Roderick Little to deliver Fisher Lecture: “In Praise of Simplicity, Not Mathematistry! Ten Simple, Powerful Ideas for the Statistical Scientist”

John D. Kalbfleisch, and Ross L. Prentice, Chair of the 2012 Fisher Lecture Committee, write:

The Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) has named Roderick J. A. Little as the R.A. Fisher Lecturer at the 2012 Joint Statistics Meetings in San Diego. Little is Associate Director for Research and Methodology and Chief Scientist at the US Census Bureau, and Richard D. Remington Collegiate Professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan, where he also holds appointments in the Department of Statistics and the Institute for Social Research. He has made many outstanding and fundamental contributions to statistical theory and applications. The scope, depth and influence of his work are all truly impressive. Further, his theoretical work is closely tied to problems arising in science and public policy and, very much in the Fisherian tradition, many of his methodological contributions are intrinsically tied to his applied work.

Little received his BA in Mathematics from Cambridge University, and MS and PhD degrees in Statistics from Imperial College, London. Prior to his appointment at Michigan, he held faculty appointments at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Chicago, and non-academic positions as ASA/Census/NSF Research Fellow at the US Bureau of the Census, Expert Consultant at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and Scientific Associate at the World Fertility Survey. He was Coordinating and Applications Editor of JASA from 1992–94. Interested in federal statistical issues, he has served as a member of the Committee on National Statistics, the Federal Advisory Committee of the National Children’s Study, and other National Research Council committees, including two committees devoted to Census issues. He recently chaired a National Academy Committee on the treatment of missing data in clinical trials.

Little has been a leading researcher in the modeling, evaluation and analysis of missing data, sample survey and causal inference. In work in the 1980s, he made extensive contributions on likelihood-based analyses of incomplete data, and on related single and multiple imputation methods. Other related work is on the analysis of panel surveys with attrition, comparisons of imputation and weighting, design for nonresponse and models for non-ignorable response. He is an authority in this important area, and his collective work is widely cited. His 1987 book co-authored with Don Rubin, Statistical Analysis with Missing Data, is now a classic reference for statisticians and practitioners alike. The second edition, published in 2002, is an important and wide reaching revision that summarizes more recent work in the area, including much due to Little, his students and his co-authors.

Survey research is a second area of Little’s substantial and ongoing contribution, and his research in the design and analysis of sample surveys is widely known and highly influential. His work in this area has been balanced between model based and design based methods, and his pioneering work in model-based methods is being followed by many researchers. He is a leader in sample survey methodology as recognized in his appointment as senior research scientist in the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social Research, and his current role at the Bureau of the Census.

Little’s early collaborative research focused on survey work in environmental statistics and demography; of specific note is his extensive work with the World Fertility Survey and on the Income Supplement of the Current Population Survey. At Michigan, he has played important roles in various collaborative projects across the campus. He currently serves as director of the Biostatistics Cores for three major research centers.

Little served as associate editor for a number of journals. He served on and chaired important high profile committees of ASA, COPSS and the International Biometrics Society, and he currently serves as Vice-President of the American Statistical Association. His leadership, however, goes well beyond statistical society roles. At the University of Michigan, Little served as Chair of the Department of Biostatistics for thirteen years and was instrumental in the development of the Department to a strong internationally recognized research Department. He also played an outstanding role as mentor of both faculty and students. During his time at Michigan, he has supervised 22 PhD students through to their graduation with two more in progress. During the past 12 years, he has published over 40 methodological papers with his PhD students, a truly remarkable level of mentorship and scholarship.

Little is a Fellow of the ASA and an Elected Member of ISI. He received the ASA’s 2006 Wilks Award, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010 and to the Institute of Medicine in 2011. He has made fundamental contributions to statistical methodology and has had significant impact on public policy and scientific practice. This breadth and depth of contribution are very much in the spirit of Sir Ronald Fisher and make him a fitting recipient of the Fisher Lectureship Award.