U.S. Census Bureau Chief to Speak at U.Va. Friday on Need for Better Ways to Collect and Analyze Massive Data Sets

September 27, 2011

September 27, 2011 — Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, will discuss the evolving nature of data collection in the modern world Friday at the University of Virginia during this year's kickoff lecture of the College of Arts and Sciences' Quantitative Collaborative.

He will present "Quantitative Social Science Observation Studies in an Age of a Self-Monitoring Social and Economic Eco-System," at 4 p.m. in the Nau Hall Auditorium.
"The talk is on a provocative topic, suggesting that our current strategies for collecting and analyzing data are not sustainable," said Thomas Guterbock, a sociology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences and director of U.Va.'s Center for Survey Research. "In the future, we're going to need to exploit new massive sets of accumulated electronic data, such as transaction data or medical records, and somehow meld these with surveys and other data-collection approaches. Currently very few people are trained to do that."

In addition to directing the Census Bureau, Groves is an influential scholar who has done foundational survey research work and strengthened the federal statistical system. 

The opportunity to host a speaker of Groves' stature reflects well on the contribution that the Quantitative Collaborative is making to students, faculty members and others interested in quantitative social sciences research, said Karen Parshall, the College's associate dean for the social sciences.

"I think his talk will present a positive challenge to the way we do our research and how we train our graduate students," Parshall said. "It comes at a very good time for us, because with the Quantitative Collaborative, U.Va. has started to mobilize in order to meet this sort of challenge."

During Groves' visit, he also will meet with U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan and others to discuss the best ways to train the new generation of survey researchers and statistical specialists required to meet the Census Bureau's future needs.

"Part of what we're trying to do is not only bring together the people on Grounds who do quantitative social sciences, but also further to promote the idea of quantitative social sciences" and position U.Va. as a future leader in the field, Parshall said.

Friday's event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. 

— By Rob Seal

Media Contact

Rob Seal

Director of Media Management and Managing Editor, UVA Today Office of University Communications