2016 Iowa State Fair: Wayne Fuller - ISU Office of the Vice President for Research

2016 Iowa State Fair: Wayne Fuller

Wayne Fuller

Wayne Fuller, Iowa State University Distinguished Professor Emeritus in statistics and economics, is a beloved mentor and internationally recognized scholar, known for his keen insights into the meaning of data. Throughout his decades-long career in statistics, Fuller has been considered a leading researcher with seminal textbooks and articles in three distinct fields – time series analysis, measurement error models, and sample surveys – a feat rarely achieved. He has received numerous prestigious awards from professional societies as well as from Iowa State, and has worked closely with many government agencies seeking to improve the information they provide to the public.

But a list of Fuller’s numerous accomplishments and awards – and it’s a long list – can’t entirely capture Fuller’s impact on his collaborators and the nearly 100 masters and doctoral students he mentored while at Iowa State, says his longtime colleague and collaborator Sarah Nusser, Iowa State vice president for research and professor of statistics.

“Wayne has a gift for simultaneously probing the depths of the science, the data and the statistical models needed to generate surprising and insightful answers to the questions posed by his collaborators. On top of that, he is a truly beneficent fellow and a prankster at heart,” said Nusser. “You learn a tremendous amount about statistics and life working with Wayne, and you have fun doing it. It’s no surprise that a huge number of former students returned to Ames for his birthday party a few years ago to express their gratitude and fondness for Wayne.”

Fuller is a native Iowan and lifelong Iowa Stater. He attended a one-room schoolhouse in Adams County, Iowa. Fuller came to Iowa State University as an undergrad in 1949 and served in the U.S. Army from 1952-1954. By 1959, he had earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in agricultural economics, all from Iowa State, and joined the faculty of Iowa State’s Department of Statistics. In his more than 50 years as a statistics professor and researcher, Fuller helped Iowa State continue to grow its reputation as a world leader in the field of statistics.

A long-time affiliate of the Statistical Laboratory Survey Section (now dubbed the Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology), Fuller was instrumental in forming its technical research program. He played a major role in shaping the National Resource Inventory, an annual land survey that supports U.S. conservation policy with data on land cover/use, soil erosion, conservation practices, and other agro-environmental concerns for nonfederal land in the United States. Fuller’s leadership has been critical in Iowa State’s ongoing 60-year collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, and in providing the foundations for statistically sound and scientifically credible estimates of conditions and trends for U.S. natural resources.

While his contributions to Iowa State University and Iowa are significant, Fuller’s impact goes far beyond campus, and far beyond Iowa. With the urging of then Center for Agricultural and Rural Development director Stan Johnson, Fuller led a line of research with USDA in response to a call by the National Research Council to improve how American dietary intake data are collected and evaluated to provide estimates of nutritional status and food intake patterns.

“Wayne’s research has had profound effects on how diet is assessed in the Unites States and other counties,” says Alicia Carriquiry, Iowa State distinguished professor of statistics and another long-time collaborator with Fuller.

Fuller also served as an advisor and technical consultant for several agencies in helping them redesign their surveys and create more reliable estimates. Working with the National Agricultural Statistical Service, Fuller developed better estimates for small areas with limited data, using models that became the foundation for the nation’s statistical estimates in small land areas and population subgroups, such as poverty rates in local areas. Fuller also worked with the U.S. Census Bureau to improve sampling, estimation, and evaluation methods for the decennial census and other surveys. For much of his career, Statistics Canada tapped into Fuller’s extensive knowledge of economics and statistics through his service to its technical advisory board, which Fuller led for 20 years.

“Wayne is one of those fellows who constantly seeks to improve the people, the science and the organizations he works with,” said Nusser. “Wayne’s contributions in theoretical and applied statistics will continue to influence the world of statistics well into the future, but at least as valuable is the significant impact he’s had through his motivational mentorship of graduate students, generous collaborations with peers, and dedicated service to his academic home and other organizations.”

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