Neath’s research continues to be recognized, supported

Andrew Neath, professor of mathematics and statistics, has undertaken a research project, “Statistical Model Selection and the Theory of Social Choice,” that is expected to have a significant impact on the way researchers use and understand statistics and scientific decision making.

The importance of Neath’s work is evidenced in his newest honor – SIUE’s Hoppe Research Professor Award.

Andrew Neath, professor of mathematics and statistics, has won the Hoppe Research Professor Award for his project “Statistical Model Selection and the Theory of Social Choice.”

According to SIUE’s Web site, the Hoppe Research Professor Award is granted “in order to recognize and support individual programs of research or creative activities. These Awards recognize faculty members whose research or creative activities have the promise of making significant contributions to their fields of study.”

Neath’s research proposes to create a method for determining models or theories that can more accurately describe experimental data.

“When assessing data, you need to make some sort of a decision–if not make a decision–at least assess your options,” explained Neath in an earlier correspondence with This Week in CAS. “You have the data available to do that. Now if the data were perfect, then, they would point you to what decision you should make and you would make that decision without err.  But, the data is not perfect; the data is valuable to you because it is leading you towards one of the decisions.”

Neath went on to explain that his research has led him to discover that the question of interest to the researcher, then, is “how likely is it that we have made the right decision?” not “how likely is it that we have observed particular data under certain conditions?” The latter question is what researchers, in the past, have typically addressed or sought to address.

According to Neath, his research is significant for several key reasons.

“The basis of science is making decisions based on limited data; so, the ability to make decisions is important in all science,” said Neath. “Secondly, as statisticians we have been teaching techniques that are flawed in way – this way is not answering the question of interest.”

Neath’s research will illuminate some of the flaws in the past ways of looking at data through statistical analysis.

“It would be extreme to come up with a way that would answer all of the flaws in the previous way but, at least we could get out to the scientific community that there are flaws in the way that statistics has been presented in the past and to come up with, at least initially, some alternatives to how to interpret data,” said Neath.

Not only will Neath’s research contribute to pursuit of science and processing/interpreting scientific results, it will also influence how students are taught and the kinds of techniques professors utilize in the classroom.

Andrew Neath, professor of mathematics and statistics, has won two research awards in the past few months for his project “Statistical Model Selection and the Theory of Social Choice.”

“It will also be important in how we teach our students because these techniques that I’ve now noticed have been flawed, have been taught for years and to try to turn this around we have to start at ‘the student,’” Neath said. “It’s very difficult to unlearn something and so it’s going to play an important role in how we teach our students.”

While the honors that Neath has recently received are both prestigious and competitive, Neath remains humble and grateful for the recognition and support.

“I feel honored and very fortunate to have received this award. A lot of really good people applied for it and so I am honored to have won it,” shared Neath. “I would really like to thank the SIUE Graduate School and all involved for the Hoppe Award and for supporting faculty research. It is an important aspect of our work here at the university and to be supported so well is very much appreciated.”

The Hoppe Award is the second award that Neath has received in the past few months. Neath is also the 2011-12 recipient of the Annette and Henry Baich Award for the same research venture.

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