Research News

UW-Madison’s Kaplan receives Humboldt Research Award

October 30, 2014

UW-Madison’s David Kaplan received word earlier this week that he is a recipient of the Humboldt Research Award.

According to the website of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which presents these honors, “the award is granted in recognition of a researcher's entire achievements to date to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.”

David Kaplan
Kaplan chairs the highly regarded Department of Educational Psychology and is a professor of quantitative methods.

Humboldt Research Award winners are invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany. Kaplan says he will be spending a year at the German Institute for International Educational Research in Frankfurt, Germany, working on the development and application of Bayesian statistical methods for large-scale educational assessments.

“I am very happy and deeply honored to receive this award and I am looking forward to productive collaborations with colleagues in Germany,” says Kaplan, who plans to spend time working in Germany from mid-August 2015 to mid-July 2016.

Earlier this year, Kaplan’s latest book was published, “Bayesian Statistics for the Social Sciences.” He explains how this publication introduces the Bayesian model to those who are more familiar with the classical, “frequentist” approach, in which a hypothesis is tested without quantifying one’s degree of uncertainty about the hypothesis. Bayesian statistical methods begin by quantifying one’s uncertainty on an issue, which is then updated in light of new data.  Ideally, over time, one’s uncertainty about a problem diminishes.

“Right now, Bayesian statistics is the shiny new object,” Kaplan said in a news story posted earlier this year about his new book. “Once technology made it possible to run Bayesian analysis, there was an explosion of interest in using it. But before jumping in head-first, it’s important for researchers to understand how it differs from the classical perspective and what advantages and disadvantages that different approach creates.”

The Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards annually.