Feb 16, 2017

Cox and Efron’s BBVA Award

Sir David Cox and Bradley Efron have been awarded the prestigious BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Basic Sciences category. The €400,000 award is shared for their development of “pioneering and hugely influential” statistical methods that have proved indispensable for obtaining reliable results in a vast spectrum of disciplines from medicine to astrophysics, genomics or particle physics.

“Cox and Efron’s techniques are used on a daily basis in the practice of statistical science, and have made an enormous impact in all the sciences which rely on the analysis of data,” the jury’s citation said.

Cox’s contribution, “the Cox regression,” is a powerful tool to explain the duration of a time interval between two events of interest, which depends on identifiable factors rather than mere chance (for instance, the mortality of a group of individuals due to a particular disease or a risk factor like environmental pollution). It finds use in such varied fields as cancer research, epidemiology, economics, psychology or sociology, and even in the testing of the resistance and durability of industrial products. The jury illustrates the technique’s application in the medical field by citing the conclusion that even a year of smoking cessation contributes to reduce mortality.

Bradley Efron, Stanford University, meantime, is the inventor of the bootstrap, a “deceptively simple” technique, as the jury terms it, to estimate the margin of error of a given outcome; a must-know in science, without which results are worthless.

Both contributions date from decades ago and both laureates found it hard to pick just one out of the multiple applications found since then. David Cox, University of Oxford, declared himself “enormously surprised and gratified” by the sheer range of scientific problems his method has helped address. Cox’s technique, published in 1972, is now the second most cited statistics paper in modern scientific literature.

Cox’s move into statistics was motivated by the military imperatives of the aeronautics industry in the Second World War. Efron, who met Cox in London in 1972, had been nudged towards statistics by his father’s love of mathematics and sport. He says part of what led him to the bootstrap technique, published in 1979, was a conversation he had with Cox then about another statistical analysis method.

The two laureates concur that their own methods, and statistical tools in general, will become increasingly necessary in the practice of science, more reliant by day on the analysis of massive data sets.

Abridged from http://www.fbbva.es/TLFU/tlfu/ing/microsites/premios/fronteras/galardonados/2016/ciencias.jsp


Leave a comment




Welcome to the IMS Bulletin website! We are developing the way we communicate news and information more effectively with members. The print Bulletin is still with us (free with IMS membership), and still available as a PDF to download, but in addition, we are placing some of the news, columns and articles on this blog site, which will allow you the opportunity to interact more. We are always keen to hear from IMS members, and encourage you to write articles and reports that other IMS members would find interesting. Contact the IMS Bulletin at bulletin@imstat.org

What is “Open Forum”?

In the Open Forum, any IMS member can propose a topic for discussion. Email your subject and an opening paragraph (to bulletin@imstat.org) and we'll post it to start off the discussion. Other readers can join in the debate by commenting on the post. Search other Open Forum posts by using the Open Forum category link below. Start a discussion today!

About IMS

The Institute of Mathematical Statistics is an international scholarly society devoted to the development and dissemination of the theory and applications of statistics and probability. We have about 4,500 members around the world. Visit IMS at http://imstat.org
Latest Issue