The following was written by Neung Soo Ha, postdoctoral fellow for SAMSI and NISS.
The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) and the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) held its annual Affiliates meeting on March 15 at Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami, Florida, in conjunction with the Eastern North American Region (ENAR) meeting. About 30 affiliates and board members attended the meeting. The acting director, Nell Sedransk, provided a brief history of NISS. She explained that the purpose of being an affiliate is about active involvement with the research program development, such as planning conferences and workshops. She finished by talking about the new website for NISS and asked for input from every affiliate member.
Sujit Ghosh, SAMSI’s deputy director, gave a description about SAMSI and some of its programs, including workshops, working groups, and education outreach programs for undergraduates and graduates. He showed how affiliates can be involved with developing future programs.
The morning session ended with presentations from three postdoc researchers from NISS and SAMSI. First presenter was Daniel Taylor-Rodriguez who is a first year postdoc from SAMSI. His presentation was about analyzing the jaguar population in Central and South America. Second presenter was Neung Soo Ha, who is a second year postdoc from NISS. He presented an analysis of insurance rates for Florida in 2010. The last presenter was Hang Kim, who is a third year postdoc from NISS, who talked about data confidentiality.
In session 2, there was a panel about effective reviewers. The panel members included: Michelle Dunn, National Institute of Health program director, Sujit Ghosh, SAMSI deputy director and former National Science Foundation program director, and Xihong Lin, professor at Harvard University, School of Public Health.
The goal of the session was to foster a clear understanding of review processes and grant proposals from reviewer and reviewee’s point of view. Dr. Dunn described about how the program directors are usually the ones who decide on the funding decisions for the project, yet those people might not be the experts in the field for the proposed program. Thus, when the principal investigators write the proposals, they should always keep in mind about whom would read and make decisions on the project.
The next two panel members talked about the review processes for proposals and journals. Dr. Ghosh said that the reviewing the proposals should focus on overall ideas rather than being technical and should make judgements on contents. Dr. Lin talked about reviewing for journals. It’s important for the journal reviewer to see what is novel about the article and to provide constructive criticism on methodologies.
Session 3 was about availability and quality of the data. The panel members were: David Madigan, professor, Columbia University; Patrick Ryan, research associate, Janssen Research and Development; Rima Izem, researcher, Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and John Eltinge, director of research at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They all talked about the concept and the availability of “Big” data from different fields, and how the data can be used for analysis and how results can propagate to the population.
The last session was about the leadership skills. The panel members included: Sally Morton, professor, University of Pittsburgh; Ruth Pfeiffer, director, National Cancer Institute. They talked about what makes an effective leader and agreed that a leader should be a person with a vision and clear objectives. Dr. Morton emphasized that a leader should also have an understanding about both the financial and human resources, and it is important for institutions to have a program for leadership skills for junior researchers. Dr. Pfeiffer described that a person with authority does not equate to a person with leadership, and that a lower ranked person can also have a leadership skills. She also mentioned that a person can acquire leadership skills through proper trainings.
All in all it was a very informative meeting.