Department of Statistics Unitmark
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

National Institute of Statistical Sciences Honors Stephen E. Fienberg

The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) has announced that Carnegie Mellon University’s Stephen E. Fienberg is the recipient of the 2015 Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research.

NISS, which is dedicated to strengthening and serving the national statistics community, established the award to honor Sacks as its founding director. It recognizes sustained, high-quality cross-disciplinary research involving the statistical sciences.

Nell Sedransk, acting director of NISS, revealed Fienberg as the winner during a reception at this week’s Joint Statistical Meetings in Seattle, Washington. Sedransk said Fienberg was selected “for a remarkable career devoted to the development and application of statistical methodology to solve problems for the benefit of society, including aspects of human rights, privacy and confidentiality, forensics, survey and census-taking.”

She also praised Fienberg for his “exceptional leadership in a variety of professional and governmental organizations, including the founding of NISS.”

Fienberg is the Maurice Falk University Professor of Statistics and Social Science in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He has additional appointments in the Machine Learning Department and Cylab and is the co-director of the Heinz College's Living Analytics Research Center.

An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Fienberg is the co-chair of the Academy's Report Review Process for its operating wing, the National Research Council.

His research interests include confidentiality and disclosure limitations, which tie to surveys, censuses and categorical data analysis and led him to work on a multiple-year project with NISS, the “NISS Digital Government Project.”

Fienberg also is an expert in forensic science. He is the only statistician on the National Commission on Forensic Science, which works to strengthen and enhance the practice of forensic science by developing guidance where forensic science and the criminal justice system intersect. For NAS, Fienberg chaired the Panel on Statistical Assessments as Evidence in the Courts, whose 1989 report includes a case study assessing the quality of forensic hair identification and recommendations to improve judges’, juries’ and attorneys' understanding of statistical evidence, and the Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, which found that polygraph testing was too flawed for security screening. He was the lead organizer of the 2005 NAS Sackler Colloquium on "Forensic Science: The Nexus of Science and the Law."

Fienberg has co-chaired the American Judicature Society's Commission on Forensic Science and Public Policy with former Attorney General Janet Reno and the honorable Judge William Webster. He also is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the Royal Society of Canada.

He co-founded the “Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality” and is the editor-in-chief of the “Annals of Applied Statistics” and founding editor of the “Annual Review of Statistics and Its Application.”

Fienberg's many honors include the 1982 Committee of Presidents of Statistical Society Presidents Award for Outstanding Statistician Under the Age of 40; the 2002 American Statistical Association Samuel S. Wilks Award for his distinguished career in statistics; and the first Statistical Society of Canada's Lise Manchester Award to recognize excellence in state-of-the-art statistical work on problems of public interest.

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Fienberg received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics from the University of Toronto and his master’s degree and doctorate in statistics from Harvard University. He joined the CMU faculty in 1980.

Fienberg will receive $1,000 as the recipient of the Sacks Award, and his name will be added to a plaque at NISS.

Also at the Joint Statistical Meeting, Fienberg received the R.A. Fisher Lecture Award in a special session sponsored by the Presidents of Statistical Societies. He delivered the plenary lecture "R.A. Fisher and the Statistical ABCs" to a capacity audience.