Summer School in Statistics for Astronomers VII; June 6-11 2011; Pennsylvania State University, College Park
Statistical Challenges in Modern Astronomy V; June 13-17 2011; Pennsylvania State University, College Park
This award provides primary support both for the latest in the annual statistics schools aimed at improving the statistical ability of astronomers, and for the professional conference on statistical challenges, held every five years.
Astronomical research often involves imaging, photometric and spectroscopic surveys of the sky that produce terabyte to petabyte databases and billion-object catalogs. While the promise is tremendous, achieving the scientific goals depends critically on extraction of useful knowledge using statistical inference, and especially the use of advanced statistical methods. Observational astronomers are thus confronting a wider range of statistical challenges than ever before, while unfortunately most U.S. astronomers are not well trained in statistics, learning only elementary methods through books written by and for physical scientists. To alleviate this educational gap, an annual intensive week-long Summer School was started in 2005 by the group at Pennsylvania State. The 2011 Summer School follows the tradition and presents concepts and methodologies at an intermediate level, accompanied by hands-on software tutorials with application to astronomical datasets. If maintained at a steady state, these Summer Schools will train about 10% of the nation's young astronomers, filling a critical lacuna in the US scientific workforce.
This award also supports the fifth Statistical Challenges in Modern Astronomy (SCMA) cross-disciplinary conference. Held once every 5 years since 1991, SCMA meetings are unusual in emphasizing cross-disciplinary interactions between statisticians and astronomers. This is emphasized by having invited speakers in one field followed by a commentator from the other field. These meetings have become the premiere forum for research statisticians and astronomers to discuss methodological issues of mutual interest.
Observational astronomers continually confront a wide range of challenging statistical problems. Statistics is needed to analyze mega-datasets emerging from powerful astronomical surveys. Due to the structure of undergraduate and graduate curricula, U.S. astronomers are not well trained in statistics. Most learn elementary methods on their own through books written by and for physical scientists. However, these volumes usually treat only a narrow range of problems, providing little guidance to vast fields of statistics. To alleviate this educational gap, intensive week-long Summer Schools in Statistics for Astronomers were initiated in 2005. The Penn State Summer Schools trained nearly 375 total participants since its inauguration in 2005. The Summer Schools seek to give a broad exposure to fundamental concepts and a wide range of resulting methods across many fields of statistics. The Statistical Challenges in Modern Astronomy (SCMA) conferences, held every five years since 1991, are the premiere forum for research statisticians and astronomers to discuss methodological issues of mutual interest. Astronomers face an incredible range of problems in statistical inference from megadatasets, modeling data with nonlinear astrophysical models, time series analysis from irregularly spaced observations, spatial analysis of clustering processes, treatment of censoring and truncation, heteroscedastic measurement errors, and more. The issue arise in all fields of astronomy – planetary, stellar, extragalactic and cosmological – and observations at all wavebands of light. Major in- vestments in new telescopes require new advanced statistical methodologies to attain their scientific goals. SCMA meetings are unusual in emphasizing cross-disciplinary interactions between statisticians and astronomers. The Invited Speaker in one field is followed by a Commentator from the other field. Oriented towards graduate students and young researchers, participants in the 2011 Summer Schools in Statistics for Astronomers received an intense immersion in statistical methodology taught by highly skilled and experienced instructors. In addition three pre-conference tutorials were held on Bayesian computation: MCMC and all that Data Mining R for astronomers The Summer School has had a three-pronged curriculum: instruction in the underlying principles of modern statistics; exposure to advanced methodologies useful in astronomy; and hands-on training in the R statistical software package using real astronomical datasets. Filling a critical lacuna in the US scientific workforce, this effort should have a substantial impact on the training of many young STEM researchers. Thus addressing one of the principal goals of NSF to foster integration of research and education. The astronomical community's interest in the program is strong. The 2010 summer school was held at Penn State during June 7-12. The summer school has had strong impact on young researchers with gender and international diversity. SCMA V, the fifth in the series was organized at Penn State University on June 13-17, 2011. The sessions included, Statistical modeling in astronomy, Bayesian analysis across astronomy, Data mining & informatics, Interpreting astrophysical simulations, Sparsity, Bayesian cosmology, Time domain astronomy, Spatial & image analysis, and concluded with discussion on future directions for astrostatistics. The proceedings were published by Springer.