Two Amazon Scholars named among inaugural Rousseeuw Prize winners

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James Robins, the Mitchell L. and Robin LaFoley Dong Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard University who consults with Amazon’s Core AI team, along with Amazon Scholars Thomas Richardson and Eric Tchetgen Tchetgen, are among the five winners of the inaugural Rousseeuw Prize for Statistics recently awarded by the King Baudouin Foundation.

The researchers were recognized for their pioneering work on causal inference with applications in medicine and public health, along with Miguel Hernán and Andrea Rotnitzky.

The award citation noted that work done by the winners throughout their careers “has provided new insights and statistical methods for addressing central epidemiological questions” as well as having “a huge influence on statistical practice in medicine and public health”.

The Rousseeuw Prize for Statistics, which was established earlier this year to elevate important research done in statistics, awards pioneering work in statistical methodology. The prize recognizes “an outstanding contribution or tool that has had significant impact and found wide application in statistical practice, with relevance to society.” The winners were honored in a ceremony at University of Leuven in Belgium on Oct. 12.

The creation of this major prize for statistics helps to emphasize the central importance and status of statistics as a discipline. The fact that it has been awarded … for causal inference underlines this key aspect of many statistical analyses.

“The creation of this major prize for statistics helps to emphasize the central importance and status of statistics as a discipline,” Richardson said. “The fact that it has been awarded, for the first time, for research in causal inference underlines this key aspect of many statistical analyses. We are surprised, honored, and humbled to receive this award.”

Half of the $1 million prize will go to Robins for his pioneering research. The other half will be shared by the other four winners — each of whom Robins mentored early in their careers: Hernán, the Kolokotrones Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Richardson, a professor in the department of statistics at the University of Washington, who has worked as a Scholar in Amazon’s Consumer organization since 2019; Rotnitzky, full professor in the department of economics at Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Argentina; and Tchetgen Tchetgen, the Luddy Family President’s Distinguished Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who joined Amazon as a Scholar in Selling Partner Services in 2020.

The work of the laureates has drastically improved the methods for inferring the causal effects of medical treatments and interventions, which has applications in both medicine and public health.

Their research yielded new insights and statistical methods for addressing central epidemiological questions, such as possible harm from long-term industrial exposure to arsenic, or what are the optimal strategies for treating individuals with HIV.

Their work has also yielded important observational studies of the timing of initiation of antiretroviral treatment in people with HIV, of the screening schedules for colorectal cancer, and of the benefits of anti-inflammatory therapy for Covid-19.

“In the long run, we hope that this prize will raise awareness of the impact statistics has on society,” said Peter Rousseeuw, emeritus professor at KU Leuven. “Statistics is a cornerstone of science, health, industry, economics, government and more, and benefits society as a whole.”





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