International Prize in Statistics
Awarded to Bradley Efron

Stanford professor recognized for creation of ‘bootstrap’ method


The International Prize in Statistics has been awarded to Bradley Efron , professor of statistics and biomedical data science at Stanford University, in recognition of the “bootstrap,” a method he developed in 1977 for assessing the uncertainty of scientific results that has had extraordinary impact across many scientific fields.

Cornell University and EPAM Systems Inc. examined research databases worldwide and found that, since 1980, the bootstrap (and multiple variations on the term such as bootstrapping) has been cited in excess of 200,000 documents in more than 200 journals worldwide. Citations are found in fields such as agricultural research, biochemistry, computer science, engineering, immunology, mathematics, medicine, physics and astronomy and the social sciences.

“Because the bootstrap is easy for a computer to calculate and is applicable in an exceptionally wide range of situations, the method has found use in many fields of science, technology, medicine and public affairs,” says Sir David Cox, inaugural winner of the International Prize in Statistics.

Bradley Efron

Photo courtesy of Stanford University Department of Statistics

“While statistics offers no magic pill for quantitative scientific investigations, the bootstrap is the best statistical pain reliever ever produced,” says Xiao-Li Meng, Whipple V. N. Jones Professor of Statistics at Harvard University. “It has saved countless scientists and researchers the headache of finding a way to assess uncertainty in complex problems by providing a simple and practical way to do so in many seemingly hopeless situations.”

“The bootstrap was a quantum leap in statistical methodology that has enabled researchers to improve the lives of people everywhere,” says Sally Morton, dean of and professor of statistics in the Virginia Tech College of Science. “Efron is a statistical poet of enormous beauty, applicability and impact.”

Efron will accept the prize next summer at the 2019 World Statistics Congress in Kuala Lumpur.