Hello, folks.

Here are the belated and incomplete minutes to our Isolated Statisticians Meeting of August 9, 1998, at the JSMs in Dallas.  I apologize for their lateness and obvious holes.  The six weeks since the meetings have been very hectic for me, and I did this today (9/27) from memory.  If you have any corrections, clarifications (don’t ask me-tell me!) or additions, please send them along.  Electronic minutes are very easy to replace.


8th Annual Isolated Statisticians Meeting, Dallas, Texas.  August 9, 1998.
Minutes submitted by Dex Whittinghill, September 27, 1998.

There were 38 statisticians in attendance, not all of whom were bona fide isolated statisticians.  Distinguished guests included David Moore (ASA President, Purdue U.), Dick Scheaffer (U. Florida), and Paul Velleman (Cornell U.).  Emeritus member Tim Hesterberg (MathSoft) was also in attendance, as well as Dan Nettleton (U. Nebraska) and Jay Emerson (finishing his Ph.D. at Yale).

We discussed the first three agenda items given below, there were some announcements, and we adjourned after a little less than an hour and a half.

1.  “The statistics content for elementary teachers is a fair amount, yet math departments training them typically do not have the students take a stat class.  I have done a study of 'knowledge requirements' for various fields, especially math secondary and elementary teachers. I found a fair amount of statistics in the knowledge base, but not an equivalent amount in their coursework.”

Discussion of the ‘statistics education of mathematics teachers’ centered around how various attendees have helped give workshops to elementary teachers through Eisenhower grants and/or Quantitative Literacy (QL) workshops.

Dick Scheaffer pointed out that ‘a few years ago’ the ASA had an NSF grant in Elementary Quantitative Literacy (EQL).  Lessons in data collection and analysis were written by elementary teachers for elementary teachers, with a little help from a few statisticians.  He and others did a series of workshops on these materials around the country.

The materials are published by Dale Seymour (a division of Addison Wesley).  There are supposed to be two volumes, but he has seen only one appear - his!  It is the Elementary Quantitative Literacy Project’s “Book One, Exploring Statistics in the Elementary Grades: K-6.”  It was written by Bereska, Bolster, Bolster and Scheaffer.  (Note that the cover has it spelled Schaeffer.)

[For new initiates, ‘pre-service’ workshops are for people training to be teachers, and ‘in-service’ workshops are for people who are already teaching.]

2.  “A rapidly developing job area and field is institutional research and assessment, both needing a good statistics background.  We are not training the people or telling our students about the job possibilities. In fact, we often are not noticing opportunities to make a difference on our own campuses.  People with little statistical education analyze the data, draw conclusions, and make recommendations that have a big impact.  We stay out of it.”

Discussion here also ran the gamut from what attendees have done in the way of consulting with/for their own school, and stories about qualified (and unqualified) administrators who hold the “institutional researcher” position.  Some statisticians were consulted by their administrators (from seldom to too often), and others were ignored.  It was suggested by one to make yourself known if you want to help see that data is used correctly, but others warned that you may have to learn to say NO.

3.  “How can the Isostat-ers group help those coming up for tenure or reviews?  In particular, it would be nice to have a list of tenured people who would be agreeable to writing letters, reviewing files, or serving as external evaluators.”

This discussion was kicked off by Carolyn Dobler (Gustavus Adolphus).  The center of the discussion was how can an Isostat-er get a well-respected and renowned statistician (possibly isolated) to write a letter of support.  David Moore described how he has written some letters in the past, as well as gave some pointers.  [He later sent an e-mail message out to the Isostat-ers, and it is appended at the end as Appendix 1.]

Moderator’s note:  It was at this point that I realized that I was not taking notes, and John McKenzie (Babson) started a sheet of paper around for people to write down what they heard or what they thought.  Those thoughts, comments, and ‘minutes’ are in Appendix 2.]

4.  It was suggested just prior to the meeting that we discuss/reply/support/refute Ingram Olkin's Letter to the Editor in the August/September 1998 issue of FOCUS (the MAA newsletter), page 11.  Because the first three items ran long, and many in attendance had not read the letter, the topic was left for subsequent informal get-togethers and committee meetings during the week.


Committee on Fellows.  The Committee on Fellows had an informational meeting on Wednesday, from 1pm-2pm.  Among other things, Gerry Hahn explained the Committee’s idea to organize a working group to seek out candidates for ASA Fellow who are not from 'mainstream' statistical life.  The committee would be autonomous from the Committee on Fellows, search for nominees (or accept names from others), and as it turns out, help find ‘nominators’ for those nominees when needed.  The working group was formed, and yours truly got himself elected Chair of the working group!

Quantitative Literacy.  Jerry Moreno had asked to give a brief outline of the QL umbrella of programs and encourage Isostats members to get involved in organizing workshops in their school districts.  Although he spoke a little about QL in conjunction with Agenda Item #1, he did not get his chance.  I invite you, Jerry, to send me along a piece and I will send it to the Isolated Statisticians and Isolated Teachers of Statistics.

It was also suggested that w might have a ‘threaded(?)’ newsgroup on ‘isolated statisticians’ on the ASA website (something similar to the newsgroup discussions on http://www.dejanews.com)?

Appendix 1.
It was suggested at the isostat meeting at JSM that sample generic
excerpts from letters evaluating candidates for promotion might be
useful, and in particular that I say something about this.

Below is the skeleton of one letter of recommendation.  The details vary
a lot with the individual: this person is at a liberal arts college,
has a strong scholarly record, has not been a stat ed activist, and so
on.  Despite the variation, this shows (particularly in the final
paragraph) the kind of thing I usually say about statisticians versus

Related comments: Be sure your department is interested in the help
you give students/faculty in other fields.  Document that help by
keeping a diary.

And, also attached, a note from a friend at Calvin College (Grand
Rapids, MI).  The notice is newsworthy because they have just changed
the dept name to Math and Stat and explicitly want the new statistician
to be a consultant to faculty.  This is enlightened -- is there hope
for math departments yet?  I can recommend Calvin as a good place.
If you know a statistician (must be a Christian, but Calvin is perhaps
the most intellectually sound of Christian colleges) who fits, please
pass the word.


Letter Excerpts

It is a pleasure to comment on the work of Professor X ...

If one were to list desiderata for a young statistician's scholarly
work, some primary heads might be (a) collaborative work on real
problems and (b) innovations in computer-intensive methodologies.
These reflect the major trends in the field---a return to its grounding
in data and scientific inference and continuing transformation by
faster and easier computing.  Professor X's work matches these criteria
very nicely.  The record is clearly that of a statistician rather than
a mathematician (no theorems!), but includes in the paper on ...  I
hope that the mathematics faculty will understand that statisticians
consider the kind of application and computer study of new ideas that
X does to be a useful complement (and often precursor) of
theoretical studies.

[Discuss papers sent, discuss ASA or other professional activity,
discuss any beyond-the-institution impact on education]

Promotion is well-justified on the basis of scholarly activity
(assuming good teaching---I don't know Professor X personally and can't
comment on his education efforts).  Let me, however, add a few comments
on the role of a statistician in a liberal arts college.  Statisticians
generally feel that, especially in a setting where there are few of
them, they should allocate their efforts somewhat differently than
mathematicians.  Any college has students and faculty in many fields
who can profit from statistical advice ranging from routine to joint
research.  A statistician ought to be a campus-wide resource.
University statistics departments usually operate consulting services
to provide such a resource in an organized manner.  At liberal arts
colleges, the burden (and opportunity) falls on individuals.  Time
committed to working with students and faculty from other fields yields
few vita items, but it is an important reason to have statisticians
around and should be recognized in considering promotion and tenure.  I
don't of course have personal knowledge of the extent to which
Professor X fills this role, but his vita suggests that he is
accustomed to collaboration.  I would therefore recommend him more
highly than a mathematician with a similarly strong scholarly record.

Calvin College Position

A Calvin goal of highest priority this year is to successfully recruit
a statistician to our staff. I judge that the most ideal person would
be an applied statistician having a deep interest in teaching in a
liberal arts college like ours. The college could also use this person
as a consultant for the faculty.

Since we teach elementary statistics to a large audience, intermediate
statistics to a smaller group of engineers, and a  one-year course in
mathematical statistics to a rather small, but talented group of majors,
such a person could find a very important place on our staff to render

Appendix 2.

[There could be a] list provided by the ASA (with work done by the Stat Ed Sections) of established people willing to write letters for statisticians coming up for tenure.

It would be helpful to have a couple of sentences about each person on the list of potential recommenders [above].

I was granted tenure two years ago.  I asked 8 statisticians and statistical educators if they would be willing to write a letter evaluating my application if asked by my institution.  Seven of the eight responded enthusiastically that they would write if asked.  My point is that a list would help deans and institutional representatives, but candidates may find that senior members of this group are very supportive and willing to help, even is asked out of the blue.