Former Head of Ag Stats Service Takes Reins at COPAFS


Cynthia Clark
Cynthia Clark
The former head of the National Agricultural Statistics Service will take the reins of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics on December 3.

Cynthia Z.F. Clark replaces John Thompson, a former director of the U.S. Census, as head of COPAFS, a 38-year-old umbrella group advocating for a robust U.S. federal statistical system and for the agencies that produce the statistics and users of their products. Thompson stepped down in August.

Clark retired as administrator of the National Agricultural Statistics Service in May 2014 after a career that saw her active in improving statistics and survey methodology globally. At the time of her retirement from NASS she was the U.S. representative on the U.N. Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics, and since she has served as co-chair of the American Statistical Association/American Association for Public Opinion Research Task Force on Survey Climate, and been on the board of COPAFS and the Council on Food and Agriculture Economics.

Before joining – actually re-joining following an appointment in the 1990s — NASS, she directed statistical research and survey methodology for the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics and, prior to that, at the U.S. Census Bureau. She advised both Statistics Netherlands and Statistics Canada, and chaired the International Statistical Institute’s Committee of Women in Statistics. Clark also served in the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and the Office of Management and Budget, where she edited three National Indicator System reports for President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and 1982.

Upon her retirement from the NASS, the agency commended Clark’s “significant and lasting contributions to research and methodology.”

Among her many accomplishments was authoring a seminal publication on training statisticians in the federal workforce. Another of her many significant achievements was to design and implement a multi-phase survey – Agricultural Resource Management Study (ARMS) to allow the linkage of agricultural production, economic and environmental data.

Clark is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association, and past chair of its Government Statistics Section and Privacy and Confidentiality Committee. She is a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, an elected member of the International Statistical Association, and currently serves on the Statistics Canada Methodology Advisory Committee. While at NASS in 2011, she received the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award. At the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Dr. Clark served on the Committee on National Statistics Panels on Re-engineering Census Bureau Annual Economic Surveys and the Agricultural Resource Management Survey.

She received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Mills College, a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of  Denver, and a master’s and doctoral degree in statistics from Iowa State University, from which she received its Distinguished Alumnae Award in 2014.

“COPAFS will benefit immeasurably from the expertise and experience that Cynthia brings to our organization,” Linda Jacobsen, chair of COPAFS board, was quoted in a release. “Under her leadership, we are confident that COPAFS will continue to advance its important work advocating for the federal statistical system and the essential data it produces.”

Thompson, who Clark replaces, served at COPAFS for little over a year, officially assuming his leadership role on July 24. 2017. Before that he had headed the U.S. Census Bureau, and made headlines when his resignation two months before came in the middle of a year-long extension in the director’s role and because the Census was ramping up for the 2020 Census.


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