LISA 2020 Sustainability Symposium

The LISA 2020 Sustainability Symposium was held from 2–6 May 2022 at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana with opportunities for virtual attendance.

The LISA 2020 Sustainability Symposium was held in Kumasi, Ghana 2–6 May 2022. This in-person gathering of the LISA 2020 Global Network (with options for remote attendance) provided an opportunity to renew friendships, welcome new network members, and increase lab-to-lab collaborations. The main goals of the Symposium were to share best practices in making stat labs stronger and more sustainable, finalize sustainability plans for individual labs, and make collective decisions about the future of the LISA 2020 Global Network and how to make the network more sustainable so it can continue to build local capacity to transform evidence into action for development.

Program and Schedule

The symposium had a mix of presentations by stat labs about their sustainability plans, workshops on sustainability and creating and implementing sustainability plans, workshops on improving labs' technical and collaboration skills--especially data science, and network discussions and plans for sustaining the LISA 2020 Secretariat into the future. Also, there were many opportunities for social connections. Symposium presentations were recorded to be viewed later by those who could not attend the symposium in person. All video recordings are available on our YouTube channel.

Background: The Need for a Sustainability Symposium

The LISA 2020 Program aims to build statistics and data science capacity in developing countries by creating a robust network of statistics and data science collaboration laboratories (“stat labs”). These stat labs can be Engines for Development by training the next generation of collaborative statisticians and data scientists; serving as research infrastructure for researchers, data producers, and decision-makers to collaborate with statisticians and data scientists to enable and accelerate research and data-based decisions that make a positive impact on society; and teaching short courses and workshops to improve statistical skills and data literacy widely. The LISA 2020 Program encourages stat labs to improve their operations by adapting best practices learned from one another.

2021 Sustainability Assessment

In 2019, the LISA 2020 Secretariat performed a Needs Assessment of the LISA 2020 Network. At that time, 14 stat labs participated in the assessment that resulted in several outcomes including:

In 2021, as the network had grown to 31 full member stat labs, 10 transitional labs, and many more proposed labs, the LISA 2020 program began focusing on insuring the sustainability of the network and individual stat labs. To support these efforts, the Secretariat performed a Sustainability Assessment to determine:

23 stat labs completed the sustainability assessment questionnaire. The results were synthesized and shared with the network.

Sustainability Assessment Synthesis: Challenges, Lessons Learned and Potential Solutions from Network Stat Labs

Challenge: Incentivizing Collaborators

Challenge: Insufficient Funding

Challenge: Too Few Projects

Challenge: Need for Training in Statistical Areas and Techniques

Challenge: Collaboration Training

Other Insights from the Sustainability Assessment Responses

LISA 2020 Stat Lab Sustainability Experiments

With the synthesized results of the sustainability assessment and recognizing that stat labs face many challenges that may derail them from the path of strong and sustainable stat labs described in Vance & Pruitt’s “Statistics and Data Science Collaboration Laboratories: Engines for Development” (LISA 2020 Edited Book), the next step was to determine if these lessons learned and potential solutions can be adapted at other stat labs to overcome the challenges that they are facing and therefore bring them back onto the path of strong and sustainable stat labs.

To that end, the LISA 2020 Secretariat issued a call for proposals for stat labs to perform experiments to test strategies to overcome their challenges and bring them onto the path of strong and sustainable stat labs. Participating stat labs would be invited to present the results of the experiments at the 2022 LISA 2020 Sustainability Symposium in Ghana.

30 LISA 2020 stat labs submitted proposals and initiated small experiments to improve their strength and sustainability. Each of these experiments was formed to the unique situations of the individual labs. The broad themes of experiments included: 1) building reputation and increasing the number of projects; 2) engaging, incentivizing, and training collaborators; and 3) generating funds to support stat lab operations.