March 19-22, 2023

Presidential Invited Address

Biostatistics in the Decisive Decade

Sally C. Morton
Arizona State University

Today’s challenges are accelerating in both scale and complexity as we enter what some have called the “Decisive Decade.” The urgent nature of issues facing the world, such as the inequitable health effects of climate change, requires that we produce practical and implementable transdisciplinary research and solutions. Biostatisticians have always stepped up to solving meaningful problems – recent contributions during the pandemic are just one example. However, the scientific community needs to conduct research faster and at scale, and Biostatistics has an essential role to play in this evolution. Using Arizona State University (ASU) as an organizational model, I will identify the critical areas our discipline needs to address to ensure that we make meaningful progress quickly. From the perspective of a university research administrator, I will describe how ASU is accelerating our research practices, through leadership, organizational design, and industry and community partnerships. I will also consider barriers to progress, particularly in the context of assessment in academia, such as incentives, expectations and risk-taking. Embracing these approaches and overcoming these barriers will allow our discipline to have maximum impact during this critical period.

Sally C. Morton, Ph.D., is executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise at Arizona State University. Knowledge Enterprise is responsible for the University’s research ecosystem. Morton advances research priorities, oversees institutes and initiatives, and leads economic development, international development, and corporate engagement and strategic partnerships. She is a professor in the College of Health Solutions and the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Previously, Morton was dean of the College of Science at Virginia Tech; chair of biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh; vice president for statistics and epidemiology at RTI International; and head of the RAND Corporation Statistics Group. Her research focuses on evidence synthesis, particularly meta-analysis, and patient-centered comparative effectiveness. Morton served as the 2009 president of the American Statistical Association (ASA). She is a Fellow of the ASA, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society for Research Synthesis Methodology. She received the Janet Norwood Award and the ASA Founders Award. Morton holds a PhD in statistics from Stanford University.