The Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) has announced the hiring of a new director. David Banks, Duke University, has assumed the role, replacing Richard Smith. SAMSI is one of eight mathematical sciences institutes created by the National Science Foundation, and it is the only one in which statistics plays a large role.
David Banks lays out his initial agenda below and asks for your feedback and suggestions about programs on subjects that interest you. He says, “SAMSI’s future plan is to continue doing what it does well, which is fostering research and new careers at the interface of mathematics and statistics. But it will also move in some new directions. First, we will place greater emphasis upon data science, and reach out to partner more closely with researchers in computer science and related fields. Secondly, we will explore moving towards shorter programs—instead of the year-long programs that are the current practice, SAMSI intends to pursue some semester-long programs (similar to the Isaac Newton Institute). One consequence of this is that the number of programs will increase, creating more opportunities for scientists to propose and lead these initiatives.
“Currently, SAMSI is finishing two programs: one on Mathematical and Statistical Methods for Climate and the Earth System, and one on Quasi-Monte Carlo and High Dimensional Sampling Methods for Applied Mathematics. Next year, there will be two nine-month programs, one on Statistical, Mathematical and Computational Methods for Precision Medicine, and the other on Model Uncertainty: Mathematical and Statistical. After that, SAMSI will move towards shorter programs, and is currently entertaining proposals for programs on Causal Inference and on Games, Risk, and Decision Theory.
“Creating a good program requires significant forward planning. One needs to line up a small core of prominent researchers (often on sabbatical) who are willing to visit SAMSI and the three local universities (North Carolina State University, UNC–Chapel Hill, and Duke University) for extended periods of time, and to work with the SAMSI postdoctoral fellows. One also needs to enroll a large number of researchers who are willing to attend and present at SAMSI workshops, to help frame the research agenda and to get the appropriate conversations started. This is substantial work, but it can help build a career and be professionally gratifying. And SAMSI generally provides travel support to the workshops and a limited amount of support for long-term visitors, which helps with the recruitment.”
He added, “But the real reasons to lead a research program are that, one, it is a unique opportunity to personally shape the future of the discipline, and two, it is a lot of fun!”