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November 2010


Feature Story
A Day of Wow at the Engineering and Science Festival

By Beth Goodman

Several months ago, Jill Montaquila asked for volunteers to work at the ASA booth for the first US Engineering and Science Festival to be held on the National Mall in Washington, DC. My first reaction was that of course I was going to volunteer. Being a high school teacher I wanted to be a part of something that would share my love of mathematics and statistics with adults and children at large. Additionally, I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring a couple of my children to participate in the Festival. This experience did not disappoint me; in fact, it exceeded my expectations.

The Festival took place on October 23-24, 2010. There were several other related events in Washington that occurred earlier in the week, including an Innovation Summit hosted by Project Lead the Way. I had also participated in the Innovation Summit, which I recommend for those of you in industry, government, or education if you are interested in developing student leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Washington, DC was abuzz with STEM education and outreach.

When my children and I arrived in DC on the Metro, almost immediately after we left the station there was no doubt in my mind that we had entered Science Central. There were stage areas arranged with science demonstrations. Aisle after aisle were set up with booths, each with their own hands-on activities to engage the youngest and oldest among us in learning about STEM. The most memorable to me were the University of Georgia booth, where they were using bacteria from termite digestive systems to create an alternative fuel source from garbage, and a booth from University of Michigan that was demonstrating activities that they do with youth groups (including making ice cream with liquid nitrogren and creating a substance that had some unique physical properties and allowing passersby to walk through a vat of this substance).

Of course, the ASA booth had its own hands-on activities. Children and adults were able to simulate a catch-and-release population estimation experiment using beads. A bag of colored beads represented a population of fish. The "researcher" removed a small portion of the "fish" from the "lake" (a plastic bag) and replaced these with bright orange beads. Then the bag was shaken and a new sample was taken to find a sample proportion. While this activity didn't have the high profile of the parachute activity (described below), the folks who wandered into the booth and participated in it were highly engaged; and, they happened to learn a little bit about statistics as a bonus.

The big draw for the ASA booth was the ladder in front with statisticians dropping little plastic men attached to parachutes. Throughout the day, as people passed the ASA booth, they stopped and were asked, "Which parachute was best?" This question generated conversation with adults and children about what "best" really means and opened up the floor for a discussion on how we could quantify "best." Using the power of observation, many people were able to identify that two useful measurements were accuracy and the time it took to descend. Once participants had the opportunity to touch and examine the parachute material, we ran a test on the parachutes by dropping the chosen skydiver from a height of about 9 feet and measuring the distance the man landed from the target and the length of time from drop to landing. The measurements were marked on a graph that was used as a talking point to discuss predictions, variation, mean and median, and various other statistical concepts.

In addition to the two experiments, there was a computer set up to demonstrate different graphical displays of variables, literature about careers in statistics, and information for teachers. One of the big benefits of this festival is that people from all walks of life, all age groups, and all education levels were able to learn about so many different areas of STEM education and outreach. I believe that everyone who engaged with the members working the ASA booth left with a little more information and more positive attitude about statistics.

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Seeking Award Nominations
Jeanne E. Griffith Mentoring Award Nominations Sought

By Carol House, 2011 Chair, Griffith Award Selection Committee

It's time to start thinking about nominating an outstanding supervisor, technical director, team coordinator, or other member of a governmental statistical staff who encourages mentoring of junior staff in the Federal, State, or Local statistical system for the 2011 Jeanne E. Griffith Mentoring Award. Nominations must be submitted no later than March 25, 2011.

Jeanne Griffith
Jeanne Griffith

This year marked the 8th year that the award has been presented and the second time the ASA's Government Statistics Section oversaw the award selection process. Deborah H. Griffin, a mathematical statistician at the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and currently special assistant to the Chief, American Community Survey Office, received her award at a ceremony held on June 23, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

The Jeanne E. Griffith Mentoring Award was established to honor Dr. Griffith who died in August 2001 after working for more than 25 years in the Federal statistical system. Throughout her career, and especially in her latter senior management positions at the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Science Foundation, one of Jeanne's highest priorities was to mentor and encourage younger staff at all levels to learn, to grow, and to recognize and seize career opportunities as they came along.

Award Ceremony Left to right: Robert Groves, Beth Kilss, Deborah Griffin, Katherine Wallman, Andy Orlin, Susan Schechter, and Carol House (Photo by Tim Ware, Ideal Vision, LLC, idealvision@verizon.net)

Nominations for 2011 will be accepted beginning in January 2011. The last date for submission of nominations is March 25, 2011, and the Award Committee will make its determination of the award winner by April 22, 2011. The award will consist of a $1,000 honorarium (to be split if there is more than one awardee), a citation, and a plaque, which will be presented at a ceremony arranged by the co-sponsors in June 2011.

The nomination packages are reviewed by a committee comprising six members who each serve a six-year term. Andy Orlin, Jeanne Griffith's husband, serves as emeritus member, thus providing continuity and historical perspective.

The recipients of the Jeanne E. Griffith Mentoring Award previous to this year's awardee are Rich Allen (National Agriculture Statistical Service), 2003; Beth Kilss (Internal Revenue Service), 2004; Renee Miller (Energy Information Administration), 2005; Martin O'Connell (U.S. Census Bureau), 2006; Stephanie Shipp (National Institute of Standards and Technology - at the time of the award), 2007; Rosemary D. Marcuss (Bureau of Economic Analysis), 2008; Kevin Cecco (Internal Revenue Service) and Lillian S. Lin (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 2009.

The winning mentor(s) will be selected for his or her efforts in supporting the work and developing the careers of junior staff. Examples of typical mentoring activities include:

  • Advising junior staff to help them create career opportunities, networking skills, and contacts for growth and development;
  • Counseling junior staff and providing resources to help develop their technical writing, analysis, presentation and organizational skills and knowledge;
  • Encouraging junior staff growth and career development through attendance and oral presentations at meetings with higher level officials, staffs of other agencies, professional associations, training courses, and conferences;
  • Motivating junior staff and building self confidence through feedback on their efforts, being a listener when that is needed, and creating a caring and supportive environment;
  • Serving as a role model for junior staff through professional expertise, information and insights, balancing collegial and personal roles, and including everyone across rank, race, ethnicity, and seniority.

Nominations should be prepared in the form of a letter or memorandum for the Award Selection Committee:

  • The letter or memorandum should summarize the nominee's actions that support and encourage junior staff in the Federal, State, or Local statistical community in developing their careers.
  • Nominations may be accompanied by up to six supporting letters. These should be attached to, and submitted with, the nomination.
  • The Award Selection Committee finds that descriptions of what nominees actually do are the strongest demonstration of candidate mentoring. Here are some examples: the mentor is a source of advice...counsels with long-term goals in mind...thought I was well qualified even though I had some doubts...encourages staff to seek out positions that will increase their visibility and stretch their professional capabilities. These are more explicit and unique to the mentor than generic statements such as: the mentor is a coach...a teacher.
  • Photo copies and email copies of support letters are acceptable.

Sponsors of the Award

The Government Statistics Section (GSS) of the American Statistical Association manages the award. GSS would like to thank our co-sponsors:

  • National Opinion Research Center (NORC),
  • Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS),
  • American Institutes for Research (AIR),
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA), and
  • Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP).

Please contact Stephanie Shipp (sshipp@ida.org), if you would like to contribute to the award.

For more information about the nominating process for the 2011 award, please go to: http://www.amstat.org/sections/sgovt/JEGform11.doc or http://www.amstat.org/sections/sgovt/JEGform11.pdf.

If you have questions about the award, please contact Rick Peterson at rick@amstat.org (703) 684-1221, and Carol House at housca@gmail.com 703-989-1334.

The nomination package may be mailed or emailed no later than March 25, 2011, to:

The Jeanne E. Griffith Mentoring Award Committee
c/o The American Statistical Association
732 N. Washington Street
alexandria, va 22314-1943

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Seeking Award Nominations
Nominations Sought for 2011 Julius Shiskin Award

Nominations are invited for the annual Julius Shiskin Memorial Award for Economic Statistics. The Award is given in recognition of unusually original and important contributions in the development of economic statistics or in the use of statistics in interpreting the economy. Contributions are recognized for statistical research, development of statistical tools, application of information technology techniques, use of economic statistical programs, management of statistical programs, or developing public understanding of measurement issues. The Award was established in 1980 by the Washington Statistical Society (WSS) and is now cosponsored by the WSS, the National Association for Business Economics, and the Business and Economics Statistics Section of the American Statistical Association (ASA). The 2010 award recipient was Dr. Dale W. Jorgenson for for his contributions to the measurement of productivity, innovation, capital, human capital, poverty, and for his leadership in the integration of the U.S. National Accounts.

Because the program was initiated many years ago, statisticians and economists often ask, "Who was Julius Shiskin?" At the time of his death in 1978, "Julie" was the Commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and earlier served as the Chief Statistician at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Chief Economic Statistician and Assistant Director of the Census Bureau. Throughout his career, he was known as an innovator. At Census he was instrumental in developing an electronic computer method for seasonal adjustment. In 1961, he published Signals of Recession and Recovery, which laid the groundwork for the calculation of monthly economic indicators, and he developed the monthly Census report Business Conditions Digest to disseminate them to the public. In 1969, he was appointed Chief Statistician at OMB where he developed the policies and procedures that govern the release of key economic indicators (Statistical Policy Directive Number 3), and originated a Social Indicators report. In 1973, he was selected to head BLS where he was instrumental in preserving the integrity and independence of the BLS labor force data and directed the most comprehensive revision in the history of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which included a new CPI for all urban consumers.

Nominations for the 2011 award are now being accepted. Individuals and groups in the public or private sector from any country can be nominated. The award will be presented with an honorarium of $1000 plus additional recognition from the sponsors. A nomination form and a list of all previous recipients are available on the ASA Website at www.amstat.org/sections/bus_econ/shiskin.html.

For questions or more information, please contact Steven Paben, Julius Shiskin Award Committee Secretary, via e-mail at paben.steven@bls.gov or call 202-691-6147. Completed nominations must be received by March 15, 2011.

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Be Involved
Want to Be More Involved with WSS? Can You Spare an Hour or Two?
Keep Reading!

Jill Montaquila and Michael Costello

The WSS Quantitative Literacy (QL) program offers many opportunities for WSS members to get more involved in the organization. These range from very short, one-time opportunities to long-term roles. No prior involvement in WSS is needed, and all supplies and materials are provided by WSS. If you would like to get more involved and can spare an hour or two sometime over the next year, please consider signing up as a QL volunteer by contacting Michael Costello (WSS QL Volunteer Coordinator) at MichaelAVCostello@gmail.com or (202) 246-1627.

The WSS QL Program includes the following activities:

  1. Curtis Jacobs Memorial Prize
    This is an award sponsored by the WSS that is given annually for an outstanding middle school project and an outstanding high school project submitted by a DC-area student or group of students. The award-winning students and their teacher/advisor are invited to the WSS Annual Dinner, where they are recognized and are awarded their prizes. Volunteers are needed to help recruit entries at local science fairs (a one-time 2- to 3-hour commitment) and/or to help judge the entries (a few hours spent reading/reviewing entries).

  2. Poster Competition Award
    The WSS provides judges for the American Statistical Association's poster competition. The local award-winning students are invited to the WSS Annual Dinner, where they are recognized and are awarded their prizes. Volunteers are needed to help judge the entries (a one-time commitment of a few hours). 3. Science Fair Judging: The WSS provides judges for the DC-area regional science fairs. Volunteers are needed to serve as judges (a one-time 3- to 4-hour commitment). 4. Classroom speakers: Upon the request of the teacher, WSS will send representatives out to local classrooms (kindergarten through 12th grade) to conduct statistical activities with the students and/or speak to students about careers in statistics. Volunteers are needed for classroom speaking engagements (typically, one-time 1- to 4-hour commitments).

  3. Science Fair Judging
    The WSS provides judges for the DC-area regional science fairs. Volunteers are needed to serve as judges (a one-time 3- to 4-hour commitment).

  4. Classroom speakers
    Upon the request of the teacher, WSS will send representatives out to local classrooms (kindergarten through 12th grade) to conduct statistical activities with the students and/or speak to students about careers in statistics. Volunteers are needed for classroom speaking engagements (typically, one-time 1- to 4-hour commitments).

  5. Career Day/Career Fair events
    WSS provides representatives for high school and postsecondary career fair events. Volunteers are needed to serve as speakers or staff booths at these events (typically, one-time 2- to 4-hour commitments).

  6. Workshops for special groups (e.g., Girl Scouts)
    WSS participates with local organizations (in the past, this has been the Girl Scouts) to provide representatives for special workshops, to conduct statistical activities with the youth and/or speak about careers in statistics. Volunteers are needed to conduct these workshops (typically, one- time 2- to 3-hour commitments).

  7. Curriculum development
    WSS representatives have occasionally assisted school districts with curriculum development for their mathematics and statistics curriculum. While there are no current needs for volunteers for this activity, the needs may change in the future.

  8. Teacher workshops
    WSS is currently developing a set of workshops that will be designed to provide teachers with lesson plans and activities that could be used in the classroom. While there are no current needs for volunteers for this activity, the needs may change in the future.
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Be Involved
Interested in Connecting with Fellow Statisticians in the Public Sector?
Join Statipedia!

You are invited to join a small number of enthusiastic federal statisticians, to launch Statipedia, a brand-new wiki platform for interagency collaboration on statistical issues (http://community.amstat.org/AMSTAT/AMSTAT/eGroups/DigestViewer/Default.aspx?GroupID=487).

Registration (limited to employees of the federal government) can be obtained by following the instructions posted at https://statipedia.org/wiki/index.php?title=Registration_Instructions and https://max.omb.gov/community/display/OMB/Statipedia. After registering, users may log in at https://wiki.epa.gov/statipedia.

A kickoff event is being planned for mid-January 2011, but registered users can roll up their sleeves and contribute right now!

Youcan learn more about Statipedia by following the links to a recent presentation and a white paper.

Point of Contact:
Michael J. Messner, Ph.D.
Mathemagical Statistician/USEPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water
1200 Pennsylvania AVE, NW (4607M)
Washington, DC 20460

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Student Column

As science major students, we need to communicate with specialists in other fields when we work on interdisciplinary projects. One of the efficient ways is writing. Also we put comments, write proposals, reports, and papers or just answer the clients in the consular positions. We need to write clearly and effective. I find an advice from Robert Barrass useful. He notes in his book "Scientists Must Write" that explanation, clarity, completeness, impartiality, order, accuracy, objectivity and simplicity are the basic requirements in scientific writing. Let's practice scientific writing in each stage of our studies and get help from our advisors and mentors. This skill is always necessary and important.

Parisa Meisami
Student Representative

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SIGSTAT Topics for Fall/Winter 2010-2011

SIGSTAT is the Special Interest Group in Statistics for the CPCUG, the Capital PC User Group, and WINFORMS, the Washington Institute for Operations Research Service and Management Science.

All meetings are in Room S3031, 1800 M St, NW from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Enter the South Tower & take the elevator to the 3rd floor to check in at the guard's desk.

Point of Contact:
First-time attendees should contact Charlie Hallahan, 202-694-5051, hallahan@ers.usda.gov, and leave their name. Directions to the building & many links of statistical interest can be found at the SIGSTAT website.

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Note From The WSS NEWS Editor

Items for publication in the December 2010 issue of the WSS NEWS will be accepted until the last day of the preceding month. Email items to Colleen S. Choi at wss.editor@gmail.com.

Please submit all materials in MS WORD or plain text.

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Click here to see the WSS Board Listing (pdf)
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