Director Groves leaving Census Bureau

I’m sorry to hear that our Census Bureau Director, Robert Groves, is leaving the Bureau for a position as provost of Georgetown University. The Washington Post, Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, and Groves himself reflect on his time here.

I have only heard good things about Groves from my colleagues. Besides the achievements listed in the links above, my senior coworkers tell me that the high number and quality of visiting scholars / research seminars here, in recent years, is largely thanks to his encouragement. He has also set a course for improving the accessibility and visualization of the Bureau’s data; I strongly hope future administrations will continue supporting these efforts.

Finally, here is a cute story I heard (in class with UMich’s Professor Steven Heeringa) about Groves as a young grad student. I’m sure the Georgetown students will enjoy having him there:

“In the days in ’65 when Kish’s book was published, there were no computers to do these calculations. So variance estimation for complex sample designs was all done through manual calculations, typically involving calculating machines, rotary calculators.

I actually arrived in ’75 as a graduate student in the sampling section, and they were still using rotary calculators. I brought the first electronic calculator to the sampling section at ISR, and people thought it was a little bit of a strange device, but within three months I had everybody convinced.

Otherwise we had these large rotary calculators that would hum and make noise, and Bob Groves and I — there was a little trick with one of the rotary calculators: if you pressed the correct sequence of buttons, it would sort of iterate and it would start humming like a machine gun, and so if you can imagine Bob Groves fiddling around on a rotor calculator to sorta create machine gun type noises in the sampling section at ISR… I’m sure he’d just as soon forget that now, but we were all young once, I guess.”

Dr Groves, I hope you continue to make the workplace exciting 🙂 and wish you all the best in your new position!

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