Joining a statistical society, why and which society?

Being currently a member of four statistical societies, namely the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA), and the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), I sometimes get questions from colleagues as to why I joined those societies. The initial reason for joining was for me to get access to the journals from those societies. For instance, I joined the IMS in 1987 and I have received the Annals of Statistics since then (I also subscribe to Annals of Applied Probability and to the new and exciting Annals of Applied Statistics). I am actually a life member of the IMS and very supportive of this society for its truly international and strongly academic orientations that bridge Probability and Statistics. Its meetings are always of the highest quality and the society is very active in sponsoring joint events (like the Adap’ski and MCMC’ski meetings) and in supporting young members (through the Laha award and through free membership for students) and members from developping countries. The society is also very open in recruiting members willing to do so for its various committees and I have served in several of them in the past years. So, from an academic point of view, joining the IMS makes a lot of sense, the sooner the better.

In contrast, the ASA is somehow too professional oriented to give me the same feeling of community that goes with my membership to ISBA, the IMS, or the RSS. So the main incentive there for me is to get a subscription to JASA, which is one of the top Statistics journals. I sometimes attend the annual JSM meeting but it is such a huge gathering that by the end of the first day I usually get tired of the crowd and of the need to rush from one end of a big convention center to the other and I do not get the same benefits as in smaller IMS meetings. The only WNAR meeting I attend (in Fairbanks, Alaska) was however much more interesting if only because of its smaller size. I guess the weaker link I have with ASA is that it is a national society and that I have looser connections with US Statistics these days than I had earlier… The connections with the ASA staff is also much more impersonal because of the size of the society and this also contribute to weaken the feeling of community, contacts being too business-like (if highly efficient).

This may also explain the difference with my attachment to the Royal Statistical Society, despite it being also a national society. My colleagues in Paris will most likely blame this on my anglophilia, but I do feel the RSS is a superb society that runs efficiently but that is also member-oriented, with a strong emphasis on methodology and a well-balanced link between academia and the professional world. Their publications are also of the highest quality (and I hope I did not contribute too much in bringing the qualiy of JRSS B down!). As a national society, I also find their opening to members from abroad quite remarkable. The Research Section and its handling of Read Papers is an unique example of academic excellence and the recent addition of Pre-ordinary meetings an illustration of the way the RSS keeps reinventing itself. The presidency of Peter Green was particularly influential in this respect. (This excellence and wealth of activities is also the reason why I belong to a British society rather than to a French one!)

Last but not least, being a member of ISBA is also very logical for me as the sense of community is obviously the strongest there. In a sense, it is formalising a long-lasting link with persons I have know for years, met at numerous meetings and whose work I have read and worked on for years too. This feeling of sharing more than just an interest in a specific statistical methodology is certainly puzzling for those outside the community, but it is truly there and the end it does contribute to boost research (and publications!) by making collaborative work almost an evidence. When fun and work mix so seamlessly together, it is indeed fun to work longer and harder! The same applies to the involvement in the committee work related with the society: we still are a small enough group that reading PhD theses for the Savage award or books for the DeGroot award is within one’s abilities. There is no reason of joining for publications, since the on-line and exciting new journal, Bayesian Analysis, is freely available, but there are so many other reasons that this is not a drawback! Most Bayesian meetings will offer a free ISBA membership with the registration fees. So if you feel the slightest interest in Bayes’ theorem, Bayesian methodology, Bayesian philosophy, Bayesian theory, Bayesian networks, computing methods, or in applying any of those in a particular field, you should join IBSA and contribute to its life. (The membership fees are ridiculously low, for one thing, and there is a joint membership with IMS.)

2 Responses to “Joining a statistical society, why and which society?”

  1. […] the offer! First, it means more books to read and review (hence, free material for the ‘Og!). Second, CHANCE is a general audience statistical journal published by the ASA, hence completely […]

  2. […] few days ago I learned that I had been elected to the IMS council… This is a great honour and I hope I can contribute in positive ways to the […]

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