SSC Strategic Plan
The Executive Committee of the Statistical Society of Canada has put together the following strategic plan for the Society. The plan has been approved by the Board Annual Meeting in Regina, Saskatchewan, in june 1999.
David Bellhouse, President 1998-99 of the SSC
Any strategic plan for an organization should follow from the mission and purpose of that organization. It should try to build on the strengths of the organization so that it may better carry out its mission.
The mission of the Statistical Society of Canada is to encourage the development and use of statistics and probability.
To achieve this, the Statistical Society of Canada shall:
- help to develop a public awareness of the value of statistical thinking and the importance of statistics and statisticians in Canadian society;
- work to ensure that decisions affecting Canadian society are based on appropriate data and valid statistical interpretation;
- promote the highest possible standards for statistical education and practice in Canada;
- promote the development of statistical methodology;
- promote a sense of community among all statisticians in Canada; and
- provide a forum for the exchange of ideas between theoreticians and practitioners of statistics.
The Society has done well in many aspects of the fulfillment of its mission. Many members of the Society are very active in promoting and developing statistical theory and methods, and many are leaders in statistical research and education. The Society has a well-respected research journal and excellent annual meetings as vehicles for the dissemination and exchange of statistical knowledge and ideas. These activities should continue at their current high level and must be supported and built on by the Society. There are some areas that need to be strengthened in its mission. The Society should work to provide a better sense of community among all statisticians. It must better accommodate the needs of statisticians outside of academia. Further, the Society could do more to promote the field itself and the proper use of data and statistical methodology within Canada.
As the Society tries to fulfill its mission better, two things should also happen concurrently. The first is that the membership base of the Society should broaden and increase. The second is that the profile of the statistics profession in Canada should rise.
No strategic plan should be cast in stone. It should be able to evolve over time building on the initiatives that work and discarding those that do not work. Nor should the plan be overly ambitious. With finite resources, it is better to be highly successful at a few things and then build on the success achieved, than to become so thinly spread with many initiatives that little of substance can be achieved within a reasonable period of time.
The majority of the membership of the Statistical Society of Canada is from academia. Statisticians in government and statisticians in industry follow in terms of their numbers in that order. This fact of life often drives the main pursuits of the Society and may either attract or repel individuals to become members. Further, the number of members has declined over the past few years from a peak in the early nineties to a level slightly below that at the beginning of the decade. This is at a time when the number of graduates from statistics programs appears to be increasing. The demand and growth of statistics at Canadian universities has remained strong even through difficult financial times. Nonetheless, there is also a very substantial and growing number of statisticians working outside of academia, and this trend will continue. Consequently, the Society needs to develop new initiatives and programs that would attract members from outside of universities while maintaining and enhancing the level of support that it currently carries out for academic statisticians.
The Society should undertake initiatives in five broad areas.
1. The Society should increase its promotional efforts regarding the value of statistics and statisticians in Canadian society.
These kinds of effort have already occurred through a variety of committees of the Society. For example, the Statistical Education Committee has been active in the Canada-Wide Science Fair and has promoted special public lectures at the Society's Annual Meeting. The Research Committee has been active in promoting the field of statistics to NSERC during the reallocation exercises. These kinds of successes could be built upon. In the education area:
a) Form a panel of Society members interested in statistics instruction in high schools and elementary schools. On request, this panel would offer advice on the development of statistics short courses for teachers (called "in service courses" in Ontario) which could be taught jointly by statistics faculty members and members of the appropriate Faculty of Education or Teachers' College.
With respect to research:
b) Expand the role of the Research Committee to look into ways of furthering the interests of statistics at all the major granting agencies as well as governmental departments and industry.
The Society should also try to promote its own membership to give it greater visibility in the wider scientific community and the community at large. One way for this to occur is to:
c) Further expand the role of the Research Committee. The Committee could have the responsibility of encouraging nominations to fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada, for example, or other kinds of scientific awards.
2. The Society should initiate, participate in, encourage or support programs that attract more students to the study of statistics.
The Society already has a good track record in this area of activity with its production of brochures and posters that can be made available to universities and high schools, and with its participation in the Canada-Wide Science Fair. What must be recognized is that the most effective means of recruitment will be at the local rather than the national level. The main activity at the national level, beyond the production of general recruitment information material, should be to provide support and guidance to local initiatives. The Society should undertake the following initiative under the wing of the Statistics Education Committee.
a) Form a panel of Society members (or a subcommittee of the Statistics Education Committee) of those who are interested in undergraduate education and the recruitment of undergraduates to statistics. The panel would have the responsibility to develop and implement strategies for the SSC that would help to encourage and improve the study of statistics at Canadian universities. For example, on request, this panel could offer advice to any statistics groups at a Canadian university wanting to undertake curriculum changes at their university.
3. The Society should carry out various forms of recruitment for its membership.
Some efforts in recruitment are already underway. This year, using an insert to Liaison, the Society tried to encourage current members to recruit new ones. The Society used to have a network of contacts within various university departments across Canada; this network is currently being revived. Further, a survey of recent graduates in statistics is currently being designed by Society members at the University of Waterloo. These current efforts would lead to the following actions to be taken by the local contacts of the Society:
a) A local contact would try to involve graduate students in the Society's affairs, including participation in the Annual Meeting and volunteer work through committees. When the Liaison insert calling for suggestions for membership is distributed, the local contact would take the responsibility of encouraging graduate students to join the Society.
b) A local contact would keep a list of names and addresses of recent graduates at both the graduate and undergraduate level. This list could be developed by the contact or could be obtained from the local alumni affairs office. The lists from each contact would form the frame for a regular survey of new statistics graduates by the Society. This survey would be used to find out the needs of recent statistics graduates so that the Society could better serve them.
The Society already has a student membership category (under Associate Member). The benefits of membership for students, as well as their membership fees, should be reviewed.
Efforts to recruit new members must go beyond new and recent graduates. Other sources of membership are the Regional Associations. The SSC should put greater effort into strengthening the ties between the SSC and the Regional Associations. A first step is:
c) The SSC President would offer to have a representative of the SSC attend and address at least one meeting per year of each Regional Association.
More generally, recruitment efforts could be made internationally through promotion of The Canadian Journal of Statistics. As well, initiatives in recruitment should include the group that might be called "practicing statisticians." Although most statisticians would consider themselves to be engaged in the practice of statistics, the title seems to be the best descriptor for many statisticians who are not in academic positions. Recruitment efforts in this area are touched on in item 4 below.
4. The Society must try to satisfy the needs of practicing statisticians.
Many statisticians working in government and industry are not members of the Statistical Society of Canada because they perceive that the Society has very little to offer them. In Québec, an association, the Association des statisticiens et des statisticiennes du Québec (ASSQ), has already sprung up specifically to address the needs of practicing statisticians in that province as well as those involved in statistical consulting. All of the Society's Regional Associations derive membership from non-members of the Society. Cooperation between the Society and Regional Associations is ongoing. Cooperation with the ASSQ is now underway. The ASSQ was present at the Annual Meeting in Sherbrooke and will be present at a future Annual Meeting in Ottawa. The Society should continue to develop cooperative ventures with the Regional Associations and the ASSQ.
The Society could do more at the national level for practicing statisticians. In particular, a Section should be set up which focuses on the needs of practicing statisticians. It would be expected that membership in this section would come from statisticians in government and industry as well as involved in statistical consulting in the universities. The Section should define its mandate and the range of its activities. It would be responsible for organizing some contributed and invited paper sessions devoted to statistical applications and practice at the Annual Meeting. Other than the Annual Meeting, some activities and programs for it to consider are:
a) Establishing or becoming part of a network of professional development programs for practicing statisticians wanting to familiarize themselves with new statistical methodology; and
b) Holding annual regional meetings in conjunction with Regional Associations or with local university statistical laboratories. These meetings would be jointly sponsored and run by the SSC and the partner group or association.
Further, the Society should also consider
c) Developing a certification program similar to the AStat designation in Australia.
5. The Society should balance between the needs of academic and practicing statisticians in the publications that the Society offers.
The Canadian Journal of Statistics has developed into an excellent learned journal for statistics. However, many statisticians outside of universities do not find the journal relevant to them or their work. Liaison is a high-quality newsmagazine of the Society. The balance between publications for academic and non-academic members can be restored in two ways:
a) The Journal should be encouraged continually to seek papers of broad interest to both academic and practicing statisticians, and to invite papers in statistical applications.
b) The SSC will continue to give strong financial support to the Journal. It should, however, strive to be fully self-supporting. Any savings achieved by the Journal's move to becoming self-supporting would be invested with the financial commitment already made to Liaison to develop a newsmagazine that would balance the needs of academic and non-academic statisticians. This magazine could expand on the current Liaison with short communications on applications, issues of pedagogy and review articles of general interest.