Richard J. Cook, SSC Gold Medalist 2017

SSC 2017 Gold Medal Award Winner
SSC Gold Medalist

The 2017 recipient of the Gold Medal of the Statistical Society of Canada is Professor Richard Cook. The Gold Medal is awarded to a person who has made outstanding contributions to statistics, or to probability, either to mathematical developments or in applied work. It is intended to honour current leaders in their field.


Richard Cook is Professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Waterloo. He holds a cross-appointment with the School of Public Health and Health Systems at Waterloo, and an adjunct appointment with the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University. 

Richard was born in Toronto in 1965 and grew up from the age of three in Dundas, Ontario. He received a BSc in Statistics from McMaster University in 1988, and MMath and PhD degrees from University of Waterloo in 1989 and 1993. During his undergraduate days and for a year before doing his PhD, Richard worked as a research assistant and then research associate in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University, thus beginning his engagement with statistical problems in medicine and public health. His PhD thesis at Waterloo, entitled “Group Sequential Analysis of Multivariate Responses”, was written under the supervision of Vern Farewell. Following his PhD, Richard joined the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Waterloo, where he has since remained, aside from visiting appointments at Oxford University and University of Hong Kong.

Richard is one of the world’s leading biostatisticians. His contributions to statistical theory and methodology in survival and event history analysis are highly original and widely cited. Much of this work involves methods for the analysis of incomplete data on disease processes due to truncation, various forms of censoring and intermittent observation. His 2007 book, The Statistical Analysis of Recurrent Events, co-authored with Jerry Lawless, is now the standard reference in its field. He has also made outstanding contributions to many other areas. His research on the efficient design and analysis of clinical trials has led to methods for sequential monitoring of multiple outcomes, the study of selection effects, and cost-benefit analyses. He has developed methodology for longitudinal data analysis that addresses incomplete data problems associated with premature loss to follow-up and missed observation times. Here, and in his work on event history analysis and multistate models, he has proposed ways to deal with difficult issues that arise when observation schemes are not independent of the processes being analyzed. These important developments are typically motivated by current scientific studies but have broader relevance for the analysis of data from registries and administrative databases. 

Richard has also been a major and prolific contributor to medicine and public health, especially in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease, rheumatology and transfusion medicine. His collaboration with researchers in those areas has enhanced the work and scientific output of their teams. It also motivates his research on statistical methodology, which addresses issues raised in the collaborative work. Indeed, a hallmark of his statistical research is that he does not duck problems related to the complexity of the processes being studied and the difficulty of measuring all relevant factors. 

Richard has also been a superlative teacher, mentor and supervisor. He has supervised over 20 PhD students since 1997, and four have won the Statistical Society of Canada’s Pierre Robillard Award for best thesis. He has organized many training initiatives for graduate students through his collaborations and contacts with medical researchers; a recent example is the Biostatistics Training Initiative with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. He has also been an outstanding contributor to the profession, for example through his activities in organizations such as the SSC, where he has been president of the Biostatistics Section and chair of the Research Committee; as an Associate Editor for many journals; as a workshop organizer; and as a member of grant review panels. He is highly valued as a member of advisory panels and as a reviewer of biostatistics groups and has served the US National Institutes of Health and other organizations in this capacity.

Richard’s contributions have been recognized previously. He has held a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair at University of Waterloo since 2005, was awarded the CRM-SSC Prize in 2007, and is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. In November 2016 he gave the prestigious Armitage Lecture at Cambridge University, an award sponsored by the Biostatistics Unit of the Medical Research Council (UK).


The citation for the award reads: 

“To Richard John Cook, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to statistical theory and methodology, particularly in the areas of event history analysis, analysis of longitudinal data, and design and analysis of clinical trials; for exceptional accomplishments in collaborative medical research; for his outstanding record as a teacher and mentor; and for his leadership in biostatistics in Canada and abroad.”

Thanks to Jerry Lawless, who was primarily responsible for producing this material.