The Data Struggle of the Unseen

Apr. 22, 2024, 5:00 p.m.

Rockefeller Hall 300

Professor Bhramar Mukherjee to deliver the Department of Mathematics and Statistics’ annual Henry Seely White Lectures 

Despite several proposed roadmaps to increase diversity in scientific research, most of the world’s research data are collected on people of European ancestry. We rely on summary statistics from historically privileged populations and then devise clever statistical methods to transfer/transport them for cross-ancestry use. In this talk, I would first argue the obvious: For building fair algorithms we need fair training datasets. However, till we have reached the dream of equitable big data at a global scale, statisticians have an important role to play. In fact, we have the perfect tools to study the “unobserved” through modeling of missing data, selection bias and alike. I will share examples from my personal journey as a statistician where doing good and timely statistical work with imperfect data quantified important disparity in health outcomes and led to policy impact. I will conclude the talk with a call to arms for statisticians to lead efforts for creating, curating, collecting data and pioneering new scientific studies, not just remain on the design and analytic fringes. As public health statisticians, our job is not just to predict, but to prevent. The talk is based on years of work with my students and colleagues at the Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan and inspired by the transformative experience we shared as a statistical team working on the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the first of two lectures in the Henry Seely White Lecture Series. The second lecture, Analysis of “Big” Real-World Health Care Data: Promises and Perils, is on April 23, 2024.

About Bhramar Mukherjee

Dr. Mukherjees’s research interests span statistical methods for analyzing electronic health records, gene-environment interaction studies, Bayesian methods, shrinkage estimation, and the analysis of multiple pollutants. With over 375 publications in statistics, biostatistics, medicine, and public health, Dr. Mukherjee is globally recognized for her prolific research contributions and has received numerous awards for her outstanding scholarship, service, and teaching.  She is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Mukherjee and her team actively contributed to modeling the SARS-CoV-2 virus trajectory in India, garnering significant attention from major media outlets worldwide. She has been a strong advocate of diversifying the data science workforce and for global data equity.

Sponsoring department:

Mathematics and Statistics

Headshot of Mukherjee Bhramar.
Professor Bhramar Mukherjee
John D. Kalbfleisch Distinguished University Professor, Siobán D. Harlow Collegiate Professor of Public Health, and Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health; Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Global Public Health; Associate Director for Quantitative Data Sciences at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center; Assistant Vice President for Research for Research Data Services Strategy.