STATISTICS PARTNERSHIP AMONG ACADEME, INDUSTRY AND GOVERNMENT (SPAIG)

William C. Parr
University of Tennessee

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 4, Number 1 (Winter 1998)


Origin and Early History of SPAIG. The last several years have seen a growing interest in strengthening partnerships between academe, industry, and government.

In August 1992, Ron Iman suggested joint meetings to the representatives of statistics programs in academics (Academic Program Representatives) and the representatives of statistical groups in industry and government (Corporate Member Representatives), at the annual American Statistical Association meeting.

In August 1993, the two groups began holding joint meetings to define areas of mutual interest. A beginning was identification of industry and government internship opportunities, which are now published in Amstat News by Jim Rosenberger of Penn State University.

In August 1994, Ron Iman, then President of the American Statistical Association, challenged the Corporate Member Representatives and the Academic Program Representatives to form a strategic partnership, which was named the Statistics Partnership among Academe, Industry, and Government (SPAIG). Each group was charged with development of vision statements and recommendations for achieving those visions, and reporting on the results at the American Statistical Association meetings in Orlando, in August 1995. Leadership for these two groups was provided by Bill Parr of the University of Tennessee and Bruce Rodda of Schering-Plough Research Institute

In July 1995, Roxy Peck organized and hosted a three-day conference to develop cases via joint academic - industry/government work. This conference was held at Cal-Poly, San Luis Obispo. This conference was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and brought together representatives from academe, industry, and government to form 22 case-writing partnerships between individuals in academe and industry/government. Faculty for this conference were Ron Iman of Southwest Technology Consultants, Bill Parr of the University of Tennessee, Dick Gunst of Southern Methodist University, and Bob Mason of Southwest Research Institute.

In August 1995, at the joint meeting of the Academic Program Representatives and Corporate Member Representatives, both groups presented their draft vision statements, recommendations for achieving those visions, and related issues and concerns. The two sets of vision statements and recommendations were remarkably similar. To accelerate the progress of harmonizing the visions and recommended action items, a joint subcommittee of three Academic Program Representatives and three Corporate Member Representatives was formed to:

  1. Further evaluate and refine the vision statements and recommended action items.
  2. Identify action items that could be implemented quickly and define a strategy to accomplish them.
  3. Organize a two-day symposium in the first half of 1996 focused on these vision statements and action items.
  4. Organize an invited session annually at the American Statistical Association meetings on the SPAIG initiative.

The members of this joint committee were: Ron Bosecker, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Thomas Gerig, North Carolina State University; David Marx, University of Nebraska; William Parr, University of Tennessee; Bruce Rodda, Schering-Plough Research Institute; and Susan Schall, DuPont Engineering.

A planning meeting was held, involving twelve representatives from academe, industry and government, on August 23 and 24, 1996, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The purpose of this planning meeting was to plan a larger conference, to which representatives of many major organizations employing statisticians in academe, industry and government would be invited, for the purpose of furthering partnership efforts. The SPAIG Conference. Based on the work done at the Gatlinburg planning meeting, the Statistics Partnerships among Academe, Industry, & Government (SPAIG) Workshop was held in Raleigh, NC on May 30-31, 1997. Eighty senior-level statisticians from academe, industry, and government attended. Participation by statisticians from academe and industry/government organizations was roughly equal.

Bob Starbuck (Wyeth-Ayerst) opened the workshop by discussing the opportunities that could be achieved by better and more widespread partnering relationships, including expanding and improving the use of statistics; increasing the value of statistics to society; improving the educational experience of students; improving the career decision process and outcomes; increasing communications among all statisticians; enabling greater awareness of each other's needs, issues, and concerns; improving the self-image of statisticians; making statistics a more rewarding profession; and ensuring that statistics is a growth field.

Ron Iman (Southwest Technology Consultants) provided an overview of partnering models and the great success that partnering has had and is having in the semiconductor industry. Ron presented several partnering models and also provided data that show that well over 90% of new Ph.D. statisticians are employed in industry and government rather than in academe, thereby emphasizing the importance of training statisticians to achieve the skills required to be successful in industry and government.

G. Rex Bryce (Brigham Young University), Dean Isaacson (Iowa State University), John Spurrier (University of South Carolina), and Bob Hogg (University of Iowa) followed with success stories of partnering with industry through internships, partnering with other departments on campus, a capstone course in statistics, and partnering with engineering, respec tively. The needs of industry, government, and academe were then expressed by Gene Meieran (Intel Corporation), Cynthia Clark (US Bureau of Census), and Dan Solomon (North Carolina State University).

Ron Snee (NYNEX) presented the keynote speech. He pointed out that global competition and advances in computer technology are forcing changes in how US corporations are managed. The result is an expanding role for statistics and statisticians. This expansion also results in changing roles for statisticians because the needs of industry have changed. In short, the needs are managerial as well as technical. The managerial needs are less well defined and are challenging to satisfy.

Ron concluded by saying that partnering with industry is needed to effectively and efficiently identify how to align statistical education and research with these new needs. Personal change is required to take advantage of the expanding role. The group was reminded that those who do not respond to their changing world will have decreasing influence in their world. As George Bernard Shaw noted, "If you can't change your mind, you can't change anything."

Workshop participants were asked to identify the consequences of maintaining the status quo; i.e., doing nothing to improve the partnering relationships between academe and industry/government. A Pareto analysis of their conclusions led to these conclusions:

There was clearly a strong belief among those present that the role of statistics and statisticians will diminish if the status quo is maintained. Negative consequences would include fewer students choosing statistics as a career, decline or elimination of statistics departments, and fewer employment opportunities for statisticians.

Participants were then divided up into four groups to address the following four topics:

  1. Short-term visits between statisticians in academe and industry/government,
  2. Long-term collaboration between academe & industry/government statisticians,
  3. Partnering with other disciplines, and
  4. Industry/government input into academic statistical programs & curricula.

Andy Kirsch (3M Co.), Lynne Hare (National. Inst. of Standards & Technology), Roger Hoerl (General Electric), Dean Isaacson (Iowa State University), and Susan Schall (Dupont Engineering Polymers) assisted individual groups in the use of affinity mapping, interrelationship digraphs, and multi-voting tools to:

  1. Identify why partnering was not occurring or not occurring as much as it could be
  2. Group identified causes into related clusters (root causes)
  3. Determine which root causes exerted the most influence on other root causes
  4. Identify solutions for addressing the most influential root causes, and
  5. Determine which solutions would be focused on to develop specific action plans.

This process led to the development of the following specific action plans.

Specific Action Plans

  1. Create and disseminate contact lists to facilitate partnering between academe, industry and government
  2. Conduct I/G salary survey
  3. Design and implement regional SPAIG Workshops
  4. Include I/G statisticians on academic advisory boards and review teams
  5. Create "How To" manual on short-term visits between A/I/G statisticians
  6. Incorporate collaboration into A/I/G job descriptions and job goals
  7. Establish an ASA Award for Partnership
  8. Assess past and current long-term collaboration between A/I/G and develop a process for long-term collaboration
  9. Survey collaboration with other disciplines
  10. Collect and edit partnering success stories
  11. Manage the SPAIG web site.

Volunteers participating in these initiatives have developed detailed action plans with milestones, responsibilities, and measures of success.

As action plans are implemented, progress reports will be provided at sessions on SPAIG at the Joint Statistical Meetings and in Amstat News articles.

These action plans and progress reports, plus additional information on the results of this SPAIG Workshop, including full text of many of the presentations and content of overheads summarizing the results from work sessions held during the workshop, can be found on the SPAIG web site at http://funnelweb.utcc.utk.edu/~wparr/spaig.html. Information on detailed action plans, milestones, responsibilities, measures of success, and progress as it occurs is regularly posted to the web site.

We greatly appreciate the financial support of the NSF for supporting the planning of this workshop (see Amstat News, 235, pp. 19-20) and of the following professional societies for covering the costs of coffee breaks and continental breakfasts: ASA Section on Physical & Engineering Sciences, American Society for Quality Control, ASA Biopharmaceutical Section, and ASA Section on Quality & Productivity. Thanks go also to Lynne Hare and Susan Schall for developing the workshop agenda, to Tom Gerig for his ex cellent job of doing the local arrangements for the workshop, and to all those who facilitated and participated in the workshop. Work Since the SPAIG Conference. Work has continued since the SPAIG Conference in May 1997. For the most up-to-date information, check out the SPAIG WWW site as indicated above, or send e-mail to Bill Parr at wparr@utk.edu or Bob Starbuck at StarbuR@war.wyeth.com.


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