The 2021 International Prize in Statistics has been awarded to US biostatistician Nan Laird, in recognition of her work on powerful methods that have made possible the analysis of complex longitudinal studies.
Nan is Harvey V Fineberg Professor of Biostatistics (Emerita) at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Thanks to her work, applied researchers have been able to wring detailed information from large studies that follow participants and collect their data over time—sometimes for many decades, such as with the Nurses’ Health Study in the US or the National Child Development Study in the UK. The design of these studies traditionally made it difficult for researchers to control for participants’ individual characteristics while also dealing with often-sparse data from hard-to-reach populations.
Her work gave researchers the tools they needed, which allowed them to answer important questions in health, medicine, psychology and more. This jump-started a field known as 'random effects modeling for longitudinal data analysis,' and the methods she introduced in 1982 are still the most widely used techniques in both observational studies and clinical trials today.
'Nan’s 1982 Biometrics paper was a statistical tour de force,' says Garrett Fitzmaurice, professor of biostatistics at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. 'Nan pioneered the development and application of what are now considered to be modern statistical methods for longitudinal analysis. Her work has changed how statisticians and empirical researchers approach the analysis of data from longitudinal studies.'
The International Prize in Statistics is awarded every two years by five international statistics organisations: the RSS, American Statistical Association, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, International Biometric Society and International Statistical Institute. The $80,000 prize recognises a major achievement by an individual or team in the statistics field, particularly an achievement of powerful and original ideas that has led to practical applications and breakthroughs in other disciplines. It was first awarded in 2017 to British statistician David R Cox, and to US statistician Bradley Efron in 2019.
The prize will be awarded in July at the biennial International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress, which is being held virtually.
Read more about the prize.