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Prof. James J. Cochran

Department of Information Systems, Statistics, and Management Science
Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration
University of Alabama

Title: The Difficulties of Data Collection under Extreme Conditions



Statistics Without Borders ( is an Outreach Group of the American Statistical Association that is comprised entirely of volunteers. SWB provides free statistical consulting to organizations and government agencies, particularly from developing nations, which do not have the resources for statistical services. In support of non-partisan and secular activities, SWB promotes the use of statistics to improve the health and well-being of all people.


Working in support of SWB’s mission often necessitates collection of data under alarmingly difficult conditions – war, famine, terrorism, disease, destruction, corporate corruption, despots – conditions that a formal education in statistics generally does not equip one to handle. How does a statistician anticipate and contend with these conditions? What are the potential ramifications for the project, the statistician, and the data collectors? In this talk I will discuss difficult conditions that arose as I worked on SWB projects in the Republic of the Congo, Haiti, and Somalia. I will also explain ways that my colleagues and I were able to (in widely varying degrees) work around these difficulties to collect reasonably reliable and meaningful data, and I will emphasize the importance of partnering with colleagues who are familiar with the region in which the data are to be collected. I will also explain how members of the audience can get involved in SWB.


James J. Cochran Is the Rogers-Spivey Fellow and Associate Dean for Research with the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business. He has been a Visiting Scholar with Stanford University, the University of South Africa, the Universidad de Talca, Pôle Universitaire Léonard De Vinci, the University of Limpopo, and the University of Namibia. He holds honorary faculty appointments with the University of KwaZulu Natal and the University of Limpopo.


Dr. Cochran’s research focuses on problems at the interface of statistics and operations research, and he has taught a wide range of statistics and operations courses from the introductory undergraduate level through PhD seminars. He has published fourteen book chapters and over fifty research articles, and he is coauthor of eight textbooks in statistics, operations research, analytics, and data visualization. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and the Management Sciences, Wiley Series in Operations Research and Management Science, Oxford Anthology of Statistics in Sports series, and INFORMS Analytics Body of Knowledge. He has served as a consultant to a wide variety of corporations, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations around the world.


Dr. Cochran established an international teaching effectiveness colloquium series and organized these events in Uruguay, South Africa, Colombia, India, Tanzania, Argentina, Kenya, Nepal, Cameroon, Croatia, Cuba (twice), Estonia, Fiji, Mongolia, Moldova, Bulgaria, Tunisia, and Grenada. He was a founding co-chair of Statistics without Borders and a founding committee member for the INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics initiative. He has delivered keynotes to conferences in twenty-five nations.


Dr. Cochran has received the INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice, Mu Sigma Rho Statistical Education Award, Waller Distinguished Teaching Career Award, and Karl E. Peace Award for outstanding statistical contributions for the betterment of society. He is a Fellow of both the American Statistical Association and INFORMS, and he has received both the American Statistical Association’s Founders Award and the INFORMS President’s Award.