ASA Statistical Computing & Graphics Section July 2015 Newsletter. Special: JSM 2015 highlights.
Table of Contents
Notes from the Section Chairs
JSM 2015 Highlights JSM 2016 Call for Invited Session Proposals
Notes from the Section Chairs

David van Dyk

Section on Statistical Computing

Section Chair (2015)

JSM 2015 is only a few weeks away and is shaping up to be another record breaker. With over 6000 participants, countless technical presentations, continuing education and career placement opportunities, and loads of occasions for networking, socializing, and just having fun in a great city, JSM is not to be missed! I hope the Sections on Statistical Computing and Statistical Graphics will help you navigate all of this!

Both Sections have organized excellent JSM programs. The Section on Statistical Computing has sponsored 4 invited and 4 topic-contributed sessions. They focus on new computationally-intensive methods that are designed for the real challenges posed by today's massive and complex data, new ideas for making methods scalable, and techniques that are appropriate in the context of sophisticated modeling. Topics include model and variable selection, methods for network data and big data, Monte Carlo methods, and a session on applications for the Tech industry. You can find more details in the article, JSM 2015 Highlights, or via the JSM 2015 online program.

After the technical sessions, don't forget to stop by the Joint Computing and Graphics Section Business Meeting & Mixer on Monday evening. Although this is our annual business meeting, and section officers will give brief updates on section activities, the focus is on "mixing". Come by and try your luck with the annual door prize raffle, network with section members, make new acquaintances, or have a drink with old friends. … and don't forget to thank Revolution R for sponsoring the food and drink! What's not to like?

The JSM is also when we honor our section award winners. Our annual John Chambers Statistical Software Award is a prize for statistical software written by, or in collaboration with, an undergraduate or graduate student. This year's recipient is Kyle Dwayne Bemis, a PhD Student at Purdue. He is being honored for his work on the R package Cardinal, a mass spectrometry imaging toolbox for statistical analysis. We will also honor the four winners of our annual Student Paper Competition. The competition is jointly sponsored by the Computing and Graphics Sections and winners will present their papers in a special topic contributed session at the JSM. (You won't want to miss this one!) Details of the awards appear in an article by our Awards Officer, Aarti Munjal. Thanks to all the participants in the Chambers Award competition and the Student Paper Competition, to all the judges, and to Aarti. And to the winners: Congratulations!

It's it not too early to start planning for 2016! We will soon be soliciting proposals for invited sessions and soon after that for continuing education courses. If you plan ahead, there are lots of opportunities to get involved. You can propose a round table lunch, a topic contributed session, or a contributed poster or paper. Also consider nominating yourself or your student for the Chambers Award or submitting a paper to the Student Paper Competition. Watch your e-mail for details in the fall!

Finally I want to congratulate our newly elected Section officers. Kate Calder (The Ohio State University) will be our Section Chair in 2017; Eric Laber (North Carolina State University) will represent us on the JSM 2017 Program Committee; Genevera Allen (Rice University) will be our Secretary/Treasurer in 2016-17; and Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel (Duke University) will be one of our three representatives to the Council of Sections (2016-18).

We have an excellent program planned for JSM 2015. This would not be possible without the active an engaged membership of both sections. Thanks for all your help!!!
… and See You in Seattle!

Naomi Robbins

Section on Statistical Graphics

Section Chair (2015)

JSM 2015 is around the corner and I look forward to the sessions that our section is sponsoring under the leadership of Matthew Shotwell. See Matt's article for a description of our program. We invite all members to a mixer / business meeting on Monday evening. It's a great way to network with others with similar interests. In addition to our programs, short courses and morning and luncheon roundtables, the section is involved with other activities. I'll describe one of them here.

According to our charter, the first two objectives for the Section on Statistical Graphics are to:

1. "Foster understanding and proper use of statistical graphics in statistics, in

other scientific fields, in the mass media, and among the general public.

2. Encourage the teaching of statistical graphics in universities, colleges,

secondary schools, and primary schools."

One initiative that aims to accomplish these objectives is the special task force to make recommendations to the ASA/NCTM Annual Poster Competition and Project Competition. This competition is an annual competition run by the ASA and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). The contest was judged for its statistical content with no input from the Section on Statistical Graphics. Since many of the winning posters contained figures that did not show the proper use of statistical graphics, the section formed a special task force headed by Jüergen Symanzik. Richard Heiberger and I are also members.

We reviewed the entries to the 2013 poster competition and made recommendations for improvements using the students' posters to point out areas of excellence and making up our own bad examples to indicate areas where other graph forms or other options would improve the figures. As an example, we showed how adding a pseudo third-dimension to pie charts and bar charts distorts the data and misleads the readers. We pointed out other principles of effective graphs such as ordering the data sensibly which is usually not alphabetically. These recommendations were published in The Statistics Teacher Network. We were very pleased to see that the 2014 entries to the poster competition had many fewer graphical mistakes and misleading figures.

Our next steps are to finish the review of the 2014 posters and then to write guidance for the judges of the competitions.

We also welcome volunteers for these activities and suggestions for section officers. See me at JSM or send an email to if you'd like to participate more fully in the section's activities.

A big thank you to all the officers and volunteers.


Heiberger, Richard M., Naomi B. Robbins, and Jüergen Symanzik. 2014. "Statistical Graphics Recommendations for the ASA/NCTM Annual Poster Competition and Project Competition", Proc. of the Joint Statistical Meetings, American Statistical Association, Arlington, VA.

Symanzik, Jüergen; Naomi B. Robbins, Richard M. Heiberger. (2014). "Observations from the Winners of the 2013 Statistics Poster Competition --- Praise and Future Improvements." The Statistics Teacher Network, 83, 2-5.

JSM 2015 Highlights

From the JSM 2015 Statistical Computing Program Chair
Feng Liang

I am very excited about our program at the coming JSM in Seattle. Our section is proud to sponsor a total of 22 sessions: 4 invited, 4 topic-contributed, 10 contributed, 1 oral poster presentation and 3 round table discussion! In addition, we co-sponsor a special student paper competition session with the Statistical Graphics Section. We also co-sponsor 2 contributed sessions with Section on Bayesian Statistical Science and Section on Statistical Learning and Data Mining.

I would like to encourage our members to attend those sessions. A summary of our sessions is listed below, excluding round table discussions, which will be introduced separately by Wendy. For a more detailed program, please check the JSM Online Program.
At the end, I would like to thank our session organizers, speakers, and especially those volunteer chairs! Without your help, we cannot put together such a great program! See you in Seattle in August!

From the JSM 2015 Statistical Graphics Program Chair
Matthew S. Shotwell

The Section on Statistical Graphics (SSG) will sponsor several invited and contributed sessions at the forthcoming Joint Statistical Meetings in Seattle. We are especially excited to learn about recent advances in interactive graphics technology with leading figures in statistical graphics, including Kenneth Shirley, Hadley Wickham, and several others (Mon 10:30am, #158). Karl Broman will present on the utility of interactive graphics in making sense of high-dimensional genetic data, at topic that is particularly germane to this year's theme: "Statistics: Making better decisions."

The SSG will also sponsor the "Doing Good with Data Viz" session (Wed 8:30am, #472), which is expected to draw considerable interest. Presenters Patrick Ball, Jake Porway, and Dino Citraro, each members of organizations devoted to using data to better inform policy and decision making, will discuss the utility of statistical graphics in the analysis of war crimes, gun violence, terrorism, environmental issues, and literacy. Each of these speakers will be available for floor discussion afterward.

In addition, the SSG will host one additional invited session on the topic of analyzing and visualizing complex neuroimaging data (Thu, 8:30am, #623), and two contributed sessions covering a range of topics in graphical frameworks and methods, including the visualization and analysis of causal networks and other types of networks, trees, confidence regions, and others (Mon, 2:00pm, #257 and Tue, 2:00pm, #432). Lastly, the SSG will sponsor two contributed posters (Wed, 10:30am, #551), and will co-sponsor the annual Statistical Computing and Graphics Student Paper Competition with discussant Hadley Wickham (Tue, 8:30am, #306).

JSM 2015 Student Competitions
Aarti Munjal, Statistical Computing Awards Chair

We had a great competition this year with 21 submissions. We would like to acknowledge our judges for their hard work in evaluating these submissions: Hadley Wickham, Jonathan Lane, and Mario Morales. We had two winners from the Graphics Section and two from the Computing Section, as listed below.

This year's winners are:

  • Computing: Ben Courtney Stevenson (University of St Andrews, United Kingdom) - An R package for the estimation of animal density from a fixed array of remote detectors

  • Computing: Kaylea Haynes (Lancaster University, Lancaster) - Efficient penalty search for multiple changepoint detection in Big data

  • Graphics: Lindsay Rutter (Iowa State University) - phyViz: Phylogenetic visualization of genealogical information in R

  • Graphics: Eric Hare and Andrea J. Kaplan (Iowa State University) - Introducing statistics with intRo

Chamber's award

We had 17 great submissions this year. Our judges, Maria Oliveria and David Smith, contributed their tremendous time and efforts in evaluating the submissions. The winner for this year's Chamber's award is Kyle Dwayne Bemis (Purdue University), Cardinal.

JSM 2015 Roundtable Discussions
Wendy Martinez, JSM 2016 Statistical Computing Program Chair

The Statistical Computing Section is proud to sponsor three roundtable sessions at the JSM 2015 in Seattle, as listed below.

"Bayesian Computation for High-Dimensional Data Sets" by Naveen Narisetty, University of Michigan. This discussion will include existing Bayesian methods and computational algorithms for high-dimensional data sets. The emphasis will be on computational issues such as speed and scalability.

Tuesday, August 11

"How Many Simulations Do We Need to Run?" by Paul Schuette, FDA. This roundtable will focus on simulation experiments and the number of simulations necessary to obtain a reasonable estimate of interest. Advances in computer technology, such as 64-bit architecture, multicore, cluster, and cloud-based computing allow a large number of simulations to achieve the required accuracy.

Wednesday, August 12

"What are the Statistical Challenges of Big Data Science?" by Kaiser Fung, New York University. Something is brewing in the world of Big Data, but we are not sure what is in it yet. This roundtable will focus on the challenges in this new world and where exciting opportunities for statistical research lie.

JSM 2016 - Call for Invited Session Proposals
Wendy Martinez, JSM 2016 Statistical Computing Program Chair

It is time to be thinking about invited sessions for JSM 2016. While we do not have exact dates at this time, we expect that online submission of invited session proposals will be possible here from mid-July to early September.

Invited sessions can take on a variety of formats, and they can be of two types. An invited paper session has from two to six speakers. Invited panels have a discussion format and have a minimum of three and a maximum of six panelists. For more information, email Wendy Martinez.


Strata Conference NYC Discount

O'Reilly and Cloudera are presenting Strata + Hadoop World in New York City on September 29 - October 1, 2015. Their literature says that Strata + Hadoop World is where cutting-edge data science and new business fundamental intersect -- and merge. They have offered a 20% discount to members of our sections. Use the code UGDVZNY20. More information about the conference is available at

R Consortium

There is a new R Consortium, a group of organizations supporting the R ecosystem - R Foundation, Microsoft, RStudio, Tibco, alteryx, Google, HP, Ketchum Trading, MangoSolutions, Oracle.

New members are welcome.

The 2015 Interface Conference

It featured tutorials on three environments for statistical computing---SparkR, RStorm, and Tessera, and a tutorial Overview of Deep Learning. The 2015 symposium theme was "Data Science", chaired by James Harner.

If you are interested in organizing a session for Interface 2016, contact Joe Marr. Check here in Sept for location and date.

Bayesian Computing at MCMSki V

This meeting will be the next incarnation of the popular MCMSki series and will address recent advances in the theory and application of Bayesian computational methods. It will be held January 5-7, 2016 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. More information is available here.

Statistical Computing Budget & Member Initiatives

The Statistical Computing budget is stable; our big expenses are food at the mixer at the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), and student paper awards. We increased the award for student paper winners at JSM to $800 each for up to three winners. Our balance is about $25K.

If you have ideas for ways the section could help members (using money or otherwise), please contact a section officer.

Statistical Graphics Budget & Member Initiatives

The Statistical Graphics section budget is healthy. Our big expense is the joint mixer at the JSM, but we have been lucky to have sponsors over the past few years who cover about half of these expenses. We also fund one of the student paper awards annually, which has just been increased to $800. Ideas for funding activities that would benefit section members are encouraged.

This newsletter was put together by the Publication Officers of both sections with help from the current Section Officers listed on the following websites:
Section on Statistical Computing
Section on Statistical Graphics
Copyright © 2015
The Statistical Computing & Statistical Graphics Newsletter is a publication of the Statistical Computing and Statistical Graphics Sections of the ASA.
All rights reserved.

All communications regarding ASA membership and the Statistical Computing and Statistical Graphics Section, including change of address, should be sent to our mailing address:
American Statistical Association,
1429 Duke Street,
Alexandria, VA 22314-3402 USA
TEL (703) 684-1221
FAX (703) 684-2036