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David Cox and Bradley Efron, two of the century’s greatest statisticians, have been awarded the 2016 Fronteras del Conocimiento Prize in Ciencias Básicas by the Fundación BBVA

 

David Cox and Bradley Efron, two of the century’s greatest statisticians, have been awarded the 2016 Fronteras del Conocimiento Prize in Ciencias Básicas by the Fundación BBVA.

Both of them did undergraduate studies in mathematics and  they are best known by some of their contributions to theoretical and applied statistics. David Cox received his doctorate from the University of Leeds (UK) in 1949, and eventually became a member of Oxford University's Statistics Department, where he continued working until his retirement in 1994. Bradley Efron graduated in Statistics at Stanford University (USA) in 1964 and has been since then a Stanford Faculty member. He is currently Professor of Statistics and Biomedical Data Science at Stanford.

In 1972, Sir David Cox proposed a new method (The regression analysis of life tables, 1972, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society) to relate survival time to covariates, allowing, for instance, to associate smoking and lung cancer. Cox regression is behind many analyses which estimate the survival benefit for a patient due to a new intervention, and has been undoubtedly useful to prove the efficacy of many treatments for cancer, cardiovascular ailments or  AIDS.  A huge number of patients have benefited, extending their lifespan, thanks to new drugs proven useful with Cox regression method.

Any analysis, statistical or not, must rely on previous assumptions. Efron invented the Bootstrap method (Bootstrap methods: another look at the jackknife, 1979, The Annals of Statistics), a resampling technique. His contribution has been crucial because it allows, in many situations, to replace theoretical calculations by computer simulations when some of the assumptions are  in doubt or when the calculation requires complicated developments.

Both Cox and Efron have been incredibly productive investigators during their careers and have made many other relevant contributions. Bradley Efron’s last book appeared in 2016 and David Cox has authored or edited more than 20 books.

Cox and Efron are not only two giants of science. They are also well known for their open mindedness and proximity. Their offices are always open to anyone who wants to discuss their thoughts with them and they will listen carefully expecting to learn something new, to have yet another idea.

Cox and Efron’s contributions to the theoretical and applied statistics have been pioneering and important to numerous areas such as medical statistics, biometrics, econometrics and computational statistics. Their statistical methods have been relevant and have provided us with tools to improve care, life, science, and to discriminate information from noise. The prize awarded by the Fundación BBVA is a success, as well, for the whole statistics community.

GRBIO Team