Nov 17, 2013

Farewell from the Editor

Dimitris Politis writes:

Why is that in adult life three years pass in an eye-blink while in high school they seem an eternity? Do we perceive time on a logarithmic scale as in the Weber–Fechner law of perception of sensations? Or is it that we pack our days so full with appointments and activities that we have to race through them without a breather?

The other day—or was it the other year?—I was giving a talk in the Economics department of my university. I was debating whether to repeat some results I had covered in my previous talk in that same room to avoid boring my audience but then I looked around: it was clear that only 20–25% of the audience could even have attended my previous talk as it had taken place three years earlier!

It was such a brief three years ago that I took over from Xuming He as Editor of the Bulletin. The task seemed daunting at first but became manageable due to the untiring efforts of our invaluable Assistant Editor, Tati Howell. In those three years, Tati and I have tried to keep our readers informed and entertained. In this, we were aided by our group of wonderful Contributing Editors: Terence’s Stuff, a cornerstone of the Bulletin, Rick’s Ramblings that rambled on(line) only to be replaced by the ever so witty X-L Files, and Anirban’s Angle that quickly unfolded to be a thesaurus of stimulating thoughts on statistical education and practice, as well as more occasional contributions from others.

It was also in these last three years that, on the recommendation of several IMS members including former president Ruth Williams, Tati and I set out on the mission to revamp and modernize the online presence of the Bulletin. Whereas in olden days it was only possible to download a PDF copy of the printed Bulletin, now—and for the last two and a half years—all Bulletin articles exist as separate links that are individually accessible and searchable. In addition, there is an interactive, blog-like feature to the new Bulletin: readers can post their own comments after an article. Readers can also start their own thread of discussion on a topic of their choice in our Open Forum!

These are still relatively new features and people have not yet taken advantage of them fully. But I would like to encourage our readers to participate in the open discussion that the new Bulletin affords; this can be a powerful tool. To give an example, Terry’s “Rant” in the June/July 2013 issue was a thought-provoking article on gender (in)equality and the apparent under-representation of women in IMS’s special lectures. How does one go about addressing such an issue? Should there be quotas or shall the IMS awards be given regardless of gender, ethnicity, etc., on a strictly meritocratic basis? Is the nomination procedure or the actual selection to blame? Even deciding whether indeed there has been a selection bias is not a trivial question since the statistical features of the award-eligible population (e.g., age, gender, etc.) are not available.

These difficult issues have since been the subject of heated discussion within the IMS Council. The interest of past president Hans Künsch in this topic was made apparent by his quick online comment after Terry’s column at the Bulletin website. The matter was then put on the Council’s agenda, and the IMS Executive Committee has just put together a recommendation for the future that will hopefully ensure greater attention to diversity without imposing a quota system; you can read the full details of the Council’s motion below.

Had there been more public (and open!) discussion on the matter, it could/would have weighed in on the Council’s deliberations. So the moral is: participate in the online forum of the Bulletin, and make your voice heard!

In saying my farewells, I am very happy to leave the Bulletin in excellent hands as Anirban DasGupta has agreed to be the Editor for the next three years. The downside is that Anirban’s Angle [see here] will take a necessary three-year hiatus. However, Anirban has appointed a wonderful team of six Contributing Editors, who will also start on January 1, but I won’t spill the beans now…

Look us up—preferably online!—in the H3 New Year: Happy, Healthy, Hopeful(ly)!

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