Dec 16, 2016

President’s Message: A Brief Snapshot of IMS in 2016–17

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IMS President Jon Wellner (right), pictured in Toronto in 2016 with President-Elect Alison Etheridge and Past President Richard Davis

IMS President 2016–17 Jon A. Wellner, University of Washington, writes:

History: Continuity and Discontinuity

In preparing to write this article for the Bulletin, I took the opportunity to read several of the introductory articles written by previous IMS Presidents over the past 10 years. These pieces convey a wonderful sense of enthusiasm for the mission and goals of the IMS. They also contain considerable wisdom concerning the challenges and cross-winds the IMS has faced and continues to navigate in continuing to serve as a meeting place and society for those interested in scientific research and the effective application of probability and statistics in the modern world.

In reading these articles, I was struck by both the continuities and the discontinuities in the themes raised. Many of the new Presidents have championed one or more new initiatives, but each President has only one year to both introduce such initiatives and to follow through with implementation. In short, it is difficult to achieve continuity at the level of the President. On the other hand, other members of the IMS Executive Committee serve three-year terms and it is not uncommon for these members to serve two consecutive terms. Similarly, our current practices concerning editors and many of our standing committees involve three-year terms (or sometimes longer). An important source of continuity has been in our paid staff, the Executive Director Elyse Gustafson, and IMS Bulletin Assistant Editor Tati Howell. Elyse began as IMS Executive Director in 1997 and serves as the major source of institutional memory for our society. Tati Howell has been contracted to work with IMS since 2002. We owe them both a huge debt for keeping the IMS on an even keel over a long period of time. I personally owe them both for important assistance on many occasions!

In the remainder of this article my goal is to give a brief snapshot of some of the current activities of the IMS, including our journals, meetings, changes (e.g., the winding down of CIS) and opportunities for new activity, as well as reminders about some recent procedural changes.

IMS Executive Committee

As noted above, one source of continuity in the guidance of the affairs of the IMS is the Executive Committee. During this past year in the Executive Committee was the transition from Jean Opsomer to Zhengjun Zhang as IMS Treasurer. Jean served as IMS Treasurer for two full terms (2010–2016). His careful guidance of our financial affairs has put the IMS in a strong position for the foreseeable future. The other members of the Executive Committee are: Aurore Delaigle, who is currently serving the last year of two three-year terms as Executive Secretary; Judith Rousseau, also serving a second three-year term as Program Secretary (2012–2018); the President-Elect Alison Etheridge; the IMS Past President Richard Davis; and myself as IMS President.

Journals

The IMS has excelled in production of its flagship journals, the Annals of Probability, the Annals of Statistics, the Annals of Applied Probability, and the Annals of Applied Statistics. Producing these excellent journals continues to be one of the most important IMS activities. Our widely-read review journal, Statistical Science, has been in great editorial hands under the editorship of Peter Green who stepped down on January 1, 2017. Peter has been succeeded by Cun-Hui Zhang. In particular, the Statistical Science “conversation pieces” continue to be popular. Recently, in connection with the death of Peter Hall and the timely publication of a conversation article with Peter written by Aurore Delaigle and Matthew Wand, the IMS received several requests to make this conversation piece “open access”. In response to this request, the IMS Council recently decided to make all the conversation pieces completely open and accessible to everyone [see this link]: for a complete listing, from Hirotugu Akaike to Yuri Vasilyevich Prokhorov and Willem van Zwet, see: http://www.imstat.org/sts/conversations.html.

This past year was the tenth anniversary of the Annals of Applied Statistics, which has been a great success thanks to the excellent editorial work and leadership of past editors Brad Efron (2006–2012) and Steve Fienberg (2013–2015), and the current editor Tilmann Gneiting. The Annals of Applied Statistics has published about 2025 pages per year since it started in 2006. This year we also celebrate the tenth anniversary of one of our joint electronic journals, Statistics Surveys. This journal, a cooperative effort between the IMS, the Bernoulli Society, the Statistical Society of Canada and the American Statistical Association, was launched in 2007. Statistics Surveys has published on average 159 pages per year. In contrast, its sister journal Probability Surveys has published (on average) 322 pages per year. I believe that Statistics Surveys and Probability Surveys both have considerable potential for growth and increased importance, due to the communication role that well-written survey articles can play.

The IMS Bulletin Editor for the past three years has been Anirban DasGupta. Many thanks to Anirban for his dedicated editorial work and service to the IMS, and welcome to Vlada Limic who took over editorship of the Bulletin with this issue [see her article]. On behalf of all the members of the IMS, I would like to thank the editors of all the IMS journals and their editorial boards for all the superb work they do to maintain the high standards of our journals.

IMS Meetings

The last IMS Annual meeting was held jointly with the Bernoulli Society in Toronto during July 2016: the 9th World Congress in Probability and Statistics drew about 450 participants, and was a great success—in large part due to the excellent program organized by Alison Etheridge (Program Chair for the meeting and current IMS President-Elect), and groundwork by the local organizing committee chaired by Tom Salisbury. Our next IMS Annual meeting will be held during the Joint Statistical Meetings in Baltimore (July 29–August 3, 2017); while our next stand-alone meeting will be in Vilnius, Lithuania (July 2–6, 2018). Our next joint meeting with the Bernoulli Society will be the 10th World Congress in Probability and Statistics in Seoul, Korea (August 17–21, 2020).

CIS wind-down and planned closure

While our journals have been doing well, our long-time indexing, bibliographical, and retrieval effort, the Current Index to Statistics, has struggled with changing technologies and lack of use, with declining subscriptions and decreasing revenues. Most of the relevant scientific bibliography is now covered by Google Scholar, a transition presaged by the January/February 2005 Bulletin cover article about Google Scholar entitled “Stand on Giants’ Shoulders”. Although CIS has had a group of devoted users, anecdotal evidence suggests that many, if not most, IMS and ASA members are not more than occasional users—if they are even aware of its existence. The CIS Management Committee discussed various alternatives in person at the JSM in Chicago and online after the Chicago meeting. Following discussions by the IMS Executive Committee and the Council, the IMS Council recently voted to phase out CIS over a three-year period (2017–2019) by making the current CIS database “open access” (i.e. freely available) in its current form (with updates only from the automated processes currently in place and no further manual updates). The automatic updates will be dropped on January 1, 2020, and an effort will be made to share the current data with some other partner (to be determined). Announcements of these changes have been made in e-mails to subscribers, in the previous issue of the Bulletin, in the IMS e-bulletin, and on the CIS web pages.

While I regret the necessity of phasing out the CIS effort, I would like to convey sincere thanks to the current and past Editors (George Styan, Alan Zaslavsky, Eric Suess, Pantelis Vlachos), as well as others on the CIS Management Committee (David Umbach [chair], Chris Bilder, Xinping Cui and Haydar Demirhan), for their dedication and commitment to the CIS.

IMS Groups

One of the important projects of my predecessor, Richard Davis, has been a push to re-invigorate the IMS Groups program. One success in this direction has been the New Researchers Group (NRG), spearheaded by Alex Volfovsky, Dan Sussman, Vince Lysinski and others. The NRG has secured NSF Funding for the annual New Researchers Conference and has a new website thanks to Dan Sussman (http://groups.imstat.org/newresearchers/). The new website for the NRG has incorporated an on-line version of the IMS New Researchers’ Survival Guide, originally published in 2006 (see the January 2006 IMS Bulletin).

Another potential group in the direction of Machine Learning has been under discussion, but has not yet gotten off the ground. An ever-present need exists for the application of statistics and other science based methods to a wide range of problems, and this might be one avenue for the organization of several new IMS Groups, for example in the area of Environmental Statistics. If you have ideas or suggestions concerning potential new Groups in any area of probability or statistics, please contact us.

Membership

The IMS needs to continue to work to recruit new members. We had an organized membership drive in 2008 (see the IMS Bulletin Jan/Feb 2008), but it may be time for another drive. As noted by past Presidents Richard Davis (see the IMS Bulletin Jan/Feb 2016) and Erwin Bolthausen (in his IMS 2015 Presidential address, September 2015 Bulletin), the IMS has apparently lost some membership in the probability part of our community. Please consider persuading your colleagues and students, who are not already members, to join. Student membership is still free (see http://imstat.org/membership/student.htm), and membership for those doing work or teaching in probability or statistics is a bargain at $105 (recently reduced from $115, and with a further 10% reduction to $94.50 for early renewal before December 31) for a basic membership.

Nominations

The procedure for nominations has changed. In particular the IMS has opened the nomination process for named lectures and for proposing sessions at IMS sponsored meetings. I would like to encourage members to take advantage of these opportunities to provide direct input in both of these directions. For further information see announcements in the IMS Bulletin and e-bulletin.

Invitation

The IMS depends on its members for ideas and service in many different roles: editing our journals, organizing our meetings, and serving on committees to choose members for various honors and awards. I would like to thank our members who have volunteered their time and energy to serve in these important roles (with apologies for not being able to name you all here). I invite all members to step forward to serve the IMS.

In closing, let me re-iterate my invitation to all members to feel free to contact me (email to president@imstat.org), any member of the Executive Committee, or the IMS Executive Director Elyse Gustafson (email to erg@imstat.org) with your comments and suggestions.

Your ideas for improving the IMS and for new IMS initiatives are always welcome.

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