Message from the president

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It is a true pleasure and privilege to be writing my first article for Liaison as SSC president. The conclusion of the SSC virtual conference in June marked the end of a difficult SSC year, and demonstrated the immense resilience of our Society during the pandemic. 

I hope you enjoyed the first ever online conference of our Society and gained new experiences exchanging ideas via this innovative technology. The conference provided us an opportunity to connect the whole community in a creative way, share research ideas, make new acquaintances, or just say hi to old friends. It is not an exaggeration to say that the conference was an enormous success: the annual conference attracted over 600 registrants and 300 talks. 

In retrospect, I still remember the difficult time at the end of the last year. Given the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, it was unclear what the best conference platform would be: in-person, virtual, or hybrid? Should we prepare for all three possibilities? What would be the associated costs? Would a virtual conference appeal to SSC members? While we statisticians are regarded as experts at studying uncertainty, it was difficult to make a prediction with zero error regarding how the pandemic may evolve in 2021, given so many factors beyond our control. Although we were unable to predict with certainty, I was amazed at our statisticians’ capability of handling uncertainty with efficiency—from deciding to have a virtual conference to launching it, it took less than 6 months!
I must take this moment to toast and celebrate the hard work of so many volunteers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes. A big thank you to the program committee and the program chair, Michael Escobar, who brought us a series of stimulating scientific sessions. A sincere thank you to the virtual conference committee and the co-chairs, Shirley Mills and Asokan Mulayath Variyath, who made extraordinary efforts to explore diverse possibilities and successfully brought us an effective virtual conference platform. Another thank you is owed to Angelo Canty (electronic services manager), Michelle Benoit, and Marie-Pierre Nantel who worked diligently on the conference logistics including registration, website posting, and the conference setup. A huge thank you to the bilingualism committee, which completed translations for the conference. 

Undoubtedly, the success of this conference would not have been possible without voluntary work from session organizers, chairs, and judges for the students’ and new researchers’ events. Thank you all for participating in this conference in various capacities, as speakers, panelists, or the audience. We are thankful for the job fair sponsors. SSC also owes a debt of gratitude to CANSSI, the Fields Institute, PIMS, and CRM for their long-standing sponsorship of the annual meeting.  

Our student conference was a great success thanks to the fantastic work of Daniel Rodriguez Duque, Armando Turchetta, and a committee of 15 other graduate students. The conference was held on June 5 via Zoom, and it attracted over 400 registrants! Warm congratulations to the committee on hosting this successful event! 

The Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) are being held virtually from August 8–12. With Nancy Heckman serving as the SSC representative on the program committee, four invited sessions are sponsored by the SSC and a number of SSC members are speaking at JSM.

While the past year was unprecedented, we pushed ahead despite massive headwinds and accomplished so much. The Society has been operating smoothly thanks to the leadership of Wendy Lou whose dedication to the Society is remarkable. While we have all been going through this long pandemic by undertaking increased workloads as well as facing new challenges in our personal lives, the board and the SSC committees have continued to be dedicated to run our Society effectively. Unsurprisingly, the smooth functioning of the SSC depends on the hard work of the office—Shirley Mills (executive director), Michelle Benoit (executive assistant), and Marie-Pierre Nantel (administrative assistant). The collective efforts from all these individuals deserve recognition!

Since taking the role of president-elect on July 1, 2020, I have been able to work closely with the executive committee members on the Society matters. I am grateful for the tremendous support, advice, and assistance from multiple parties during the past year of “president training.” I am particularly indebted to Bruce Smith and Wendy Lou who have offered me their valuable experience as presidential officers. I wish I could stay in the same position to be mentored by Bruce and Wendy in the coming year. Sadly, Bruce left the executive committee as of July 1 after offering his dedicated leadership for a 3-year presidential cycle. Another member who left the executive committee is Llwellyn Armstrong who has contributed 6 years of extraordinary service to the Society as executive secretary. You will be missed, Bruce and Llwellyn! 

Meanwhile, sincere thanks are due to the departing board members: Cindy Feng, Jinko Graham, Wilson Lu, Jean-François Plante, Alexandra Schmidt, Bethany White, and Leilei Zeng. Thank you for your commitment to the Society. In the meantime, we welcome the newly elected members joining the executive committee and the board—a heartfelt welcome to Bruno Rémillard (president-elect), Susie Fortier (executive secretary), and the regional representatives: Kelly Burkett, Melody Ghahramani, Jinko Graham (re-elected), Zhihui (Amy) Liu, Wilson Lu (re-elected), Johanna Nešlehová, and Denis Talbot. We are also very fortunate that Angelo Canty agreed to serve another term and was reappointed as electronic services manager.

A warm welcome to the new committee chairs and members. I am impressed with the enthusiasm of our SSC members who generously agreed to contribute their time and expertise to serve on various committees. I am grateful for the colleagues who offered suggestions to me and recommended names for filling the committee vacancies.

Looking forward, we have much work to do. Preparations and projects are underway, guided by very capable hands. To highlight two events, the 2022 JSM is planned to take place in Washington D.C., with Debbie Dupuis (HEC Montréal) representing the SSC on the program committee. Our 2022 SSC Annual Meeting is slated to be held at Simon Fraser University, with program chair Pengfei Li (University of Waterloo) and local arrangements chair Richard Lockhart (Simon Fraser University).

In addition to the Society’s regular activities, new and exciting events are on the horizon. Notably, next year marks the 50th anniversary of the statistical community in Canada as well as the 50th anniversary of The Canadian Journal of Statistics. Several initiatives are underway. An ad hoc anniversary committee was announced at the June annual general meeting by Wendy Lou, with the following members spanning the five Canadian regions: Hugh Chipman and Bruce Smith (Atlantic); Jean-François Plante and Bruno Rémillard (Quebec); Dave Campbell, Wendy Lou, Shirley Mills, and Grace Yi (chair) (Ontario); Melody Ghahramani and Mahmoud Torabi (Saskatchewan–N.W.T.–Nunavut); Anita Brobbey and Rhonda Rosychuk (Alberta–British Columbia–Yukon). The committee is already devoting efforts to exploring activities to celebrate this important anniversary. Should you have ideas or suggestions about celebration activities, we would love to hear them! 

Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic brought detrimental impacts to our lives, the past year also demonstrated clear evidence of the crucial importance of statistical sciences. It is fair to say that statistics and statistical modelling have been eminently embedded in this crisis. The SSC will continue to undertake its mission of encouraging the development and use of statistics and probability, including raising public awareness of the value of statistical thinking, promoting the development of statistical methodology, and providing a forum for the exchange of ideas between theoreticians and practitioners of statistics.

While I have big shoes to fill and challenges may emerge unexpectedly, I believe that the solid work accomplished by the Society over the past five decades makes the SSC immune to various obstacles. Meanwhile, new opportunities will help the Society continue to grow steadily and healthily. Collaborative initiatives between the SSC and CANSSI have been explored in the past, and these will continue to be fostered. The transition of the ad hoc EDI committee to a continuing committee will keep raising awareness and promote the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion. SSC sections and committees will continue to explore new initiatives and organize activities falling within their mandates. 
Finally, I hope you and your loved ones continue to stay safe and healthy. I look forward to serving the SSC in the coming year. 

Grace Y. Yi
SSC President
July 31, 2021

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

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