American Statistical Association (ASA) Endorsement of
the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) "Guidelines for Programs
and Departments in Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences"
The American Statistical Association (ASA) endorses the Mathematical
Association of America (MAA) "Guidelines
for Programs and Departments in Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences,"
approved in August of 2000, and offers this position paper as a complement
The MAA Guidelines carefully define "mathematical sciences" to refer
to a collection of mathematics-related disciplines, including statistics
(section A, paragraph 6). They note that "mathematical sciences departments
frequently offer courses in several disciplines" (section C.1.b) and that
"professional expectations vary considerably among the mathematical sciences
disciplines" (section C.8.f). The Guidelines invite professional societies
to develop position papers to speak to the needs of mathematical sciences
departments related to their discipline. This document constitutes the
position paper of the ASA.
The ASA applauds the MAA Guidelines’ positions (C.1.b) that:
The ASA strongly supports the position that mathematics and statistics
are separate disciplines and that statistics courses should be taught by
those trained in the subject. To assist mathematical sciences departments
implement these policies, the ASA makes the following recommendations concerning
hiring, support, and evaluation of statistics faculty members.
"Ideally, a course should be taught by a faculty member with a graduate
degree in the discipline of the course."
"The department's curricular needs should be a major factor in departmental
"The number of faculty with expertise in a mathematical sciences discipline
should reflect the department's courses and enrollments in that discipline."
Hiring: Mathematical sciences departments in which statistics
courses are taught should hire faculty with graduate degrees in statistics.
These departments are encouraged to advertise in publications that statisticians
are likely to read, such as the ASA newsletter Amstat News. Departments
that have no statistics faculty members are also encouraged to solicit
input on the hiring process from statisticians at nearby institutions or
from the ASA. The SIGMAA on Statistics Education and the "isolated statisticians"
network within ASA provide means of reaching statisticians who teach in
or are interested in teaching in mathematics departments. Making direct
contact with graduate programs in departments of statistics is another
effective way to reach statisticians who want to teach statistics; the
ASA maintains such a list on its web page.
Support: Once a mathematical sciences department has successfully
hired statistics faculty, it should provide sufficient resources and mentoring
to enable them to succeed in their teaching and professional development.
Some specific forms of support should include:
If a statistician is expected to provide consulting services to colleagues
and students throughout the institution -- which is often expected of statisticians
working in academia -- then the institution should make reassigned/released
time available for that purpose. Institutions are encouraged to include
consulting as part of the responsibilities of a statistician. Working with
data is intrinsic to a statistician’s work and is invaluable as a source
of teaching examples and research problems, while providing a valuable
service to the consultees. Consulting often involves providing statistical
support for researchers from across the campus who need assistance planning
studies and analyzing the subsequent data; such support is often essential
for the article to be published. A conscientious and engaged statistician
is likely to be involved in consulting for students and faculty even if
it is not formally part of the job; but it is better to make this an explicit
part of the job rather than an unrecognized extra burden.
computer hardware, software, and technical support. Efficient computing
tools are essential for statistical research, consulting, and teaching.
Generic packages such as Excel are not sufficient even for the teaching
of statistics, let alone for research and consulting.
development funds for travel to conferences and workshops. While these
funds are important for all new faculty members, they can be especially
important for statisticians who are housed in a department of non-statisticians.
These faculty members have a particular need for travel to conferences
and workshops in order to meet with collaborators and gain new ideas about
the teaching of statistics.
funds for library purchases in statistics.
Mentoring junior faculty members is an essential form of support. The
MAA Guidelines (section C.8.f) propose that "if the department has only
one or two faculty members in a discipline, it should seek outside persons
to serve as advisors for departments and mentors for these isolated faculty
members early in their careers." The ASA fully endorses this suggestion
and offers its help in identifying statisticians who can serve as advisors
and mentors. The MAA’s Project NExT has proven to be a very helpful form
of support for newly hired statisticians in mathematics departments.
Evaluation: When evaluating the teaching of statisticians, in
addition to using traditional measures, departments with only one statistician
are advised to gain input from statisticians at nearby institutions or
from the ASA. Since the teaching of statistics differs from that of mathematics
in several ways, this input can help the department to assess whether the
statistician’s teaching is consistent with expectations and recommendations
in the field.
Mathematical sciences departments should also recognize the value of
statistical consulting as a legitimate and important form of scholarship
and professional development. This can involve:
The first of these can be evaluated by the usual peer-reviewed means, although
the department should recognize that the journal may be in the applied
discipline rather than in statistics. Such consulting would not likely
result in sole- or first-authorship but can nevertheless be very valuable.
The second and third of these can be assessed through testimony of the
scholars and faculty members for whom the statistician performed the consulting.
The fourth of these can be evaluated through testimony of the client. It
is vitally important for mathematical sciences departments to understand
the role and importance of consulting in the work and ongoing professional
development of a statistician. (See C.8.e.)
consulting on projects that may lead to joint authorship on peer-reviewed
consulting on scholarly projects even if joint authorship is not attained
consulting on student research projects
consulting on commercial projects that may involve proprietary information
that precludes peer-reviewed publication
Curriculum: The MAA Guidelines also speak to curricular issues.
They state (section D.1.g) that "in cases where a department offers a course
or courses in a particular discipline, but does not have a faculty member
with expertise in that discipline, the department should take special care
to consult the curricular guidelines of the relevant professional society
in that discipline." The ASA is again happy and eager to provide assistance
in this area. Two documents that may prove to be helpful are:
The primary ASA group that can offer assistance to mathematical sciences
departments with these issues is the Section on Statistical Education.
This group works closely with the ASA/MAA
Joint Committee on Undergraduate Statistics, with the SIGMAA
on Statistics Education, and with the "Isolated Statisticians" network.
Contact information can be found from the ASA’s web site www.amstat.org.
Curriculum recommendations for undergraduate programs in statistics, arising
out of the ASA’s Undergraduate Statistics Education Initiative (USEI),
available from the ASA’s web site www.amstat.org/education/Curriculum_Guidelines.html.
Recommendations for teaching introductory courses in statistics, developed
by the ASA/MAA Joint Committee on Undergraduate Statistics and described
in Cobb’s article "Teaching Statistics" in the MAA Notes publication Heeding
the Call for Change.