2020 Marvin Zelen Virtual Symposium

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In December of 2019, we planned the next Marvin Zelen Symposium for March of 2020. At that point, the year ahead seemed to be a data spectacle waiting to happen. Think about all the events planned for 2020! Here’s what we wrote.

"The topic of this year's Marvin Zelen Symposium has to do with the year itself — 2020. This first year of a new decade brings with it statistical spectacles on a massive scale. From the Decennial Census and the Presidential Election in the US, to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. These big events are bristling with data and its analyses — shaping how they are experienced, discussed, debated, and even litigated. Their time scales range from fractions of a second (the difference between gold and silver) to millions of years (the length of the geological record needed to understand our changing climate). They can be influenced by the actions of one person or the cumulative behaviors of hundreds of millions (as voters, as competitors, as spectators, as consumers). The Marvin Zelen Symposium will look at the major data spectacles of 2020, each one having synergy with the others, but also adding something new in our understanding of how data establish and reinforce systems of power on our planet."

Well, since we organized the 2020 Symposium, the entire world has changed. The original Zelen event was replaced with a “Zoomposium” on Covid-19, attracting nearly 500 attendees, and we moved the program covering everything from the Olympics to Earth Day to September, 2020 — this month.

But now that the date of the rescheduled event is upon us, think about what Covid-19 has done to many of the events mentioned in our abstract — we have seen everything from complications to cancellations. Still, we have decided to go forward with the 2020 Zelen Symposium as we had originally planned it.

We expect the difficulties of this year will inflect each of the talks on the program. Marvin Zelen embraced the complexity of data and its relationship to lived experience — the same is true for this edition of the Symposium bearing his name.

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  • Ben Hansen, University of Michigan
  • Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College
  • Regina Nuzzo, Gallaudet University
  • Amy O’Hara, Georgetown University
  • Andrew Revkin, Columbia University
  • Charles Stewart, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Daniel Webb, United States Olympic Committee
  • Jeremy White, New York Times

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Frontier Science Technology and Research Foundation Annual Lecture was renamed the Marvin Zelen Memorial Symposium in 2016, in honor of Dr. Zelen's contributions to science and cancer research. Marvin Zelen was known as a giant in the field of biostatistics, as well as a man of vision, generosity, and warmth who served as a mentor to two generations of researchers.

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