The International Prize in Statistics is awarded every two years by a collaboration among five leading international statistics organizations. The prize recognizes a major achievement by an individual or team in the statistics field, particularly an achievement of powerful and original ideas that has led to practical applications and breakthroughs in other disciplines.
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.