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Biocomplexity Institute News

Biocomplexity Institute Appoints Former U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson as Distinguished Institute Fellow

The Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia is pleased to announce the appointment of John Thompson as Distinguished Institute Fellow. Thompson spent 27 years at the United States Census Bureau, holding the office of director from 2013 to 2017. Throughout his esteemed career in statistics, Thompson has achieved outstanding national recognition for his innovative leadership, significant impact on government and academic research, and vision to modernize the federal statistical system.

"Mr. Thompson’s vision and innovation have literally transformed statistical research and practices at the highest levels of academia and government," said Christopher L. Barrett, executive director, Biocomplexity Institute. "The Biocomplexity Institute is honored to appoint him as a Distinguished Institute Fellow. Our work and collective impact will undoubtedly be enriched by his remarkable insight, experience, and approaches."

As a career statistician with the U.S. Census Bureau, Thompson quickly rose to senior executive-level positions in which he transformed large-scale complex surveys through innovation. He led the 2000 decennial census, the U.S. government’s largest peacetime mobilization, with a budget of $6.5 billion and a workforce of more than 500,000 people. Thompson successfully navigated the politically charged endeavor, and his outstanding work was lauded by the National Academy of Sciences Panel evaluating the census, among others.

Thompson then joined NORC (National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago, a national nonprofit organization that conducts high-quality social science research in the public interest. There, he served as president and executive vice president, and led the organization to nearly 50 percent growth in revenue, implemented new initiatives to improve and advance federal statistics, and oversaw major research projects, including the National Immunization Survey conducted on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2013, Thompson returned to the Census Bureau as director where he successfully worked with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, including the White House and Congress, to transform the Bureau into a forward-looking 21st century statistical agency. His accomplishments include a redesign of the 2020 decennial census that achieved significant efficiencies through the use of the Internet and mobile technology, and implementation of a research program to support mission critical activities – both of which have had a profound impact on the federal statistical system.

Thompson is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, a member of the 2013 Virginia Tech College of Science Hall of Distinction inaugural class, and received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive in 2001. The Department of Commerce recognized his cumulative impact on federal statistics with the bronze medal in 1988, silver medal in 1998, and gold medal in 2000.

As a Distinguished Institute Fellow, Thompson will advise and provide insight for research and outreach to the federal statistical system. The Biocomplexity Institute extends a warm welcome to Mr. Thompson!

Full CV here.