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LISA 2020 Symposium

posted Apr 16, 2017, 10:13 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎   [ updated May 4, 2017, 9:45 AM ]

Emanuel Msemo, Dr. Benedicto Kazuzuru, and Adam Edwards at SUALISA
Dr. Olusanya Olubusoye of UI-LISA
Dr. Olawale Awe of LISAC
Dr. Carla Vivacqua (left) with LEA
Dr. Ayele Taye Goshu, Dr. Eric Vance, Dr. Zeytu Gashaw, and the head of department at HwU SCC

LISA 2020 invites you to our 2017 Symposium!

July 14-15, 2017
Atlas Medina Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco (July 14)
prior to the International Statistical Institute's World Statistics Congress (July 16-21)

Complete an application form.

LISA 2020 is a program established by LISA (Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis) now at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA to train statisticians and data scientists from developing countries to enable and accelerate research to solve real-world problems and build a network of 20 statistical collaboration laboratories by 2020.

Symposium Schedule:

  • 1st Day, July 14: Leadership, administration, and non-technical collaboration skills (Atlas Medina Hotel)
  • 1st Night, July 14: Social dinner in the Djemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakech's old city medina quarter
  • 2nd Day, July 15: Technical skills—participants attend a WSC workshop to improve statistics and data science skills (Location TBD)
Additional Events at World Statistics Congress:
  • July 16-21: Sharing of best practices via invited paper sessions IPS 086 and 087, the LISA 2020 WSC Special Topics Session, and Lunch Roundtable Discussions (Locations TBD)

IPS 087 "Collaborations with Business and Industry"

  • Dr. Olusanya Olubusoye, University of Ibadan Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (UI-LISA), Nigeria
  • Dr. Benedicto Kazuzuru, Sokoine University of Agriculture Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (SUALISA), Tanzania
  • Dr. Bhaswati Ganguli, India
  • Dr. Imran Khan, India
  • Discussant: Dr. Eric Vance, Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (LISA), USA

IPS 086 “How Statistical Collaboration Laboratories Enhance Statistical Education”

  • Dr. Eric Vance, Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (LISA), USA
  • Dr. Olawale Awe, Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis and Collaboration (LISAC), Nigeria
  • Dr. Ayele Taye Goshu, Hawassa University Statistical Collaboration Center (HwU SCC), Ethiopia
  • Dr. Carla Vivacqua, Laboratório de Estatística Aplicada (LEA), Brazil
  • Discussant: Dr. Jim Rosenberger, USA

Special Topics Session “Challenges and Solutions for Building Statistics Capacity in Developing Countries”

  • Lillian Siziba, Zimbabwe
  • Dr. Muhammad Amin, Pakistan
  • Demisew Gebru, Hawassa University Statistical Collaboration Center (HwU SCC), Ethiopia
  • Nelson Taruvinga, Zimbabwe
  • Emanuel Msemo, Sokoine University of Agriculture Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (SUALISA), Tanzania

My Experience at the IISA Conference

posted Mar 31, 2016, 9:10 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Thursday, February 11, 2016 - 11:51 pm

Thoughts before the trip: I wasn't sure what to expect. I had been invited to teach a workshop on collaboration skills at the IISA Conference in Pune by Amarjot Kaur, who knew me as a member of the American Statistical Association's Committee on Applied Statisticians in her role as its chair. The last time I had been to India was in 1999, almost 17 years ago when I backpacked up and down and back and forth taking public transportation across many parts of India.

That time in India I traveled very fast and very cheaply. In 89 days of traveling around the country I spent the night in 51 different places, including 19 overnights on a train or bus because I wanted to see and experience as much as possible. Whenever I could I chose the cheapest option including a few 3rd class train rides between cities, many, many cheap hotels and hostels, and bargaining over the price of every bottle of water I purchased. In those 3 months I spent only $900 total.

But that kind of fast and cheap travel came at a price. Every interaction with a merchant was a battle ("This bottle says 10 Rupees, right here on the label." "On no, this is special water, 15 Rupees.") Every rickshaw ride required preparation to find out the "real" price from A to B. By being constantly aware of what I was charged compared to the price Indians were charged, I probably saved less than $50, a sum clearly not worth the constant battles. And because I traveled so fast (two days here, overnight train there, two days there, overnight bus to the next place, two more days, overnight train "¦), I got tired and I got sick. By the time I left India I had lost 20 pounds.

I wondered if I would I lose weight this time attending the IISA conference? Would I get overcharged on every purchase? Would I get sick? Would I enjoy my time in India? I didn't know what to expect.

What happened: After arriving in Mumbai, I was picked up by Prashant and Ketan - two young statisticians from Cytel - and a Cytel driver. On our pleasant and speedy trip to Pune we talked about our experiences in statistics and I gave them a sneak preview of what I would be teaching at my workshop.

The next day was the workshop. After Anil Gore from Cytel eloquently and inspiringly introduced me and the importance of learning statistical collaboration skills, I interacted with the ~30 attendees for four Photo with the workshop attendees who stayed late after extended Q and A.hours to convey some of the essentials of statistical collaboration. We covered how to have the right attitude for collaboration, how to structure meetings to help solve clients' problems, how to explain statistics to non-statisticians, and other communication skills such as listening, summarizing, and paraphrasing. We finished with Q and A related to career development and how to increase the impact of statisticians and statistics. The presentation is available here: http://prezi.com/v1edravlnsg1/

Dinner with statisticians to learn more about the LISA 2020 program.After the workshop I was invited to dinner with Anil Gore and several more statisticians he gathered to learn more about the LISA 2020 program to create a network of statistical collaboration laboratories in developing countries. We had pleasant conversation to go with the excellent veg food.

The next day was officially the first day of the conference. I attended several excellent talks, met new people, and reconnected with old friends.

The second day of the conference was when I chaired a well attended and well received session on "Application of Bayesian Approaches in Drug Development." And then I gave my talk on "LISA 2020: Growing a Network of Statistical Collaboration Laboratories to Impact the World." Slides: https://prezi.com/klvoov3dqmoa

Because India has so many excellent theoretical statisticians but relatively few applied and collaborative statisticians who actually apply statistics to solve problems, the LISA 2020 program is especially appropriate for Indian universities and institutions. 

LISA 2020 is a program created in 2012 at Virginia Tech's Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (LISA) in the United States to build statistics capacity and research infrastructure in developing countries to help scientists, government officials, businesses, and NGOs use data to solve real-world problems and make decisions. In this program, statisticians and data scientists from developing countries are trained to effectively communicate and collaborate with non-statisticians and assisted to create statistical collaboration laboratories modeled after LISA at their home universities or institutions. The five new statistical collaboration laboratories in the network so far foster education in collaborative statistics, enable and accelerate high impact research, and engage in statistical outreach to improve the statistical skills and literacy of their community.

With a strong mentoring network, just one statistician trained to communicate and collaborate with non-statisticians can enable and accelerate up to 50 research projects per year. Each project can impact hundreds or thousands of people. LISA 2020 unlocks the collaborative potential of technically trained statisticians, who in turn will unlock the research potential of their collaborators and likewise teach the next generation of statisticians. These collaborations, now with the extraordinary power of statistical thinking open to them, will be key to improving human welfare worldwide.

The third day of the conference was my last day there. The highlight for me was participating in a panel discussion on Career Development. One of the points I made, which was echoed by the other panelists, was that Indian statisticians need to improve their collaboration skills. The better able they are to understand the real questions being asked by their colleagues, clients, and collaborators and understand and contextualize the significance of the answers in the business, research, or policy domain, the more impact their technical statistics skills will have. Communication and collaboration are essential skills for statisticians that, when augmented with strong technical statistics and data science skills, will increase their impact in industry, academia, and government. 

After attending more talks in the afternoon, I hired a taxi to drive me to the Mumbai airport and then flew back to the United States later that night.

My reactions: My experience in India this time was very different from my previous experience. All of my financial transactions were easy, mostly because I made very few purchases. Also, the food was uniformly excellent. The meals at the YASHADA complex, especially the lunches, were delicious. I really enjoyed the veg and non-veg cuisine of Maharashtra. In fact, I stayed healthy while in India and I gained four pounds from all the good food.

I am hoping that attending the IISA conference will spark collaborations with Indian universities to create statistical collaboration laboratories to train the next generation of statisticians to be effective, collaborative statisticians who are as well versed in the practice of statistics as they are in the theory and methods. applying statistics and data science to generate real world impact.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Pune and Mumbai and am looking forward to when I can return!

World Statistics Day Celebration

posted Mar 31, 2016, 9:01 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎   [ updated Apr 16, 2017, 10:30 AM ]

Guest Speakers
Thanassis Rikakis

Thanassis Rikakis
Executive Vice President and Provost

Eric Vance Eric Vance
Director of LISA
Ron Fricker
Department of Statistics Head
Ian Crandell Ian Crandell
LISA Ambassador to Nigeria
Karl Markgraf

Karl Markgraf
Associate Vice President for International Affairs

Envisioning the 21st Century Global Land Grant University to Build Research Capacity in Developing Countries
https://worldstatisticsday.org/

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - World Statistics Day
5:00-7:00 pm
Goodwin Hall Auditorium
Free and open to the public
This event was available via WebEx for those who were uanble to attend in person.

The LISA 2020 Program helps scientists, government officials, businesses, and NGOs discover local solutions to local problems by applying statistics and data science. The LISA 2020 goal is to build a global network of 20 statistical collaboration laboratories in developing countries by 2020. This event is intended to announce the LISA 2020 Program to the Virginia Tech and local community and to celebrate the success the program has had thus far. Following the presentation a reception will be held in Goodwin Hall Atrium.

What is LISA 2020?

The LISA 2020 Program was created in 2012 at Virginia Tech’s Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (LISA) in the United States to build statistics capacity and research infrastructure in developing countries to help scientists, government officials, businesses, and NGOs use data to solve real-world problems and make decisions. In this program, statisticians from developing countries are trained to effectively communicate and collaborate with non-statisticians and helped to create statistical collaboration laboratories modeled after LISA at their home universities or institutions. These new statistical collaboration laboratories foster education in collaborative statistics and promote the proper application of statistics and data science to solve real-world problems.

With a strong mentoring network, just one statistician trained to communicate and collaborate with non-statisticians can enable and accelerate 50 or more research projects per year. Each project can impact hundreds or thousands of people. LISA 2020 will unlock the collaborative potential of technically trained statisticians, who in turn will unlock the research potential of their collaborators and teach the next generation of statisticians to do the same. These collaborations, now with the power of statistical thinking open to them, will be key to improving human welfare worldwide.

Current Progress of the LISA 2020 Network (August 2015)

Summary: LISA has hosted and trained seven Fellows, five new stat labs have been created, and two LISA Ambassadors (Ian Crandell and Adam Edwards) have worked at two of these stat labs.

LISA has hosted seven fellows: Olawale Awe (Nigeria), Dr. Benedicto Kazuzuru (Tanzania), Emanuel Msemo (Tanzania), Richard Ngaya (Tanzania), Jingli Xing (China), Dr. Mohamed Djedour (Algeria), and Dr. Ayele Taye Goshu (Ethiopia). In addition, BECCA (a stat lab at UPenn) helped train Olawale Awe.

Sponsors

  • Office of the Provost
  • College of Science
  • LISA (Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)
  • Department of Statistics

Event Files

Stat Lab Videos

Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis and Collaboration (LISAC)
University: Obefemi Awolowo University (OAU)
Location: Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Coordinator: Olawale Awe
Established: October 2014

Sokoine University of Agriculture Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (SUALISA)
University: Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)
Location: Morogoro, Tanzania
Coordinator: Dr. Benedicto Kazuzuru
Established: December 2014

University of Ibadan Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (UI-LISA)
University: University of Ibadan
Location: Ibadan, Nigeria
Coordinator: Dr. Olusanya Olubusoye
Established: March 2015

HwU Statistical Collaboration Center
University: Hawassa University
Location: Hawassa, Ethiopia
Coordinator: Dr. Ayele Taye Goshu
Co-cordinator: Dr. Zeytu Gashaw
Established: May 2015

Laboratório de Estatística Aplicada (LEA)
University: Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN)
Location: Natal, Brazil
Coordinator: Dr. Carla Vivacqua
Joined: July 2015

The 60th World Statistics Congress

posted Mar 31, 2016, 7:40 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Monday, August 24, 2015 - 9:57 pm

Last month Nina and I were in Rio de Janeiro for the International Statistical Institute's 60th World Statistics Congress. The ISI holds their WSC every two years. In 2013 the 59th WSC was in Hong Kong. In 2017 the 61st WSC will be in Marrakech, Morocco.

In the mornings for the weeklong conference of 1700 statisticians, Nina would walk along the beach (Barra da Tijuca) while I would board the bus for a 40-minute ride through Olympic construction zones to the massive convention center. I'm writing this email because $1000 of the trip's cost will be paid for by the Vice President of Research at Virginia Tech, out of a fund to subsidize international conference travel for Virginia Tech researchers. And to get the money I must submit a one-page report on the conference.

In December 2013 I submitted a proposal for an invited session about the LISA 2020 program to create a network of 20 statistical collaboration laboratories in developing countries by the year 2020. At the time I was not sure how far along LISA 2020 would be or if any statistical collaboration laboratories would have been created in time to talk about them at the International Statistical Institute's 60th World Statistics Congress (WSC) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, held from July 24-31, 2015. I also didn't know if I or the speakers I proposed to speak in the session would be able to get funding to attend the WSC.

Fortunately my session proposal and talk titled, "The LISA 2020 Program to Build Statistics Capacity and Research Infrastructure in Developing Countries" impressed the organizing committee sufficiently to be accepted as an invited session. Doubly fortunately, all three of the other speakers I originally proposed for the session (Olawale Awe--the first LISA Fellow and founder of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis and Collaboration [LISAC] in Nigeria, Emanuel Msemo--co-coordinator of the Sokoine University of Agriculture LISA [SUALISA] in Tanzania, and Carla Vivacqua--director of the Laboratório de Estatística Aplicada [LEA] at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil) received funding to attend the WSC and delivered interesting and informative talks to follow my talk. Discussion led by the discussant and chair Kaye Basford from Australia concluded the well-attended session, with several people approaching me and the other speakers afterward with additional questions.

A few months before the WSC, the ISI President asked me to participate in an invited panel discussion about statistical capacity building. Despite a restriction on each individual being allowed to give only one talk or participate in only one panel, I was allowed to participate in that panel discussion, during which I delivered a 10-minute talk, "LISA 2020: Building Statistics Capacity in Developing Countries" that was referenced repeatedly by the panelists and audience members as a "paradigm-shifting approach to capacity building."

The standard approach to capacity building is for an expert statistician from a developed country to fly into a developing country, lead a one or two-week workshop on some aspect of statistics, and then fly back out, with rarely any positive long term impact. In contrast, the LISA 2020 program trains statisticians from developing countries to communicate and collaborate with non-statisticians and supports them in creating a statistical collaboration laboratory. This new stat lab exists to trains more statisticians in the non-technical skills necessary for success in statistical practice and to help researchers, government officials, and local business and NGOs apply statistics to solve problems and make better decisions. So far there are five stat labs in the LISA 2020 Network.

Another feature of the WSC for me was meeting statisticians from all over the world. A professor from Kwa-Zulu Natal University in South Africa came up to me after the panel discussion and said, "We want to be the sixth lab in your network!" All in all it was a very successful conference for me, LISA, the LISA 2020 program, and Virginia Tech.

LISA 2020 Advisory Council Application Announcement

posted Mar 31, 2016, 7:39 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 2:33 pm

The LISA 2020 program is seeking to establish an Advisory Council to assist with the creation and sustaining of a global network of statistical collaboration labs ("stat labs") in developing countries (see below for more information about LISA 2020).

We are specifically looking for contributors who can apply their passion and expertise in the areas of: 1) communication and publicity; 2) organization of the mentoring network; 3) securing funding; 4) organization of non-university stat labs; 5) regional coordinators; 6) organization of stat labs in N. America; 7) statistics capacity building; and 8) development or delivery of training content. We are also open to new ideas on how you could support the LISA 2020 program.

If you are interested in being a member of this council, please apply at this link: http://goo.gl/forms/fGE5HcIU2n

There will be a face-to-face meeting of council members on February 18, 2016 in San Diego, California to coincide with the 2016 Conference on Statistical Practice (CSP). Please also consider submitting an abstract for a talk at CSP, which is due by June 25, 2015. More information about CSP can be found here: (www.amstat.org/meetings/csp/2016/conferenceinfo.cfm).

What is LISA 2020?

The LISA 2020 program was created by LISA (Virginia Tech's Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis) to train statisticians from developing countries to become collaborative statisticians and support them to create stat labs at their home universities or institutions to train the next generation of collaborative statisticians and help researchers, government officials, and local industries and NGOs apply statistical thinking to make better decisions. Our goal is to create a network of 20 such stat labs in developing countries by 2020.

Each of these new stat labs will foster education in collaborative statistics and will promote the proper application of statistics to solve real-world problems. With a strong mentoring network, just one statistician trained to communicate and collaborate with non-statisticians can enable and accelerate 50 or more research projects per year. Each project can impact hundreds or thousands of people. LISA 2020 will unlock the collaborative potential of technically trained statisticians, who in turn will unlock the research potential of their collaborators and teach other statisticians to do the same. These collaborations, now with the power of statistical thinking open to them, will be key to improving human welfare worldwide.

LISA 2020 Update

Summary: LISA has hosted and trained seven Fellows, four new stat labs have been created, and two LISA Ambassadors are currently working at two of these newly created laboratories.

LISA 2020 Fellows work in LISA for varying periods of time and are trained in the laboratory to communicate and collaborate with non-statisticians. After the training, the goal is for fellows to return to their home university or institution to create a statistical collaboration laboratory that will work under local conditions based on their experience with LISA. LISA works with the newly created lab to send graduate students who have experience as LISA lead collaborators to the lab to help build and sustain it as needed. These students are referred to as LISA Ambassadors.

LISA has hosted seven fellows: Olawale Awe (Nigeria), Dr. Benedicto Kazuzuru (Tanzania), Emanuel Msemo (Tanzania), Richard Ngaya (Tanzania), Jingli Xing (China), Dr. Mohamed Djedour (Algeria), and Dr. Ayele Taye Goshu (Ethiopia). In addition, BECCA (a stat lab at UPenn) helped train Olawale Awe.

The LISA 2020 Network has grown to include four labs: LISAC (Laboratory for Statistical Analysis and Collaboration) at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Nigeria, SUALISA at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania, UI-LISA at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and the HwU Statistical Collaboration Center at Hawassa University in Ethiopia.

LISA Ambassadors: Ian Crandell is finishing up his six month stay at LISAC in Nigeria and Adam Edwards has just arrived at SUALISA in Tanzania for a six month capacity building visit.

Three Country Trip Part #7: Catching up my second time in Tanzania

posted Mar 31, 2016, 7:38 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Thursday, June 11, 2015 - 6:01 pm

I arrived in Tanzania (after a short layover in the Addis Ababa airport) from Nigeria at 2AM. I was grateful that a driver from my hotel was waiting for me with a sign with my name.

I stayed at the Blue Pearl Hotel in Dar es Salaam. Choosing that hotel was a minor crisis itself. My contact at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) recommended it for its proximity to UDSM, its security, and its price.

I checked reviews of the hotel online during a few of the sixty or so minutes I was online during my entire week in Nigeria. Actually, nevermind. I had downloaded the TripAdvisor CityGuide app for Dar es Salaam while in Ethiopia, so I read reviews of the Blue Pearl during some brief period of downtime during which I was not trying to fiddle with my computer's network settings to get internet.

Many of the reviews of the hotel were bad. However, in Nigeria without access to decent internet, I couldn't find a better hotel. Plus, I was really unsure about my itinerary in Dar es Salaam for the final three days of my four-week trip through Africa. I originally planned to spend all three days at UDSM helping the Statistics Department lay the foundation for creating a stat lab, but I only was granted two hours on Monday with which to meet with the HOD (Head of Department) and the rest of the department.

Fortunately, Dr. Kazuzuru and Dr. Magayane had arranged several additional meetings with statistical stakeholders on Tuesday and Wednesday to advertise the existence of SUALISA to help ministry officials (and others) better collect data, analyze data, or to teach them topics via statistical short courses.

So last week in the office of Dr. Olubusoye (the immensely talented coordinator of UI-LISA), I was trying to book my hotel for Dar es Salaam. I was struggling because I didn't have enough information (Where would the meetings be on Tuesday and Wednesday? What other options for hotels were there? Where were Dr. Kazururu, Dr. Magayane, Emanuel, and the LISA Ambassador to Tanzania Adam Edwards staying? Was the Blue Pearl really as bad as some of the reviews said?)

Ian was in the office with me and said, "I have no problems making decisions with insufficient information." And so, with Ian's help, about twenty minutes later, Adam (in Tanzania) and I had an email semi-confirmation of our intentions to stay at the Blue Pearl in Dar es Salaam for (very late) that night and the next three days.

Upon arrival at the Blue Pearl Hotel at around 2:45AM Sunday morning, I had several surprises and some not-so-surprising-events:

  1. The building was big - 14 stories
  2. The lobby was almost luxuriously extravagant. "Extravagant" is probably too strong a word. The lobby was fancy, nice, and looked comfortable.
  3. At reception I was asked to pay for that night ($80, as expected) and $35 for the airport pickup (I had been under the impression that airport service was free).
  4. The receptionist didn't have change when I paid him $120 in USD. (Not surprising.) He said I would get the change "tomorrow."
  5. The room was nice and was larger than some of the reviews had led me to believe.
  6. Internet didn't work on my computer in my room (disappointing but not surprising). The receptionist said that it would surely work "tomorrow."
  7. The receptionist came back into my room 10 minutes later to get newer US currency. He said that the hotel only accepted bills dated 2006 or later and I had given him an older $20 bill and an older $10 bill. He gave me back the old bills and I put them in my pocket. I just stood there as he just stood there. Eventually he asked, "Sir, could you pay me the money in new bills?" I replied, with a smile, "Tomorrow," and he left.
  8. I took a shower. The water control lever (temp and pressure control knob) was not on the tub but was way off to the side as part of the sink unit. That was surprising.
  9. By 3:30AM or so (after several minutes of waiting for internet not to connect) I put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on my door and went to sleep. (Nothing surprising about that.)
  10. But the pillow was really lumpy, surprising for a supposedly fancy hotel. Still, I slept well until"¦
  11. Until I was awoken in the early morning by the 5AM Muslim call to prayer? No! By the 7AM church service right outside my window 12 floors down. Mosques have loudspeakers that broadcast the calls to prayer (starting at the insanely early hour of 5AM) to the neighborhood. Never before do I remember having been awoken by a Christian church service. Turns out there was a large church just behind the hotel and the church had no doors and no windows and lacked very many walls! I mean, it was just the skeleton of a church still under construction, yet it held very loud church services throughout the day. That was surprising.
  12. Because I had no explicit plan for the day, I got out of bed at around noon and ended up not leaving the room until about 3PM. (I had thought about going to an open-air cultural museum, but I also had work to do and didn't know explicitly how to get to the museum, which also had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor.) When I left to go downstairs to try my luck with the internet in the lobby, my "Do Not Disturb/Please Make Up My Room" placard was gone from my door. ??? But housekeeping had never knocked or tried to enter my room.

When the SUALISA team (Kazuzuru, Emanuel, and Adam) arrived at around 7PM, I smiled despite myself. I was in a foul mood because of various things related to bad internet, a stupid unsmartphone, and that I needed to do stuff using the internet and computer files by a deadline. I don't know if anything is worse, besides health-related problems, than not having internet for no good reason when I need it to get something done. Sleeping in a really hot room without AC is not as bad because there is one thing I can do: sleep with a wet shirt by my side. If that doesn't work, I can just lay back and accept the heat because nothing else is to be done. But when I have internet (sporadically) on my phone, but not on my computer, even though my computer says I'm connected, well, it was as if four hours were just stolen from my life.

Sitting in traffic is similarly terrible for me, especially if I have to get somewhere soon. While stuck in traffic there are things one can do--take a different route. And there are things that could/should have been done to fix the problems (better traffic design plans, etc.) I have a very hard time letting it go and accepting nothing happening (no data transmitted or no distance traveled) when the situation didn't have to be like that. A hot room without AC could have had AC, but really, there's nothing much that could have been done to make the day cooler or the sun less intense, so I can accept that.

Anyway, the SUALISA team arrived, they checked in, I figured out how to send my computer file via my phone (it took about ten really annoying steps, including telling reception I couldn't get into my room to get my phone cord because I couldn't find the file I transferred to my phone via Bluetooth because the key had stopped working, plus another two hours), and we went out to dinner.

Surprising thing #14: I mentioned this in the paragraph above, but I should make it clear. I wanted to get into my room for my phone cable, but I couldn't get into my room. My three room keys (there were only two locks on the door) did not open the door. I tried every combination (except the right one) of unlocking this lock, twisting, then unlocking that lock, and pushing. So I had to go back downstairs (only one elevator was working, not surprising) and inform reception that I couldn't get into the room. The receptionist didn't seem surprised. She just called housekeeping and told me a housekeeper would meet me at my room.

Surprising thing #15: In the four hours I had been in the lobby waiting for internet and for the SUALISA team and trying to attach a document online, someone (housekeeping) had entered my room and turned on my lights, but hadn't cleaned anything.

Back to the quick story of dinner with the SUALISA team. In Morogoro, Tanzania Emanuel and Kazuzuru took me and Adam out to dinner for kitimoto - deep fried chunks of pork (plus grilled banana and beer). In Hawassa, Dr. Zeytu took me out to dinner for barbequed goat (plus injera and beer). In Ife, Ian took me out to dinner for suva (carne asada and beef organs on a skewer plus beer). In Ibadan the guesthouse cook made jollof rice, fish, goat, and snail for me and Ian. In Dar es Salaam this night we went out for dinner for barbequed (grilled) pork pieces (and grilled bananas, peanuts, and beer). It looked as if the place in Dar also served potatoes, but they turned out to be really big cubes of warm, white, pork fat.

The plan for the next morning was that we would meet downstairs for breakfast at 7:30AM and all go to UDSM first thing in the morning to see if we could meet with folks in the statistics department before our scheduled 2-4PM meeting.

At 7:30AM I realized I couldn't leave my hotel room. I could not open the door from the inside. Seriously. What if there had been a fire in my room or in the building?

Eventually housekeeping came up to open my door from the outside. While waiting for them I repacked my suitcase.

At breakfast Emanuel, Adam, and Kazuzuru had been debating whether to leave the hotel (they had their own issues) and had decided to stay one more night. Then I showed up with my suitcase and said, "We're leaving."

Surprising thing #16: Upon checkout I was only charged $40 per night, not $80 per night. They charged everyone in the group $40 per night, which might be the standard Tanzanian rate.

Adam and Emanuel took all of our luggage to the Greenlight Hotel, which is the hotel that iAGRI guests usually stay when flying in or out of Dar es Salaam and was the hotel that Adam and I stayed at our first night in Tanzania.

Kazuzuru and I took a taxi to UDSM, walked around looking for the Department of Statistics, which had moved from its old location in a moldy basement into new digs in a nice building.

Briefly, at UDSM we talked with one professor, then talked with the HOD. These were valuable talks because the stat department didn't really know why they were meeting us. They had been asked to meet with me by the VP of Research, who was the former boss of my contact at UDSM, who had been a LISA client eight months ago during her exchange visit to Virginia Tech. The VP of Research, like my contact, was intrigued by LISA 2020 and would like to see a stat lab at UDSM.

At the morning meetings, I was able to informally explain LISA and LISA 2020 to the HOD, and Kazuzuru explained SUALISA. Basically, what tends to happen in the African universities I have visited is that not many plans are made before my visit. It's only when I show up and people know I'm serious and have actually arrived that plans get made.

That morning visit motivated the HOD to advertise to more people in his department that I would be giving a talk to the department that afternoon. The talk went well. We had 16 people in the audience. There was good Q&A. Basically, I sensitized the department to the idea of creating a stat lab. They informally said it was a great idea and that they wanted to do it. And we talked about the next steps, which include:

  • contacting Dr. Kazuzuru for more details on how SUALISA was created
  • contacting me and Dr. Kazuzuru to get the training materials for the fundamentals of statistical collaboration
  • gaining university support for the creation of a stat lab at UDSM
  • identifying a coordinator within the Department of Statistics who would be eager to assist UDSM researchers and train post-graduate students or other staff to also collaborate with UDSM researchers
  • contacting me or Dr. Kazuzuru for guidance in any other area.

In between our morning and afternoon meetings at UDSM, Adam and Emanuel met us on campus and we all four took a bhajaj to the nearby Eastern African Statistical Training Centre (EASTC). We arrived unannounced (it doesn't seem to be the norm to make many plans beforehand), went to reception, got a meeting with the Vice-Rector, and then met with the Rector of EASTC.

Briefly, EASTC trains official statisticians, meaning statisticians who collect and report official statistics, which is like the rate of inflation, GDP, the national production of maize, the infant mortality rates, and the number of boda boda's (motorcycle taxis) in the country. We had an interesting meeting with the Rector, who was very quick to interrupt people and cut them off. At the end of the meeting it wasn't clear if he would be a willing collaborator with SUALISA. His first question to us was what type of collaboration we had in mind (he wanted specifics, but we had just met him) and what would be the benefits to him. He also said seemingly contradictory things, like projects that required any money weren't sustainable and that EASTC would require money from any LISA 2020/SUALISA project.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I took a back seat to Dr. Kazuzuru and Dr. Magayane (who joined us from iAGRI in Morogoro) as we met with the National Bureau of Statistics, visited the Swedish and Finnish Embassies, met with the Rector of the National College of Business Education, the UN Food and Agriculture Programme (FAO), the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries.

We went around sensitizing everyone to the existence and purpose of SUALISA (to train statisticians to become interdisciplinary collaborators, to collaborate with researchers and ministry officials on research projects, and provide statistical trainings for non-statisticians) and introduced them to the idea of LISA 2020.

I did not literally take a back seat to Drs. Kazuzuru and Magayane. In fact, I rode shotgun for all of our many painful journeys around Dar es Salaam. We were stuck in traffic the whole day for both days, in between meetings with officials. The traffic was utter madness. Fortunately we had AC and a good driver Godbless (that's his name) and a flexible schedule for all of our meetings. But the traffic was still crazy. 10-15 minute waits at traffic lights. Traffic cops at every major intersection doing the best they could to direct traffic. We'd go like 6 miles in an hour.

Correspondingly, I saw lots of bicycle traffic. In Dar es Salaam they have bicycle carts that transport the exact things donkey carts transport in Ethiopia. In Dar, bicycles travel much faster than cars or trucks.

I don't think I can say that traffic in Dar was worse than traffic in Manila. That was OMG FML traffic. But here is one example of the terrible traffic. On Tuesday afternoon we were on our way to visit the National College of Business Education to advertise SUALISA's services. I was dozing in the front seat and remember hearing lots of chatter about how the college was on the other side of the street (we found the college but were going the wrong way on the road). I checked the clock on the radio: something like 1:00PM. We were stopped in traffic and not getting out of the car, so I dozed off again. I woke up at 1:15 when we finally arrived. It had taken 15 minutes in occasionally moving traffic to negotiate the necessary turns to make it to the other side of the street (50 feet).

In summary, I spent two nights in a terrible hotel and two nights in a nice one (same price). We had productive meetings with folks at UDSM about LISA 2020, and then potentially productive meetings or visits to eight other institutions regarding SUALISA. And we spent hours and hours idling in Dar es Salaam traffic.

Three Country Trip Part #6: Catching up my time in Nigeria

posted Mar 31, 2016, 7:37 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 1:37 pm

After spending one week at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the SUALISA in Tanzania, I spent one week at Hawassa University and saw the first client of the newly created Statistical Collaboration Center there. Then I spent a week in Nigeria, visiting LISAC at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ife, Nigeria and the UI-LISA at the University of Ibadan. For the past four days I've been in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Returning to Nigeria was great. Olawale and Ian met me at the airport in Lagos. After the four hour drive we went to a three-hour church concert and morality pantomime/play for the entering freshmen at OAU. It was the first time I had seen an orchestra standing with the chorus and also the first time I saw a "pantomime," which was a morality play (if you fool around with someone and die unexpectedly you will be beaten unmercifully by the Devil in death) narrated by a cast of voices sitting in the front row.

I learned so much talking with Ian and Olawale about the operation of LISAC and identified seven areas that need a plan for long-term sustainability of the lab (and for all the others, including LISA).

I could write about everything. Ian and I ate snail twice. Both times were delicious. Ian's house has no air conditioning or running water or mosquito nets on the beds, but he's doing fine. I presented the Dean of the Faculty of Science with the official certificate of membership of LISAC in the LISA 2020 Network. At the University of Ibadan I visited and spoke with students and staff of the Federal School of Statistics and with staff at The Polytechnic, Ibadan. Both are like community colleges, and offer a type of degree to students in statistics.

When leaving Nigeria I had an interesting interaction with a female security guard screener/TSA agent.


She had to check my bags for liquids. She asked what I was doing in Nigeria. "Are you a tourist?"

"No, I'm a statistics professor."

"Did you come to teach statistics here in Nigeria?"

"I came to help Nigerian statistics professors teach better statistics."

"Oh that's a good one"¦ Statistics is interesting. They tell us to ask about inferential statistics."

I'm a little confused. "Yes statistics is interesting."

"So can you tell me about inferential statistics. They say it's important. Like for a population."

"So you're interested in know how inferential statistics could be used to learn about a population?"

"Yes. They say it's important to learn about a population. Like if you want to know something, I don't know, something about a population."

"Like the population of airport travelers?"

"Yes, like knowing about the population of airport travelers. How do you use inferential statistics?"

<I am not making this up!>

"Well, inferential statistics can be very useful in learning about a population. For example you want to know something about the population of airport travelers, like some characteristic of them, but you can't ask every single airport traveler questions. You can't interview the whole population, so you take a sample. Do you know what a sample is?"

"A sample. Yes."

"A sample is like if you're cooking a pot of soup and you want to know if it's salty enough. You don't have to taste the whole pot. You take a sample, just one spoon. And you taste the spoonful of soup."

"Yes, you just taste one spoon."

"From knowing that sample of soup you can infer about the population, the whole pot. So if you want to know about the population of airport travelers"¦"

"You take a sample."

"And from that sample, if it's a representative sample, if it's a random sample, you can use inferential statistics to infer about the population you care about."

"Oh I see. That's inferential statistics."

 

I couldn't believe I was having that conversation with an airport security guard in Nigeria. Actually I could. Much more often than most statisticians, I frequently get a positive response when I tell a stranger that I am a statistician.

Three Country Trip Part #4: First day at Hawassa University

posted Mar 31, 2016, 7:36 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 2:05 pm

Hawassa University (HwU) was created in 1999. I think it has six campuses around the city. The School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences is on the main campus. There are around 25,000 students and 1,300 academic staff, of whom 18% have a Ph.D. There are 6 Ph.D. programs at HwU. One of them is in math. Another is in Statistics. The statistics program in the School of Math and Stat has around 350 Bachelor's students in statistics, 50 Master's students, and 15 Ph.D. students in two cohorts (Year 1 and Year 2) as their Ph.D. program is only two years old.

One view of Hawassa University

I think it's remarkable that they already have two classes of Ph.D. students already. The Ph.D. students are being trained (since last week) to be lead collaborators with the MSc students ready to volunteer to start as associate collaborators.

The Master's and Ph.D. statistics programs were created with the help of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. Statisticians from Norway, supported by Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation), made several repeated trips to HwU to define the curricula and teach classes. Now, most of the classes are taught by HwU's two statistics Ph.D.'s: Dr. Ayele and Dr. Zeytu.

On Monday morning I met with Ayele. He gave me a quick update on the progress so far regarding the HwU Statistical Collaboration Center.

Briefly:

1. The VP of Academics supports the idea and asked for a formal written proposal for the HwU Statistical Collaboration Center. The proposal is still under consideration.

2. In the meantime, the VP-Academics suggested that the Statistical Collaboration Center start as a pilot project.

3. Last week Ayele lead a one-day training on the basics of statistical collaboration.

4. Last week the Head of the School of Math and Stat sent an announcement to all the department heads at HwU announcing the opening of the Statistical Collaboration Center walk-in hours held in the graduate students' offices.

5. As of Monday, there were no clients yet.

Ayele then left. He's in Norway now in a meeting regarding the Norad project. He left me in the capable hands of Dr. Zeytu.

Both Ayele and Zeytu got their Ph.D.s in Statistics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Zeytu having only recently graduated and returned to Ethiopia. They are two of only about 15 Ph.D.s in Statistics in Ethiopia. Together they are coordinating the statistics graduate programs at HwU and establishing the Statistical Collaboration Center.

I was also introduced to the Head of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Mamo. Because his job entails lots of administrative work, neither Ayele or Zeytu want it anymore (they were past heads). Basically, if you get a Ph.D. you don't have to be head anymore.

Ayele, EAV, Zeytu, and Mamo in Ayele's office

I was taken to coffee by a mathematics staff member. Along the way we ran into the VP-Academics. We chatted very briefly about the Statistical Collaboration Center.

After coffee, Dr. Zeytu, Mr. Mamo (the head of the School of Math and Stat) and I went to see the VP-Academics in his office. There I gave him my two-minute elevator speech about statistical collaboration, stat labs, and LISA 2020. From there the VP-Academics escorted me (not Zeytu or Mamo) into the President's office. President Yosef Mamo Dubale also seemed very supportive of the Statistical Collaboration Center and said all the usual things about statistics being important in all areas of research and how many students struggle with statistics while completing their degrees.

The purpose of my visit to the President of HwU was for him to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between HwU and Virginia Tech. The MOU basically just says that we intend to collaborate in the future, and specifically to help them create, grow, and sustain their stat lab.

Signing of the MOU

After the MOU signing I went back to the stat department and met several students in the two Ph.D. offices. As I mentioned, HwU has two cohorts of Ph.D. students so far. And they have a lot of MSc in Applied Statistics students, and students in a new statistical modeling master's program.

Two PhD students helping two MSc students

Then Zeytu took me to lunch. On the way there we dodged the rain. It's the very beginning of the rainy season here. It rained vigorously for a few minutes many times that day, with sunshine in between.

Zeytu ordered the special platter of a variety of meat dishes to share with me. One note about Ethiopian food: I love it and I haven't been disappointed. One of the features of my last visit to Ethiopia was that the food was uniformly good, even in tiny roadside huts.

Special platter of all the meat dishes

I don't remember what I did the rest of the afternoon after lunch. Oh yeah, Zeytu took me on a tour of campus. I saw the student center and some stat labs full of computers. We had another coffee. And then Zeytu had to attend to Master's students who are submitting their theses this week, so I worked on my talk (scheduled for today) quietly at Ayele's desk. (Zeytu and Ayele share an office.)

MSc student in the statistics computer lab

Back at my hotel I just stayed in and tried to get internet. I wasn't hungry after my big lunch.

Three Country Trip Part #3: First day in Ethiopia

posted Mar 31, 2016, 7:35 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 1:29 pm

I arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Saturday night. Girma, a driver from Hawassa University, picked me up at my hotel at 7AM. The 4.5-hour drive from Addis to Hawassa provided my first surprise in Ethiopia. The roads were much, much, much better than I expected. The first main highway out of Addis Ababa was the best road I've been on in Africa.

Amazing highway traveling southeast from Addis Ababa

In 2002 I observed that South Africa had modern highways similar to this one, but with shepherds grazing their livestock on the medians. The highway from Addis partway to Hawassa was a modern, 6-lane freeway with oleander in the median rather than grass, so shepherds were not enticed to disrupt traffic with their animals.

When I was last in Ethiopia, 13 years ago for three weeks during my 6-month backpack trip across Africa, the roads were bad and the traffic was so slow. On one tortuous stretch of road coming out of the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia, the truck I was hitchhiking in went 40 km in 5 hours, without stopping! We averaged about 5 miles per hour and hardly ever left second gear. Partly it was the road, but partly also the driver.

Off the highway, the road was still fantastic. It was crowded with donkeys, cattle, bajaji (auto rickshaws), and horse-drawn carriages, but the road was smooth and wide and the driver drove fast.

Donkey carts and bajaji off the main highway Some of the landscape on road to Hawassa Roadside huts Cattle crossing the smooth road Roadside village with onion seller

Hawassa is a city of about 200,000 people on the shores of Lake Hawassa, which is one of the lakes of the Great Rift Valley of Africa.

Descending into the Great Rift Valley Orderly chaos near Hawassa

In Hawassa I met Dr. Ayele Taye at my hotel and then walked down the street to lunch where his family was waiting. Dr. Ayele was a LISA Fellow from October to December 2014 and is one of two statistics Ph.D. holders at Hawassa University, and one of about 15 statistics Ph.D.s in all of Ethiopia.

After lunch Ayele took me to campus in a bajaj (auto rickshaw), but campus was closed because of elections. Students were voting at locations around campus. Then we went to Ayele's house nearby where his wife performed the traditional coffee ceremony and his two daughters (7 and 3.5) played, drew pictures, and sang songs.

The traditional coffee ceremony starts with washing the coffee beans, then roasting them on coals and suffusing the room with incense and the smell of roasting coffee. When the beans start getting oily they're done. Then they're ground and mixed with water. The coffee is served, and sugar is usually added. Ethiopia is where coffee originated, and of course it tastes really, really good.

Traditional coffee ceremony Ayele's family in front of their house

Three Country Trip Part #2: First day in Tanzania

posted Mar 31, 2016, 7:33 AM by LISA ‎(Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis)‎

Sunday, May 17, 2015 - 6:00 am

Yesterday I figured out my purpose and role for this trip. My purpose is to strengthen and grow the LISA 2020 Network. My role is to be a collaborative statistician who makes observations and asks questions to understand the problems, brainstorms methods to solve the problems, and helps implement solutions.

To be an effective, collaborative, traveling statistician one must be flexible. What I mean by "flexible" is not being annoyed by differences between one's experience and one's expectations.

My trip so far: I flew all day on Thursday just within the US, then flew all night to get to Zurich. Adam and I had a layover in Zurich of less than hour, but it was long enough to eat breakfast (Swiss ham, butter, and pickle sandwiches on pretzel rolls) in an airport lounge and for Adam to experience drinking a free beer for breakfast. Then we flew all day Friday to Dar Es Salaam. The first thing I noticed stepping off the plane in DSM was the acrid smell of burning garbage and the sort of sweet smell burning fields. The second thing was the pleasant heat and humidity. The iAGRI driver Godbless picked us up at the airport and took us to a nearby hotel.Road to Morogoro

In the US one usually expects hotel rooms to be quiet. But at our hotel in Dar Es Salaam it was anything but. Since it was Friday, a live band played loudly in the courtyard below and the music reverberated through the thin windows and tile floors into my room, but only until around midnight. But then someone nearby played electronic music with an inconstant beat for the rest of the night (I still heard the beat at 7:00AM during breakfast). That plus the roosters, the multiple muezzin calls to prayer starting at 5AM, the light from the hallway, the smells (I woke up twice because the smell of smoke wafted into my room), and the bright blue light from the AC unit threatened to throw me off my game. All these things can be annoyances to someone who isn't flexible and is easily annoyed. Fortunately I have lots of practice trying not to be annoyed. If one can't handle the small deviations from expectations, one won't survive long as a traveling statistician. Of course, despite all my experience, I still struggle with it. It's a good thing that Adam is probably more flexible in this respect than I.

The four and a half hour drive to Morogoro was fairly pleasant because we rode in a nice car with an excellent driver.

While I'm here with Adam (for another six days) I am trying to prepare him for his six-month stay by giving him advice. Of course, most of it is useless or he's heard it already.

Yesterday, was devoted to getting Adam settled in with the most important things for a traveling statistician:   

1. Shelter

I'm staying at a fancy hotel while Adam is staying in a guesthouse on the SUA campus. It has a kitchen and all the basics* (* except internet).

2. MoneyView toward SUA from my hotel

Laura Alexander from iAGRI (iAGRI is the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative, is sponsored by USAID, funded the training of Emanuel and Dr. Kazuzuru at Virginia Tech/LISA and the creation of SUALISA, and is funding my and Adam's visit) met Adam at his guesthouse, showed him around campus briefly, and showed him the bank and ATMs on the SUA campus. As long as Virginia Tech can figure out how to pay Adam, he should be fine moneywise.

3. Communication

Laura, Adam, and Elizabeth (another iAGRI guest) met me at my hotel for a mid-afternoon lunch. Then we went into town to buy Adam a phone and mobile number and me a one-week contract to use on my iAGRI loner phone.

3A. Internet

I have decent internet at my hotel, but Adam still doesn't have internet access because the store selling the mobile modem sticks was closed and his guesthouse does not have wifi.

4. Food

I had Tanzanian coconut chicken with ugali (the white mush) for lunch. In town Laura showed Adam the grocery stores and the Morogoro market.

Lunch with Laura Eric Vance, Elizabeth, and Adam in Morogoro Market

5. Transportation

We walked and took taxis. Now Adam knows how to take a taxi here. He'll be fine.

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