Research stories: Ronald L. Wasserstein in The American Statistician

Altmetric recently released their list of the 100 most-discussed journal articles of 2016.

In at number 71 is an Editorial by Ronald L. Wasserstein & Nicole A. Lazar published in The American Statistician entitled, ‘The ASA’s Statement on p-Values: Context, Process, and Purpose’.


We caught up with author Ronald L. Wasserstein to congratulate him on the success of his research and to find out more.

“Reaction to the ‘ASA Statement on Statistical Significance and P-values’ has been fantastic. It has been viewed over 167,000 times (as of January 25), and its Altmetric score exceeds 1,800. These are very high numbers for a statistical journal article. Furthermore, the article has 137 CrossRef citations, and Google Scholar shows more than 300 citations.

What is most encouraging, however, is that the vast majority of these citations are in general science and medical journals, not in statistical journals. By citing the paper, authors are demonstrating their intention to pay attention to the precepts laid out in the article about proper use of the p-value and avoiding bright lines for decision-making with the p-value.

Authors of the article ‘P-values and Reproductive Health: What Can Clinical Researchers Learn from the American Statistical Association?’ say, ‘Through exercises and practical examples, we hope to encourage reflection and discussion regarding the use of P-values in designing our own reproductive health research, interpreting the scientific literature in our field and reviewing the work of our peers.’ This is precisely the kind of discussion the ASA hoped would be undertaken.

Additionally, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) published a video interview with me highlighting the issues, and followed up with an editorial about proper uses of p-values. And, one of the most useful and widely viewed articles that cites the ASA p-value statement is ‘Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical Practice‘ – a must-read for researchers.

On the other hand, the ASA statement has been criticized, and quite reasonably so, for not offering enough do’s to match the don’ts listed. The ASA and the statistics profession is moving to address that concern through a symposium titled ‘Scientific Method in the 21st Century: A World Beyond p<0.05.’  This symposium takes place October 11-13, 2017, in Bethesda, MD (just outside of Washington, DC).  It is open to all, and details will be published soon.

The ASA hoped the p-value statement could lead to real change in the use of statistical inference in the practice of science. The statement has only been out for 11 months, but there is reason to be optimistic this hope will be realized.”

Ronald L. (Ron) Wasserstein is the executive director of the American Statistical Association (ASA). Prior to joining the ASA, Wasserstein was a mathematics and statistics department faculty member and administrator at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., from 1984–2007. During his last seven years at the school, he served as the university’s vice president for academic affairs. Wasserstein is a long-time member of the ASA, having joined the association in 1983, and has been active as a volunteer in the ASA for more than 20 years. He twice served as president of the Kansas-Western Missouri Chapter of the ASA. Wasserstein served as chair of two ASA sections—the ASA Section on Statistical Education and the ASA Section on Statistical Consulting. He also chaired the Council of Chapters Governing Board in 2006 and was a member of the ASA Board of Directors from 2001–2003.