmanoglou, Adnan (Turkey)
Modarres, Reza (USA)
Molinaro, Annette (USA)
Mukhopadhyay, Nitis (USA)
Müller-Harknett, Ursula U. (Germany)
Murray, Thomas S. (Canada)
Ni, Liqiang (China)
Notz, William I. (USA)
Peddada, Shaymal Das (USA)
Pewsey, Arthur R. (UK)
Pfeiffer, Ruth M. (USA)
Piepel, Gregory F. (USA)
Pinto da Costa, Joaquim F. (Portugal)
Pounds, Stanley B. (USA)
Preisser, John S. (USA)
Quantin, Catherine (France)
Rao, Marepalli B. (USA)
Raqab, Mohammad Z. (Jordan)
Rojo, Javier (USA)
Rowe, Daniel (USA)
Schäfer, Helmut (Germany)
Schiopu-Kratine, Ioanna (Canada)
Schumacher, Martin (Germany)
Shen, Xiaotong (USA)
Skrondal, Anders (Norway)
Song, Il Seong (Korea)
Stefanescu, Daniela E. (Romania)
Sun, Yanqing (USA)
Takemura, Akimichi (Japan)
Thurston, Sally W. (USA)
Tsung, Fugee (China)
Velu, Raja (USA)
Verbeke, Geert (Belgium)
Vonta, Filia (Greece)
Wang, Morgan (Chung-Ching) (USA)
Wang, Sue-Jane (USA)
Wang, Xiaofeng (China)
Wang, Yuedong (USA)
Wegkamp, Marten (The Netherlands)
Wellek, Stefan (Germany)
Wilkinson, Leland (USA)
Wlezien, Christopher B. (USA)
Wong, Man Y. (UK)
Wywiał, Janusz (Poland)
Yang, Lijian (USA)
Yashchin, Emmanuel (USA)
Zeelenberg, Kees (The Netherlands)
Zell, Elizabeth R. (USA)
Zhang, Chongqi (China)
Zighed, Abdelkader D. (France)
Honorary Member Interviews:
Dennis J. Trewin
You have been an ISI elected member since 1984, an Honorary member since 2004, ISI President from 2001-03, and have served on various ISI Committees, what are the most dramatic changes you have seen during your time as a member?
There have been many changes during this period, but I will only highlight two. The first is the advent of the website and the Internet as a primary means of communication. I was Chair of the Publications Committee in 1993 when the use of the website for ISI activities was first mooted. So much has happened since then, it is hard to believe it is only 13 years ago.
One of ISI's key tasks is to aid communication among statisticians around the world. Whilst there has been considerable progress, there is a lot more that can be done. We must ensure we have the skills to enable us to take advantage of this.
The other obvious change I will mention is the ageing of our membership. Too many of our members are either post-retirement or close to retirement age. Whilst it is good to retain the interest in our more senior, experienced statisticians, we need to increase the number of younger statisticians in the ISI. Unless we do so, our future is at risk. I believe we need to adopt an open membership model. This is happening by default anyway. Election to membership is much easier than it was so why not avoid what is really a charade.
What would be your advice to young statisticians today?
Being a statistician can be an extremely rewarding career. The increased availability and use of statistical information should increase the rewards. But it is important that our work is relevant to the user of statistics and that we can communicate with these users in plain language. We can't just rely on our statistical knowledge. We must learn communication skills. We must have some knowledge of the disciplines of our key users irrespective of whether we are working in official statistics, biometrics, financial statistics, etc. So my advice to young statisticians is that you just don't rely on your statistical skills, but acquire those other skills whether by formal learning or work experience.
Who were the three people who influenced your career the most, and why?
I would like to mention three people - Ken Foreman, Bill McLennan and Len Cook.
Ken Foreman was an ISI member and one of those who was behind the creation of the IASS. He was the father of survey methods in Australia and introduced sampling, household surveys and seasonal adjustment into Australian statistics after studying under Morris Hansen and others in the United States. Although he was quite senior in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) when I first started as a young graduate, he took a very strong personal interest in our progress. He personally delivered the training as well as having monthly one-on-one mentoring sessions. He also strongly believed in young methodologists having practical experience in data collection and processing and made sure we did it. We were much better methodologists as a result.
Bill McLennan was my immediate boss when I first started and was the Australian Statistician (and my boss) prior to my appointment. I learnt many things from Bill. Three that come to mind are (a) the growing importance of international statistics and how to best have influence in that environment, (b) to identify and focus on the nub of a problem and not all the peripheral issues, and (c) the fundamental importance of core values to a successful statistical organisation.
I was Deputy to Len Cook when he was first appointed Government Statistician in New Zealand. We have been close colleagues since then. His emphasis on the core values of an official statistical organisation was also strong. He took his responsibilities very seriously, and, as well as demonstrating great passion in his work, he brought a strong sense of fun and enjoyment to work. But perhaps the thing I really learnt from Len was the importance of really engaging with key users. This also applies to the media. They are a very important intermediary for the dissemination of official statistics to the media. They can also make or break your reputation.
Of all your accomplishments, which one are you most proud of achieving?
I guess I would have to say being regarded as a successful Australian Statistician ─ the ABS is regarded as one of Australia's most important and successful institutions. It had this reputation when I took over in mid-2000, but the general view is that it is an even stronger organisation today. My term as Australian Statistician was recognised by the Government by hosting a special farewell party. I also received personal praise from the Prime Minister for my contribution.
What was the most memorable part of your term as President of the ISI?
Well, it is an honour to be given the chance to be President of the peak international body of your profession. There are a lot of administrative matters to deal with, particularly with core ISI activities such as Conferences, publications and Committees. But one of our more important activities was recognising the need to restructure the ISI so that it is better suited to the challenges of the 21st century. We commissioned an ad hoc Committee under David Moore for this purpose. They provided an excellent report that provided a number of recommendations as a basis for further action. Many of these were implemented, but some of the more radical proposals, such as open membership, required more discussion and debate among the membership. Such a radical change needs a high degree of ownership if it is to be successfully implemented and this takes time. I am pleased to be a member of the Restucturing Committee, which is bringing forward proposals for a "new" ISI. These require very careful consideration for the future of the ISI.
If you could relive part of your career, which part would it be?
I have no regrets. Although working in official statistics throughout my career, I changed positions regularly. I worked in other countries for short times, including three years in New Zealand. My six-and-half-year stint as Australian Statistician was by far the longest time I spent in one position. Occupying many different positions broadens your knowledge and better equips you for more senior positions. It also provides a more fulfilling career.
As we note that you travel frequently to developing countries with your work, are there suggestions as to how the ISI can best address the needs of developing country members?
Statisticians in developing countries want to learn off other statisticians. The ISI is well suited to facilitate this. Whilst several fora exist for the most senior statisticians in the official statistical institutes of developing countries to learn off the statisticians of other countries, the opportunities are more limited for other statisticians. This is where the ISI can assist through its Conference and publication programme, including the website. But it must ensure that its activities are targetted to where there is greatest need and minimise overlap with the activities of other bodies supporting developing countries. There is room for improvement in how we support developing countries, particularily with the programme at the Biennial Sessions.
You were Chairman of the National Organising Committee for the ISI Sydney Session. The organisation of any ISI Session is a considerable challenge, was your experience fulfilling?
My objective was to provide an experience to participants that was fulfilling from both a scientific and cultural perspective. You need to provide opportunities for participants to meet both formally and informally to enhance these experiences. The feedback we received was that the Conference was successful from that perspective so we felt rewarded by our efforts. And it did involve a lot of effort and a significant financial contribution. We knew that in advance, so I am not complaining. But it did cause me to think about whether there are ways to reduce the cost to host countries. For example, simultanous translation is a huge cost and used by few. If we don't try to limit costs, we might find fewer countries who are prepared to volunteer. We took some steps towards simplification in the Sydney Session.
As you are about to retire from the ABS, what plans are you making for the future?
Although I am retiring from the ABS, I plan to continue working although not full-time. I have agreed to undertake some contracts that take advantage of the knowledge and experience of many years in official statistics. I also plan to make some contributions to the ISI. So I will not be lost to statistics. But I also plan to have more leisure time so that I can get fit and improve my performance at my favourite pastimes of golf and orienteering. My wife and I also plan to spend more time in Norway with our daughter.
How do you envisage the ISI will look as an organisation in 2020?
I will not be brash enough to answer that precise question. No one really knows what our world will look like in 2020. I think we can only talk about the directions we need to take, some of which were also mentioned earlier in the interview. I will talk about three directions. First, we have to refresh the membership of the ISI. Too high a proportion of our membership are retired or semi-retired males. Whilst they are very important contributors to the ISI, we have to embrace others. I believe a move from elected to open membership is essential for the future of the ISI. It will have the added advantage of increasing the size of the membership, which is important for the scientific and financial sustainability of the ISI. Second, we have to find ways to better engage with users of statistics and statistical methods. The demand for our services should be growing but that is not always the case. The ISI will need to amend its Conference, publishing and other activities to facilitate improved engagement with our user community. Third, it is clear that technology will enable us to do a range of new things or do existing things more efficiently. Communication, in particular, will be easier and that is the core activity of the ISI. We must ensure we are set up to take advantage of the technological opportunities that will exist.
The OECD Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies
We live in an information age. It is an age in which we are bombarded with information every day. An age in which societies increasingly recognise the limitations of GDP as a measure of progress and are seeking to develop wider measures of progress that encompass economic, social and environmental dimensions. An age in which the world – through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – has agreed on a single set of goals and indicators with which to measure development. An age in which ICT tools can make information more accessible, and potentially more understandable, than ever before, both to decision-makers and citizens. An age in which the accountability of public policies is more important than ever at all levels of government.
Therefore, there is a recognition that the development of cross-cutting, high-quality, shared, accessible information about how a society is doing is crucial to ensure that decision-making is simultaneously responsive and responsible. However, in an age of unprecedented and overwhelming information flows, the common understanding necessary for informed public discourse is often inadequate. In short, information on how our societies are progressing has never been so important.
We are also seeing changes in the way societal progress is fostered. There is a growing recognition that effective collaborations between government, private and citizen sectors can offer new ways to deliver progress. While in our increasingly globalised world, nations, more than ever, need to work together on areas from climate change to trade.
There was, however, until now no global discussion about how best to measure and foster progress. Thus, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) began the Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies. The Project provides a single worldwide forum in which nations, communities and professional groups can discuss the directions they want their societies to head in and the evidence needed both to track, and foster, progress in those directions. It represents a key opportunity to increase the relevance and profile of statistics in decision-making by all sectors of society.
The second World Forum “Statistics, Knowledge and Policy”
In June 2007, 900 people will gather in Istanbul, Turkey. They will come from the developed and developing world, spanning the public, private and civil sectors, to assess and foster the progress of their societies. Thousands will follow the discussion through webcast. The Conference will discuss the measurement of progress and some of the most important concerns facing the world, such as climate change, health, and economic globalisation. It will stimulate an international dialogue based on evidence, and at the same time expose gaps in our knowledge. It will be a place to discuss new and widely-applicable indicators to measure progress.
The second World Forum is part of the Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies and similar events are planned every two-three years hence. The co-operation of the European Commission, the United Nations and the World Bank confirms that the Project is indeed global. It builds on the success of its predecessor, held in 2004 in Italy which focused on “key indicators”. Yet, it will be a much larger event.
Speakers already confirmed include: Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa (President of the United Nations General Assembly), Joaquín Almunia (European Commissioner), François Bourguignon (Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank), Kemal Derviş (UNDP Administrator), Nick Donofrio (Vice-President, IBM), Tayyip Erdoğan (Prime Minister of Turkey), Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (President of Iceland), Angel Gurría (Secretary-General of the OECD), Lord Richard Layard (London School of Economics), José Antonio Ocampo (Under-Secretary-General of the UN), and David M. Walker (Comptroller General of the United States).
International workshops will help prepare for the Conference. They are covering the measurement of well-being and happiness, and using visual tools to present statistical indicators to the public. “Regional pre-conferences” will help engage countries outside of the OECD. The first was held in Colombia for Latin America (October 2006) with others planned for Africa (Rwanda, January 2007), Asia (Korea, February 2007), Russia/CIS and the Middle East (both in April 2007).
Several statistical offices are supporting the Project and organising conferences and workshops. PARIS21 (who foster statistical capacity building in developing countries) is supporting the participation of less developed countries. The International Statistical Institute is supporting the initiative.
Attendance at the Istanbul Conference will be by invitation only. For information on how to receive an invitation, or get involved in the Project, please visit: www.oecd.org/oecdworldforum.
The First International Exhibition on Innovative Tools to Transform Statistics into Knowledge
The OECD World Forum will be an opportunity to organise the first international exhibition on "Innovative Tools to Transform Statistics into Knowledge". This exhibition will be a unique opportunity for those active in indicators and measures of progress to showcase their latest work, demonstrate innovative tools to disseminate data and promote new indicators. If you would like to have a stand at this exhibition, please contact the team with your proposal at email@example.com.
The Global Project and the Millennium Development Goals
In 2015, the current set of MDGs and indicators will expire. The international community will be asked to decide whether a new set is needed and what it should look like. The world’s politicians will take that decision. But on what will it be based?
This was the subject of a speech that Jon Hall, the OECD’s World Forum Project Manager, recently made to a special debate at the United Nations General Assembly. The full text of his speech is linked under “news and events” on the website www.oecd.org/oecdworldforum.
The Project will not interfere with the work towards the successful implementation of the MDGs. However, it can prepare a new phase of the international effort to measure global development. The final aim of the Project is to offer the international community an agreed set of recommendations on how to measure, and, therefore, foster progress. These recommendations could be the fundamental analytical underpinnings to the political process that will define new world goals and indicators post-2015.
Enrico Giovannini, OECD Chief Statistician &
Jon Hall, OECD World Forum Project Leader
Memories of the ISI's Past
Participants of the 1930 ISI Tokyo Session are standing in front of the Toshogu Shrine, which
was originally built in 1627 and is the only shrine in Tokyo that is designated a National Treasure.
ISI Multilingual Glossary of Statistical Terms
The ISI Multilingual Glossary of Statistical Terms has been expanded with a number of translations into Romanian. Professor Rodica Albu and her team made a good start initiating this project. A number of the Portuguese translations have been updated with the help of Professor Lucilia Carvalho and her team.
Many statisticians provided us with additional translations or corrections to the content of the Glossary. For these contributions, we are also very grateful because only with this kind of commitment can we improve the quality and usefullness of the Glossary.
Johan Dragt, ISI Senior Executive Corps, firstname.lastname@example.org
News from ISI Sections: Bernoulli Society IAOS IASC IASE IASS IFC ISBIS
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News from ISI sections Volume 31, No. 1 (91) 2007
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