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November 2011


Note From The WSS President

As the new WSS year begins we are looking forward to how we can continue to improve. Some of our conversations are related to internal processes (e.g., how can we most effectively disseminate information about our seminars and short courses and what is the best way for us to keep our membership information updated). Others are more outward facing--how can we expand our services to make them more relevant to the greater statistical community.

This year we plan to continue to expand our efforts to broaden the topics our seminars cover. We also are reaching out to the academic community--we would like to make WSS a valuable resource for students and staff from our area institutions. To that effect we invite you to contact us with your ideas and even better, we would like you to join WSS and join the cadre of volunteers that run this society.

My email address is jonaki.bose@samhsa.hhs.gov and I look forward to hearing from you.

Jonaki Bose

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Classes and Workshops
The Story of the Netflix Prize

Announcing A Joint Seminar of the Committee on National Statistics-Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics (CNSTAT-CATS) of the National Academies

Friday, November 4, 2011 • 3:00-5:00 pm
Reception to Follow

Keck Center of the National Academies, Room 100
500 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Just over five years ago, Netflix released more than 100 million movie ratings as part of a data analaysis contest to improve methods for recommending movies to customers based on ratings they had provided for previously rented movies. A prize of $1 million was offered for a "recommender" algorithms that outperformed the existing Netflix system CinematchSM by at least 10% in terms of root mean squared prediction error. In a textbook example of "crowdsourcing," more than 20,000 teams from over 150 countries submitted algorithms. By August 2009, after almost three years of effort, two teams, BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos and The Ensemble, had surpassed the 10% goald in a finish worthy of its own movie.

Bob Bell (Bellkor's Pragmatic Chaos) and Lester Mackey (The Ensemble) will describe the overall set-up of the competition, the challenges it prosed, the main ideas underlying their recommender algorithms, and the interaction among leading competitors. Emmanuel Candes will then discuss the research avenues stimulated by the various algorithms developed in this competition, some of the resulitnig advances, and some difficult problems that remain.

Open to the Public • Please RSVP!

For planning and bulding check-in purposes, please RSVP by October 31 to Agnes Gaskin at agaskin@nas.edu or (202) 334-3096.

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Classes and Workshops
Workshops Sponsored by American University

Fall 2011 (November)
Information Theory and Shrinkage Estimation, November 12, 2011, Washington DC, USA
Spring 2012 (March)
Information and Econometrics of Networks, March 30-31, 2012, Washington DC, USA
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Call for Proposals
Kauffman Firm Survey Data Extension and Matching

Deadline: January 15, 2012

As the Kauffman Foundation nears the completion of its eight-year panel study on new firms in the United States, the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS), we are seeking interested scholars who would like to extend the core survey data in ways that do not increase the burden on survey respondents. While more than 6,000 variables are included in the confidential version of the KFS microdata, we recognize that there are additional opportunities for research that become available by incorporating new sources of data to leverage the existing KFS survey information. Through this grant program we hope to accomplish the following:

  • Expand the community of experts involved with the KFS to include scholars with expertise in natural language processing, web scraping, and related approaches;
  • Create reusable infrastructure; and
  • Use the prototype/demo infrastructure to evaluate the effectiveness of the approach-- missingness, accuracy, utility--to expand our understanding of different approaches for matching to existing data sets.

Multiple projects are likely to be funded with individual project budgets up to $50,000 being preferred.

Full details available at www.kauffman.org/KFSProposals.

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Seeking Award Nominations
Herriot Award Nominations Sought

Nominations are sought for the 2012 Roger Herriot Award for Innovation in Federal Statistics. The award is intended to reflect the special characteristics that marked Roger Herriot's career including:

  • Dedication to the issues of measurement;
  • Improvements in the efficiency of data collection programs; and
  • Improvements and use of statistical data for policy analysis.

The award is not limited to senior members of an organization, nor is it to be considered as a culmination of a long period of service. Individuals at all levels within Federal statistical agencies, other government organizations, nonprofit organizations, the private sector, and the academic community may be nominated on the basis of their contributions.

The recipient of the 2012 Roger Herriot Award will be chosen by a committee comprising representatives of the Social Statistics and Government Statistics Sections of the American Statistical Association, and of the Washington Statistical Society. Roger Herriot was associated with, and strongly supportive of, these organizations during his career. The award consists of a $1,000 honorarium and a framed citation, which will be presented at a ceremony at the Joint Statistical Meetings in August 2012. The Washington Statistical Society will also host a seminar given by the winner on a subject of his or her own choosing.

Past recipients of the Roger Herriot Award: 1995 - Joseph Waksberg (Westat)
1996 - Monroe Sirken (National Center for Health Statistics)
1997 - Constance Citro (National Academy of Sciences)
1998 - Roderick Harrison (U.S. Census Bureau), Clyde Tucker (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
1999 - Thomas Jabine (SSA, EIA, CNSTAT)
2000 - Donald Dillman (Washington State University)
2001 - Jeanne Griffith (OMB, NCES, NSF)
2002 - Daniel Weinberg (U. S. Census Bureau)
2003 - David Banks (FDA, BTS, NIST)
2004 - Paula Schneider (U.S. Census Bureau)
2005 - Robert E. Fay III (U.S. Census Bureau)
2006 - Nathaniel Schenker (National Center for Health Statistics)
2007 - Nancy J. Kirkendall (Office of Management and Budget)
2008 - Elizabeth Martin (U.S. Census Bureau)
2009 - Lynda Carlson (National Science Foundation)
2010 - Katharine Abraham (University of Maryland)
2011 - Michael Messner (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Nominations for the 2012 award will be accepted beginning in January 2012. Nomination packages should contain:

  • A cover letter from the nominator that includes references to specific examples of the nominee's contributions to innovation in Federal statistics. These contributions can be to methodology, procedure, organization, administration, or other areas of Federal statistics, and need not have been made by or while a Federal employee.
  • Up tosix additional letters in support that demonstrate the innovativeness of each contribution.
  • A current vita for the nominee with current contact information.

Both individual and group nominations may be submitted. The committee may consider nominations made for prior years, but it encourages resubmission of those nominations with updated information.

For moreinformation, contact Jill A. Dever, Chair of the 2012 Roger Herriot Award Committee, at 202.974.7846 or jdever@rti.org. Completed packages must be received by April 1, 2012. Electronic submissions in MS-Word or as a pdf file are strongly encouraged.

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Seeking Award Nominations
2012 Julius Shiskin Award Nominations Sought

Nominations are invited for the annual Julius Shiskin Memorial Award for Economic Statistics.

The Award is givenin 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 2011 award recipient was Thomas L. Mesenbourg Jr., the Deputy Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, received the 2011 Shiskin Award for his contributions to developing and advancing economic statistics programs that meet the needs of a rapidly changing economy.

The award is in memory of Julius Shiskin, who had a varied and remarkable public service career. 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 2012 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, 2012.

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Student Column

Note from WSS Student Representative

I am honored to serve as the student representative to the WSS board for the 2011-2012 academic year. The student representative rotates between 11 statistics programs at area universities; this year it is my program's turn. I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland in the Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation program, which is now part of the Human Development and Quantitative Methodology Department. I work full time, and go to school part time. At times, I have taught, pursued independent or group research, or focused solely on classes. The only thing that is perhaps out of the ordinary about my situation is that my employer is not a statistics shop, and one of my roles is to be the stats expert for my department; I don't have more experienced statisticians to mentor me at work.

Serving as the student representative is my first experience with WSS. Even though I am just beginning my term, I can already see the value of the Society - especially for full-time students and those like me, who do not work directly with other statisticians. Until now, my exposure to the world of statistics has been entirely through my professors, who have been generous in pointing me to consulting gigs, in bringing me on board their research projects, and in helping me to define my own research (and I have only pursued a fraction of the opportunities that have been offered to me). But the WSS offers something beyond what is available through our academic programs. The skills we learn as statistics students are broadly applicable, and through this group we can gain exposure to professional statisticians and their work across a wide spectrum of fields, and get a sense of the possibilities that are available to us when we graduate. My goal for the next year is to take advantage of this opportunity for myself, and to help encourage and enable others to do the same. I welcome any input - from students and from others — on how to make that happen.

Ari Houser
Student Representative

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Note From The WSS NEWS Editor

Items for publication in the December 2011 issue of the WSS NEWS will be accepted until the 15th day of the preceding month.

Email items to wss.editor@gmail.com.

Please submit all materials in MS WORD or plain text.

Please do not submit y0ur items in pdf.

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Click here to see the WSS Board Listing (pdf)
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