Christian Genest, SSC Gold Medalist 2011
SSC Gold Medalist
Christian Genest, a Professor at McGill University, is the winner of the 2011 Gold Medal of the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC). This prestigious annual award is intended to honor a Canadian probabilist or statistician who has made substantial contributions to the development of his/her area of research through methodological achievements and applications.
A native of Chicoutimi (Québec), Christian studied mathematics and statistics at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (BSpSc, 1977), the Université de Montréal (MSc, 1978), and the University of British Columbia (PhD, 1983). His thesis, written under the supervision of Jim Zidek, won the Pierre Robillard Award. Christian was then a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie-Mellon University (1983-4) and an Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo (1984-7) before joining Université Laval, where he was successively Assistant (1987-9), Associate (1989-93), and Full Professor (1993-2010). He was hired at McGill last year as the prospective holder of a Canada Research Chair in Stochastic Dependence Modeling. Since 1983, he also held visiting positions in Brussels, Louvain-la-Neuve, Paris, Pau, Toulouse, and Zürich, in addition to being an Adjunct for a few years at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (Québec, secteur eau, terre et environnement).
Over the past 28 years, Christian has made substantial contributions to the development of multivariate analysis, nonparametric statistics, group decision-making, and multi-criteria analysis. Questioned about his publication record, he says with a touch of humor that it took him an inordinate amount of work to become a “100 papiers” (which in French sounds the same as “sans-papiers,” i.e., a refugee!). He has indeed authored just over “100 papers” in refereed journals but his curriculum vitae comprises more than 180 publications if you include articles in books, conference proceedings, and professional magazines such as Liaison. Many of his contributions have appeared in leading journals such as Biometrika, Journal of Multivariate Analysis, Journal of the American Statistical Association, The Annals of Statistics, and The Canadian Journal of Statistics (CJS). To date, he has supervised or co-supervised 38 MSc students, five PhD students (including Pierre Robillard Award winner Jean-François Quessy), as well as five postdoctoral fellows.
Christian is widely regarded as an expert in dependence modeling through copulas and several of his contributions to the field have had a significant impact on its development. His seminal work in the area has helped to raise the awareness of statisticians to the importance of copulas as a tool for understanding and modeling stochastic dependence between continuous variables. An ardent defender of rank-based inference, which plays a key role in this context, he developed—with his close collaborators—a host of estimators, tests, selection and validation procedures for copula models that are now widely used, notably in finance, insurance, and hydrology. In recent years, Christian has also promoted the use of nonparametric techniques in extreme-value theory and he is currently busy extending the copula approach to problems involving discrete or censored data that may depend on time or covariates.
While Christian is best known for his work in the area of dependence modeling, his achievements extend well beyond this field. For example, he has long been interested in issues surrounding the reconciliation of expert judgments. In addition to providing Bayesian and axiomatic justifications for various pooling operators, he co-authored with Jim Zidek an influential paper on expert use that has been very frequently cited and remains of current interest 25 years after its publication in Statistical Science. Christian also contributed significantly to the study of the Analytic Hierarchy Process, a structured technique for complex decision making. His work provided a sound statistical foundation for this popular decision tool and showed its connection with the theory of paired comparisons.
Over the years, Christian’s excellence in research was recognized through various awards and honours. He is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI, in 1992) as well as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (1996) and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1997). In 1999, he was the first CRM-SSC Prize winner and received a Summa Research Award from Université Laval, where his teaching abilities also earned him four “professeur étoile” awards.
To members of the SSC, Christian is equally known for his sustained and distinguished service in many roles. Since 1980, he has served in or chaired a dozen committees, in addition to serving on the Board of Directors (1988-92) and on the Executive Committee (2006-9). He was President of the Society in 2007-8, as well as translator (1981-6, 1998-2008) and Webmaster (1998-2010) for the CJS. For his involvement in SSC activities, he received the Distinguished Service Award in 1997. However, his dedication to the profession extends well beyond our organization. He was, among others, Undergraduate Chair for Statistics at Université Laval (2002-6) and President of the Association des statisticiennes et des statisticiens du Québec (2005-8). At the international level, he served for ten years on the ISI Jan Tinbergen Award Committee and for eight years on the Marie-Jeanne Laurent-Duhamel Award Committee of the Société française de statistique (SFdS). He was also Chair of the Selection Committee for the COPSS Fisher Lectureship.
Christian’s contribution to conference organization provides further evidence of his service record and influence in the field. Throughout his career, he was a member of the Program Committee for six SSC Annual Meetings, five SFdS Journées de statistique, seven Symposiums on Distributions with Given Marginals and Statistical Modeling, and two Symposiums on the Analytic Hierarchy Process, among others. Furthermore, he was Program Chair for the 28e Journées de statistique (Québec, 1996), the DeMoSTAFI Meeting (Québec, 2004), the 32nd SSC Annual Meeting (Montréal, 2004), and a workshop on copula modeling at the Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM, Montréal) earlier this year.
Christian has also a very strong record of editorial service. In particular, he was Editor-in-Chief for the CJS (1998-2000) and was Guest Editor for special issues, both for Insurance: Mathematics and Economics (2005, 2009) and the CJS (2005). He was also an Associate Editor for various journals, including the CJS (1988-97, 2001–3), the Journal de la Société française de statistique (1999-2008), the Journal of Multivariate Analysis (2003- ), the Journal of Nonparametric Statistics (2005-8), and TEST (2002-4). Since 2000, he has been a Consulting Editor for the Statistics and Applied Probability Series of Springer-France.
Finally, Christian has worked as a consultant and in other professional capacities for all kinds of organizations. Among others, he was a member of Statistics Canada’s Advisory Committee on Statistical Methods (1994-9), NSERC’s Statistical Sciences Grant Selection Committee (1991-4, Chair in 1993-4), and similar selection committees for two Québec granting agencies (FQRNT, FRSQ). A popular speaker, he has given over 225 invited talks in some 15 countries and often goes to high schools and colleges to promote careers in statistics.
Christian credits much of his success to his parents, family and colleagues, who always supported him unconditionally. His long-term collaborations with Philippe Capéraà, Michel Gendron, Johanna Nešlehová, Bruno Rémillard, Louis-Paul Rivest and many others forged lasting friendships and, in one case, turned into love. In their spare time, Christian and Johanna like to read, go to the theatre or watch movies, travel, hike or attend cultural and sports events. Christian also has a passion for history and even wrote a few papers about it with another friend, David Bellhouse. Furthermore, Christian was actively involved for many years in his parish and as a minor-league baseball coach and umpire. He is the proud father of three dynamic and independent young adults: Marianne, Arnaud, and Vincent Genest.
The citation for the award reads:
Christian received his Gold Medal at the 39th SSC Annual Meeting held in Wolfville, NS, June 12-15, 2011.
“To Christian Genest, in recognition of his remarkable contributions to multivariate analysis and nonparametric statistics, notably through the development of models and methods of inference for studying stochastic dependence, synthesizing expert judgments and multi-criteria decision making, as well as for his applications thereof in various fields such as insurance, finance, and hydrology.”
Christian will deliver the Gold Medal Address at the 40th Annual Meeting of the Society to be held June 3-6, 2012, in Guelph, ON.