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Communicating & Developing Professionals. Peter A. Lachenbruch Oregon State University. Disclaimer. The ideas expressed here are not original with me, but have evolved over time. Some have resulted from frustration at meetings in which poor presentations have lost me.

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communicating developing professionals

Communicating &Developing Professionals

Peter A. Lachenbruch

Oregon State University

Communicating and Professional Development

disclaimer
Disclaimer
  • The ideas expressed here are not original with me, but have evolved over time.
  • Some have resulted from frustration at meetings in which poor presentations have lost me.
  • While we may observe many issues, we should be aware that we are not immune to errorrs.

Communicating and Professional Development

duties of asa president and president elect
Duties of ASA President and President-Elect
  • Preside at Board of Directors meetings and Executive Committee
  • Serve ex officio on committees – management, finance, executive
  • Appoint committee members (2 or 3 per committee + chairs as needed) – about 150 appointments per year (as President-Elect)
  • These are likely similar to duties in other professional organizations.

Communicating and Professional Development

duties 2
Duties (2)
  • 3 year term: President-elect, President, Past President
  • Presidential Address
  • Formal ASA policy statements with BOD approval
  • Member of COPSS – Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies

Communicating and Professional Development

duties 3
Duties (3)
  • Chair Strategic Planning committee
  • Develop task forces for specific issues
  • Work with Committee on Committees for committee needs – what committee needs to be dropped, what reports need to be obtained, etc.
  • Speak at Chapters – number varies with President
  • Other formal presentations

Communicating and Professional Development

take home messages
Take Home Messages
  • Know your audience and communicate in their terms
    • Non-technical words/pictures for non-technical audience – NO JARGON
  • Use appropriate formats
    • Slides augment presentation of results
    • Equations and tables only in text (i.e. papers)

Communicating and Professional Development

take home messages 2
Take Home Messages (2)
  • Speak so you can be understood
    • Slowly
    • If your native language is not English, rehearse several times with a critic – good also for native English speakers
    • If your native language is English, and you are speaking to an international group, SLOW DOWN!
    • Do not read your slides – talk about them

Communicating and Professional Development

take home message 3
Take Home Message (3)
  • Develop yourself professionally
    • Technical skills may not be enough
    • Statisticians must interact with others not in the statistical profession
      • This is true for all professions – just substitute your specialty for “statistics”
    • Need business skills

Communicating and Professional Development

slide9
Part I

To whom should we communicate?

Communicating and Professional Development

topics of public interest
Topics of Public Interest
  • Policies needing our input (we need to have a seat at the table)
    • Election audits
    • Climate Change
    • Criminal justice system
    • Assessing hazards
      • Environmental
      • Terrorism

Communicating and Professional Development

topics of public interest 2
Topics of Public Interest (2)
  • Policies affecting our field and profession
    • Federal Statistical System
      • Census
      • Bureau of Labor Statistics
      • National Center for Health Statistics
      • U. S. Department of Agriculture
      • Environmental Protection Agency
    • Clinical Trials
      • National Institutes of Health
      • Food and Drug Administration

Communicating and Professional Development

with students
With Students
  • Teaching statistics
    • K-12 students
    • Undergraduate students
    • Non-majors
      • Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Business
      • Health Sciences - Biology, Pre-Med, Genetics, Public Health, Radiation Biology
      • Graduate level service courses

Communicating and Professional Development

with students 2
With Students (2)
  • Teaching statistics to undergraduates
    • In colleges
    • Two-year colleges
    • In universities
      • Majors
      • Non-majors - e.g. Psychology, Sociology, Biology, Economics, Mathematics, etc.
    • International collaborations – International Societies, UN, WHO, etc

Communicating and Professional Development

with our profession
With our Profession
  • Professional Communications
    • Writing for professional communication
      • Proper use of English
      • Use of good graphics
    • Presentations at meetings
      • Use of graphics - color red on blue is bad
      • Don’t use equations unless absolutely necessary
      • Proper font size

Communicating and Professional Development

with our profession 2
With our Profession (2)
  • With professionals whose native language is not English
    • Need to ensure our message is received
    • Need to ensure we receive their message!!!
    • Can arise in U.S. or elsewhere

Communicating and Professional Development

with clients
With Clients
  • Make work understandable to the public
    • Limited use of formulas
    • Lots of words, graphs – careful about words with specific technical meanings (e.g., “significant”)
    • Keep simple but correct
    • Be concerned about naming variables
  • Testimony – potential clients
    • Courts and other legal proceedings
    • Local, State and Federal agencies
    • Congress

Communicating and Professional Development

with disadvantaged groups
With Disadvantaged Groups
  • Disabled: hearing or visually impaired, access to meetings (wheelchair etc.), other?
  • Minority groups - ASA is working to improve
    • Important idea is to add diversity so that other views can be added to the discussion
  • Providing information to public groups on issues relating to disadvantaged groups
    • Salary disparity
    • Access to facilities and information

Communicating and Professional Development

slide18
Part II

What Formats of Communication Do We Use?

Communicating and Professional Development

writing
Writing
  • Clarity is always important
  • Articles in statistical journals
    • Appropriate introduction, motivation, equations, proper use of precision, graphical displays
    • Avoiding jargon and always indicate what acronyms and abbreviations mean
      • Better still, don’t use them

Communicating and Professional Development

writing 2
Writing (2)
  • Articles in subject matter journals
    • Avoid jargon
    • Use graphics
    • Give estimates instead of p-values (or add the p-values to the estimates); provide confidence intervals
    • Describe methods fully
    • Give a glossary

Communicating and Professional Development

writing 3
Writing (3)
  • Texts, Monographs and Technical Reports
    • Clarity is important
    • Level of text makes a difference on how you present; we can tell the difference between a well-written work and the other kind
    • Monographs are important advanced level books with a more specialized audience
    • Length of document issues

Communicating and Professional Development

writing 4
Writing (4)
  • Popular articles and news articles
    • The audience for these will not be statisticians, so estimates and graphs should be used - no equations or p-values
    • Working with a journalist - you need to help her do her job. Offer to explain, and be sure they understand. Confidence intervals and p-values are tricky stuff

Communicating and Professional Development

speaking and presenting
Speaking and Presenting
  • Speaking
    • Speak S_L_O_W_L_Y!
    • If you have an accent, be particularly careful. You may understand your topic, but your accent can blunt your message
    • When speaking to an international group, be aware that English facility may be limited

Communicating and Professional Development

speaking and presenting 2
Speaking and Presenting (2)
  • Professional meetings
    • Always have slides or well-done posters
      • Slides have limited information content, so sometimes handouts are better than slides
    • Get help - rehearse, check the internet for tips
    • SLOW DOWN!!!

Communicating and Professional Development

speaking and presenting 3
Speaking and Presenting (3)
  • Talking about statistical ideas to the public
    • Speak in simple terms, use pictures, graphs
  • Testimony
    • Keep it simple, but have justification for everything
    • Never stretch the truth
    • Simple concepts told clearly

Communicating and Professional Development

what media
What media?
  • Print - journals, press releases - get help! Most organizations have press offices to guide you
  • Radio interviews - be sure to answer the question and not go farther than asked - don’t embellish
  • Video - Fairly rare, although some courses are given. May be involved in presenting new results with clients
  • Video conferences – similar to professional conferences
  • Webinars (seminars on the web with telephone interface) becoming popular

Communicating and Professional Development

media 2
Media (2)
  • Slide presentations
    • Large Font - at least 20 point, prefer larger
      • 28 point: 24 point: 20 point: 16 point
    • At most 8 -10 lines per slide
    • Almost no equations - unless the audience is composed of specialists, no one will follow or read them
    • Have handouts for detailed information such as tables, equations, etc.
    • Be organized

Communicating and Professional Development

a bad example
A Bad Example

Statement 0f Candidate

As with all statisticians who have been asked to be a candidate for ASA President, I am greatly honored to be considered for this office. What main issue would be of great importance to statisticians that I could focus on during my tenure? In my years of teaching, collaborating, and supervising a major problem we have is communicating among ourselves, our students, our clients, and with the public. Several recent Presidential candidates have stressed variants of this theme. Not only do we need to make the results of our thinking understood, we must understand the questions we are asked.

We must communicate when we are students, when we teach, to our professional colleagues, to our collaborators in various sciences, and to the public. We also must understand what our clients/collaborators are asking for. Too many statisticians have poor communications skills. Some clients get upset when we write an equation or use a symbol. Part of this is the issue of our not reaching out very far to explain. We can do better.

Our sections on statistical education and journals on teaching address these issues. Are there areas where we are lagging? In my experience, some students don’t relate their ideas clearly, nor do they understand the questions being asked of them, and don’t understand the context of the problem. In the consulting room, this can be a disaster. After graduation, this becomes a problem for their employers.

We have poorly written papers, posters that don’t communicate ideas and statisticians who cannot make an effective oral presentation. Despite considerable efforts by all statistical associations, the lessons haven’t reached their target and the people most in need don’t attend the courses. Statistical graphics have made great strides in recent years – we need to use these tools more.

In order to be effective collaborators, we must understand the application. We may not ask the right questions, or enough of them to get the information we need to design and analyze the studies. It’s all right to ask the naïve question of a client to ensure we have proper understanding of the problem.

I’d like to work with sections and chapters and continuing education to develop ways to improve our communications skills. Here are some options: Each section offer awards for best poster and best contributed paper and best written contribution. Have sessions in which no equations or tables may be displayed (graphs OK).

We could offer workshops on presentation methods for members who want it, particularly our newest members. Encourage graduate programs to have training in technical writing, presentation, and graphical display: perhaps not a full course, but surely how to make a slide show, write a paper, organize and teach a class. This could be in conjunction with a consulting course. An ASA workshop could be devoted to speaking to a non-statistical audience: emphasizing important points, helping the press understand the message. We can teach the use of electronic communication for data interchange and technical communication among groups and internationally.

Communicating and Professional Development

applying theoretical results
Applying Theoretical Results
  • Explaining results to clients, public, government (e.g., regulators), policy makers
    • E.g., use of Bayesian ideas
    • Equations turn people off!
  • Implementing results:
    • Don’t get used unless available in major statistical programs: R, Splus, SAS, Stata, SPSS, Minitab

Communicating and Professional Development

special subgroups
Special Subgroups
  • Identify professionals with skills and interest in improving communications
    • Older or retired
    • Younger (those just starting out)
      • Especially graduate students and non-Ph.D.
    • Minority group members
      • In statistics, we have many Asian members
    • Special subgroups - disabled

Communicating and Professional Development

improving communications
Improving Communications
  • Awards for posters and presentations
  • Awards for texts and monographs
    • Separate for text and monographs
  • National teaching awards

Communicating and Professional Development

professional development
Professional Development
  • Short courses on communicating with others in our profession
    • Poster Presentations
    • Slide presentations
    • Writing skills
    • Speaking skills
    • Ethical issues - see ASA website
    • What is “significant?”

Communicating and Professional Development

professional development 2
Professional Development (2)
  • Professional meetings
    • Always have slides or well-done posters (sometimes forego slides)
    • Get help - rehearse, check the internet for tips
    • SLOW DOWN!!!

Communicating and Professional Development

professional development 3
Professional Development (3)
  • Business skills
    • Developing budgets for projects, companies
    • Interviewing job candidates (all areas!)
    • Hiring – need to know legal requirements
    • Negotiating with potential clients and employees
    • Insurance needs (Errors and Omissions)
    • Contracts
    • Setting fees

Communicating and Professional Development

professional development 4
Professional Development (4)
  • Communicating clearly – see first parts of talk
  • Time management - process material only once if possible
  • Making decisions – who, when, input needed
  • Motivating people
  • Managing meetings and teams
  • Minimizing stress

Communicating and Professional Development

activities
Activities
  • ASA website: www.amstat.org
  • K-16 programs
  • Wall Street Journal Online statistical articles: www.wsj.com/numbersguy

Communicating and Professional Development

more activities
More Activities
  • Teacher Enhancement
    • INSPIRE – first time high school statistics teachers
    • USCOTS – U.S. Conference on Teaching Statistics
    • TEAMS conference – improving education in secondary schools, administration, colleges

Communicating and Professional Development

son of more activities
Son of More Activities
  • Films of Famous Statisticians
  • Strategic Initiatives
  • Check with committees and chapters for activities of interest and send the message to the world

Communicating and Professional Development

thank you
Thank You

Communicating and Professional Development