At the IMS International Conference on Statistics and Data Science (ICSDS), which took place December 13–16, 2022, in Florence (Firenze), Italy, the banquet reception featured this speech by IMS President Peter Bühlmann.
Benvenuti al congresso internazionale statistiche e scienza dei dati! This is the first congress of this type organized by IMS, and I am very proud of it.
This inaugural meeting is happening here in Firenze, a place with a rich history which we can feel and experience while being in this city and in this building! Let me dive into this history for a moment. In the Italian provinces, about 1000 years ago, the oldest universities in Europe and the western world were founded, and this marked the start of systematic university education. Perhaps as a consequence, the Italian renaissance started before and as a precursor for the main Renaissance which marked the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. Firenze itself is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance and became a leading center in painting, architecture, sculpture, literature, music, philosophy, science, technology, and exploration. Renaissance Technology was born spreading clever inventions all over Europe. The Renaissance itself was characterized by an effort to revive and surpass ideas and achievements of classical antiquity.
Can we be inspired by this today? Efforts to perhaps “revive” and “surpass” the ideas and achievements of classical statistics, and develop them for modern times, for the world of data science? Of course, statistics is not dead and not forgotten: the action of “revival” is perhaps mainly a knowledge transfer to a large community for whom statistics is almost non-existent and dead. I am sure that some of us are passionate about engaging in education, in knowledge transfer, in interdisciplinary collaboration, and hence improving statistical literacy, statistical thinking, statistical modeling and data analysis at all different levels, from school and universities to leaders in science, industry and even politics! The action of surpassing, however, is somewhat different: it requires further development, ideas, and creativity in research, from theory and methodology to computing and practice—in statistics for data science. We, as the community in statistics, are outstandingly well positioned for both tasks, reviving and surpassing. We are not the only ones, of course, but this makes the endeavor much more interesting. As statisticians, we are “playing in everyone’s backyard,” as John Tukey said. But not only that: we surely are also playing in the front yard of the big house, the castle of Data Science: and this is the Renaissance of Statistics!
It is truly impressive that so many people joined this first exciting ICSDS conference. We have participants from 35 countries, very many exciting contributions and presentations, and there couldn’t be a better place for such an inaugural event than here in Firenze: with “un atmosfera fantastica,” this congress will inspire and motivate us to be leaders in data science!
IMS has never had the opportunity to come to beautiful Italy before; the fortune is on our side that we—now—can experience Italian hospitality: Grazie!
My sincere thanks go to Regina Liu, Annie Qu, Qi Xu, Elyse Gustafson and Fabrizia Mealli. Annie and Regina: the founders and initiators of the idea of having the ICSDS congresses within IMS. I have never seen such a high-speed development from an initial idea to the final outstanding high-quality event. Elyse and Qi: the most efficient and superb workers behind the curtain who processed an enormous number of tasks. Fabrizia (and her team of local organizers), who set up and ran the conference in a way which couldn’t be better! These five people should collect afterwards a tiny chocolate gift, engraved with “number one” as a sign of my appreciation for all your great work. And finally, of course, a big thank you to all of you for coming!
It’s time for drinks now! Salute!