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Book on Statistics in Astronomy Wins PROSE Award for Cosmology and Astronomy

15 January 2014

Modern Statistical Methods for Astronomy with R Applications book coverPenn State University scientists Eric Feigelson and G. Jogesh Babu have been awarded the American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) in cosmology and astronomy for their book Modern Statistical Methods for Astronomy with R Applications. The book is published by Cambridge University Press. The PROSE award was established in 1976 to recognize the best in scholarly publishing as judged by publishers, librarians, and academics. The award was announced in an event held in Washington D.C. during 2013.

The book has received high praise as an invaluable tool for both students and experienced researchers in the burgeoning field of astrostatistics. University College London Professor of Statistics David Hand said that "this book will provide the necessary vehicle for the new generation of astronomers" to navigate this growing field. "Just in time!" said Jeffrey D. Scargle, of the Space Science and Astrobiology Division at the NASA Ames Research Center, who added that readers using this book "will be well equipped to learn the most advanced techniques on their own." Joseph M. Hilbe, chair of the ISI International Astrostatistics Network at Arizona State University/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, described the book as the new "standard text on the subject."

Written to address the statistical challenges faced by astronomers, Modern Statistical Methods for Astronomy provides a unique resource that includes ready-to-use applications in the public-domain statistical software package, "R." Following an examination of fundamental statistical concepts and a presentation of methods, the book applies these methods to contemporary astronomical datasets and provides tutorials on statistically analyzing the data using R. Feigelson and Babu provide detailed explanations and illustrations for dozens of functions in the statistical package. The included datasets provide real-world examples for readers to explore the power of advanced statistics in astronomical research.

Feigelson, professor of astronomy and astrophysics and of statistics, is a leader in the field of astrostatistics. He has worked for 25 years with statisticians to bring advanced methodology to problems in astronomical research. His research involves using X-ray telescopes to understand star formation. He is the inaugural chair of the International Astronomical Union Working Group in Astrostatistics and Astroinformatics and co-editor of the online Astrostatistics and Astroinformatics Portal.

Babu, professor of statistics and of astronomy and astrophysics, is the director of the Center for Astrostatistics at Penn State. In his research, Babu applies statistical methods to address problems in genetics, astronomy, and astrophysics. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the American Statistical Association. He is also an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. He has served on the editorial boards of several journals, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of Statistical Methodology.

Together, Feigelson and Babu have organized five research conferences titled Statistical Challenges in Modern Astronomy, beginning in 1991, and they have edited and published the proceedings of these conferences. In addition, they have organized nine summer schools at Penn State in statistics for astronomers.