IYOS: A Retrospective

Author: Ronald Wasserstein, Statistics2013 Steering Committee member and American Statistical Association executive director

My how time flies when you’re having fun!

It seems only like yesterday that the Statistics2013 Steering Committee and hundreds of participating organizations were gearing up for the yearlong celebration of statistics. Unbelievably, that was a year ago.

Fast forward 12 months and the full scope of all that was accomplished in the name of the International Year of Statistics is simultaneously mindboggling and immensely gratifying.

Where has the time gone?

It has gone to great use by the more than 2,300 organizations worldwide—a quantum leap in participation—that joined and actively supported Statistics2013. These groups, from 128 countries, invested considerable time and human and financial resources to advance the following goals of the International Year of Statistics:

• Increase public awareness of the power and impact of statistics on all aspects of society
• Nurture statistics as a profession, especially among young people
• Promote creativity and development in the sciences of probability and statistics

As evidenced by the number and breadth of participating organizations and the sheer range of activities conducted since January 1 (and some before the start of 2013), Statistics2013 struck a chord in the worldwide statistics community—a community hungry for public acknowledgement of its contributions to society and eager to introduce students of all ages to careers in their profession.



Not only were the participation numbers high, the impact Statistics2013 had on its various audiences was tremendous as well, evident by the multitude of events, activities, contests, meetings and other creative things that participating organizations conducted throughout the year to promote statistics.

To illustrate the previous point, let’s take a brief look at the activities of several organizations that addressed the three Statistics2013 goals:

The first goal of Statistics2013 is to increase public awareness of statistics.

In Lithuania, the country’s national statistical organization—Statistics Lithuania—carried the message directly to the public in early 2013 through a photo contest, titled “Statistics in Pictures.” A total of 115 photos reflective of the country’s social and economic life were submitted. The winners, which were announced in January, received prizes and each month throughout the year one of the 12 winning photos was published on the cover of a Statistics Lithuania publication—Economic and Social Development in Lithuania. Also, an exhibition of all submitted photos was held at the Statistics Lithuania offices in Vilnius.

The winning entry, submitted by Inga Liauskiene, from Statistics Lithuania‘s
“Statistics in Pictures” photo competition.

Among its many activities, Mexico’s Center of Research in Mathematics promoted a number of articles—written by several of the most prominent names in statistics in the country—about the impact of statistics throughout history. These articles were published by several leading national newspapers.

And, in the United Kingdom, statisticians from Lancaster University explained how statistics helps solve real-world problems during a series of free public talks. From the approval of medicines to fighting the spread of disease, the talks showed the average person how knowledge of numbers reveals the solution to many issues.

An equally important Statistics2013 goal was to introduce young people to careers in statistics and many groups chose to tackle this objective.

For instance, the Statistics Department of Germany’s Dortmund University, the country’s only independent faculty of statistics, sponsored the “Dortmund Day of Statistics.” At this event, a spotlight was shined on statistics for the entire university community’s benefit.

At the University of California, Berkeley in the United States, two statistics professors offered a Massive Open Online Course titled Introduction to Statistics as part of Statistics2013. When it was launched in February, the class had attracted 40,000 students around the world.

And, in the Middle East, the Bahrain Statistical Society educated primary-school students in two age groups—6-to-7-year-olds and 8-to-12-year-olds—about statistics through an educational program appropriately titled “Live Numbers in Our Life.”

The last—but equally important—goal of promoting research in statistical science also was allotted its share of attention throughout 2013.

For instance, in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Statistical Associationthe Statistics Department of Jimma University, and the Flemish Interuniversity CouncilUniversity Development Cooperation (Belgium), sponsored a conference themed “Statistics in Ethiopia: Emerging Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects” at the university. The event drew more than 200 eager participants to Jimma from across the country.

In the area of official statistics, Statistics Centre-Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates hosted the Statistical Conference 2013. The event brought together 550 decision-makers and experts from around the world to increase awareness of the importance of administrative data records produced by governments, semi-government agencies and private corporations. Its outcome was a set of recommendations to improve the quality of administrative data for the development of economies.

And in November, at the Statistics2013-organized Future of the Statistical Sciences Workshop in London, more than 100 top researchers in statistics and scientists from other fields who collaborate with statisticians examined a broad range of science across which statistics is not only applied but also is providing important guidance in developing new science and making science better. The result of this workshop will be a paper—to be available in early 2014—aimed at research funders around the world that will summarize the current and near-term future state of statistical science. Many publishers supported the event including Wiley who filmed a live webinar of the Workshop and the recorded sessions are available to view here on Statistics Views. You need to be a registered user of Statistics Views and if you are not, registration is free.

Statistics2013—So Much More

Of course, there were so many more activities that helped shape and make Statistics2013 wildly successful. For instance, there were the Statistics2013-sponsored video and photo contests, the numerous proclamations and resolutions honoring the International Year of Statistics, the many statistical contests for school children (i.e., Spain, Philippines and Russia), the songs and videos, and many, many other creative and effective activities undertaken by participating organizations.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough space in this article to tell you about them all. I recommend you visit the Statistics2013 Activities Calendar to get a complete picture of all that has been accomplished over the past year.

I would be remiss if I didn’t single out three countries—Bulgaria, Mexico and Spain—for their high participation. Something about the International Year of Statistics brought out the best of our colleagues in these countries and for that I say “Thank You!”

My Personal Statistics2013 Highlights

Personally, the International Year of Statistics has been an extraordinary experience. Here are just a few of my many highlights:

• Spreading the word–I spoke to dozens of groups around the world about Statistics2013. My thanks to all who extended an invitation. Each event was fun and memorable, but I single out these three:

o In February, I spoke to a group of distinguished statisticians from around the world at the United Nations in New York
o Collaborating with the team at CIMAT in Guanajuato, Mexico, on their expansive plans for the year, and being a part of the launch of Statistics2013 in Mexico. (The extraordinary hospitality of Victor Perez Abreu was an extra treat.)
o Presenting Statistics2013 highlights to about 400 delegates at the World Statistics Congress in Hong Kong in August

• Interacting with people–Through Statistics2013, I have developed hundreds of new contacts with statisticians around the world, most of whom I’ll never meet in person, but with whom I now feel a bond of friendship. Thank you all for supporting Statistics2013 and enriching my life. It was especially rewarding to work with my esteemed colleagues on the Statistics2013 Steering Committee.

• Reading the newsletter–What a joy it was every two weeks to read about the creative ways colleagues around the world were supporting the goals of the International Year of Statistics.

Without question, though, the biggest highlight for me was the opportunity to dream big about statistics and to work with a large network of dedicated statistical professionals to begin working to make those dreams a reality. For a dreamer like me, there is nothing better!

The Spirit Continues

So much has been accomplished and created over the past year that it would have been impossible to pull back the reins of the Statistics2013 movement and bring it to an abrupt end.

In order to maintain momentum, the Statistics2013 Steering Committee has created a successor organization called The World of Statistics. This umbrella organization will continue to carry the key messages of statistical science to the world’s population in order to further advance the goals of Statistics2013.

The World of Statistics will feature a new website—www.worldofstatistics.org (which will be made live in late January 2014)—with many of the elements from the current Statistics2013 website, including the much-viewed Activities Calendar, and new communications resources. The new website will be live by late January (remember to bookmark the new address) and the Twitter handle will change January 1 to @astatworld. If your organization has confirmed activities for 2014, 2015 or beyond, please send us information about these events so we can post these to the new Activities Calendar or send us this information as you finalize your events.

Also, the highly popular Statistics2013 Newsletter will become News of The World of Statistics, which will be published every three weeks starting January 20. As you have done previously, please send us information about your organization’s events and activities and we will publish your article in an upcoming issue.

And just this week, Statistics2013 announced the formation of the International Prize in Statistics. The primary objective of this “Nobel-like” honor is to call public attention to the important role that statistics has played in the past and is playing today in the advancement of society, science, technology and human welfare. We’ll update you about this new, prestigious award in the News of The World of Statistics.

Thank You

The International Year of Statistics would not have been possible without the commitment of the leadership of the five founding organizations: the American Statistical AssociationInternational Biometric SocietyInstitute of Mathematical StatisticsInternational Statistical Institute (and the Bernoulli Society), and Royal Statistical Society. In 2011, these organizations took the risk of committing time, talent and resources to try something the statistics community had never done. There was no guarantee of success, and there was a very real chance that the whole thing would amount to nothing. We all owe these organizations a huge debt of thanks for their investment in the future of our profession.

Adios, Sayōnara, Arrivederci, Goodbye

No matter how you say it, I join you in bidding a fond farewell to the International Year of Statistics. My colleagues on the Statistics2013 Steering Committee and I thank you for helping make Statistics2013 an unqualified success. Many people—be they the leader or a regular member of a participating organization—contributed to this success.

It was said by U.S. President John Kennedy that success has many fathers. In the case of the International Year of Statistics, its mothers and fathers are from 128 countries around the world—and they are a proud lot!

I close by strongly encouraging you to continue your organization’s active participation through The World of Statistics. Together, we’ll change public perception of our profession and build appreciation for all we do to make our world better.