International Prize in Statistics Awarded to Nan Laird for Methods of Analyzing Data from Longitudinal Studies

International Prize in Statistics Awarded to Nan Laird for Methods of Analyzing Data from Longitudinal Studies

The 2021 International Prize in Statistics has been awarded to US biostatistician Nan Laird, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of Biostatistics (Emerita) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in recognition of her work on powerful methods that have made possible the analysis of complex longitudinal studies.
Thanks to Laird’s work, applied researchers have been able to wring detailed information from large studies that follow participants and collect their data over time—sometimes for many decades, such as with the Nurses’ Health Study in the US or the National Child Development Study in the UK. The design of these studies traditionally made it difficult for researchers to control for participants’ individual characteristics while also dealing with often-sparse data from hard-to-reach populations.
Laird’s work gave researchers the tools they needed, which allowed them to answer important questions in health, medicine, psychology and more. This jump-started a field known as “random effects modeling for longitudinal data analysis,” and the methods Laird introduced in 1982 are still the most widely used techniques in both observational studies and clinical trials today.
“Nan’s 1982 Biometrics paper was a statistical tour de force,” says Garrett Fitzmaurice, professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Nan pioneered the development and application of what are now considered to be modern statistical methods for longitudinal analysis. Her work has changed how statisticians and empirical researchers approach the analysis of data from longitudinal studies.”
Nan Laird