MU's statistics department receives $2.85 million grant

Monday, October 17, 2011 | 5:04 p.m. CDT; updated 5:52 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 17, 2011

COLUMBIA — The MU statistics department has received the largest grant in the department's history in order to improve the ways that data from the American Community Survey is interpreted.

The department received a $2.85 million, 5-year grant from the National Science Foundation Research Network for this data research on the national survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, said Scott Holan, an associate professor in the department.

Holan and Chris Wikle, professor and director of undergraduate studies, began the process of applying for the grant in November 2010 and officially submitted a grant proposal in February.

Demographic data collected every 10 years is used to decide how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds will be distributed. Information is also used to help make decisions about things like school lunch programs and new hospitals, according to the Census Bureau's website.

In order to increase the usability of the collected data, MU's statistics department plans to develop statistical models that will help improve estimates and lower uncertainty in the application of survey results. Students will look for relationships over space and time to apply findings to areas that are not studied, Holan said.

Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students will put data into usable forms and create models. MU students will have the rare opportunity to participate in research as undergraduates. 

One of the goals of the science foundation network is to train the next generation of statisticians through university grants, Holan said.

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