Meet Valen Johnson

Valen E. Johnson became Interim Dean of Science at Texas A&M University on July 1, 2018. A University Distinguished Professor of Statistics, he joined the Texas A&M faculty in September 2012 after eight years as a professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In addition to previous administrative experience as acting division head of quantitative sciences and department chair of biostatistics at MD Anderson, he has served as head of Texas A&M Statistics since March 2014. A renowned expert in Bayesian statistics and using probability distributions to represent uncertainties with regard to unknown quantities, he was appointed as a university distinguished professor in 2016.

Johnson earned his bachelor of science in mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1981, then served four years as a U.S. Army intelligence officer before receiving his master of arts in applied mathematics from the University of Texas in 1985. After earning his Ph.D. in statistics from The University of Chicago in 1989, he began his independent academic career at Duke University, serving 12 years as a professor of statistics. Following a yearlong stint as a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 2001 to 2002, he spent two years as a professor of biostatistics at the University of Michigan prior to arriving at MD Anderson in 2004.

During the past three decades, Johnson has analyzed comparative intelligences among non-human primates, probed grade inflation at American universities, examined the validity of student evaluations of teaching, and developed more effective tests for evaluating cancer drugs. He has developed models to estimate the reliability of space shuttles and other early stage rockets and to gauge the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In addition, he has used his statistical expertise to reinterpret the meaning of statistical significance and p-values, providing new insights into the sources of non-reproducibility of scientific research.

Johnson's current methodological research interests focus on problems related to Bayesian variable selection, cluster analysis and the reproducibility of science.

Johnson is an elected fellow of both the American Statistical Association (1999) and the Royal Statistical Society as well as an elected member in the International Statistics Institute. He holds two patents and has published two books, Ordinal Data Models and Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education.

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