Statistics Without Borders – An American Statistical Association Outreach Group

Statistics Without Borders (SWB) is a volunteer Outreach Group of the American Statistical Association (ASA) that was established by four ASA members approximately ten years ago. These four volunteers (Gary Shapiro, Fritz Scheuren, Steve Pierson, and the author) recognized that a large segment of the ASA’s membership wanted to use their understanding of statistics to assist with initiatives intended to improve the quality of life. They designed an organization that would provide opportunities for statisticians to collaborate with professionals, researchers, and other volunteers worldwide.

The large turnout at the first meeting of SWB, during the 2008 Joint Statistical Meetings in Washington, D.C., provided early evidence that the need the founders of SWB thought they had identified was real, and the organization quickly grew. SWB membership now includes thousands of statisticians across five continents from a variety of backgrounds such as academia, industry, and government. Membership includes professionals, students, and retirees. The organization’s members have worked on dozens of projects around the world without monetary compensation.

A few examples of SWB projects includes:

  • Teaching three hands-on courses in survey data analysis and the R programming language at the Rwanda Biomedical Center in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • A long-term project with UNICEF to evaluate health interventions in Sierra Leone
  • Child and child-bearing age female mortality in Somali internally displaced person camps
  • Child mortality in Afghan Refugee Camps in Pakistan
  • CARE Girls’ Workload Study in Tanzania
  • Research on the Hearing Loss and Health-Related Quality of Life in Children After Bacterial Meningitis in Vietnam

SWB aims to improve understanding and decision-making through the application of statistical principals and methods to efforts that promote welfare through the proper application of statistical principles and best practices. The organization advocates objective, impartial, and sound decision making using best statistical practices.

SWB’s members accomplish these objectives by providing pro bono services in statistics and data science to NGOs and government agencies that could otherwise not afford such services. SWB assists with client projects for public benefit that support goals that are secular, apolitical, and non-personal, with a focus on developing countries. Ultimately, SWB strengthens its clients and their communities by helping them build their capacities in statistics, data science and analytics, and promotes best practices in these areas.

SWB’s current officers are:

  • Jean Opsomer, Chair
  • Jae Brodsky, Vice-Chair
  • Moyo Bamidele, Secretary
  • David Whitford, Engagement Director
  • Huma Syed, Marketing Communications Director
  • Smita Skrivanek, Operations Director
  • Cathy Furlong, Past Chair
  • Steve Pierson, Ex Officio Board Member

Although SWB is a volunteer Outreach Group of the ASA, one does not have to be a member of the ASA to join SWB – we are seeking volunteers! We are also seeking organizations in need of statistical help or who wish to partner with us. We would like to expand our project base to include additional applications of statistics that will benefit the health and welfare of the populations of developing nations. If you are interested in working with SWB, please visit the SWB website at http://community.amstat.org/statisticswithoutborders/home, click on the “Get Involved” tab, and follow the instructions provided.

James J. Cochran

Associate Dean for Research

The Culverhouse College of Business

The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa AL USA

+1 205 348 9618

[email protected]

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