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Report of the Council for the session 2003–2004

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President's foreword. 

Any Fellow taking on the Presidency of the Royal Statistical Society will realize very quickly the enormous breadth and depth of the Society's activities and it can seem a challenging undertaking. This was certainly the case for me and only by the tremendous hard work and support of the staff, admirably led by Ivor Goddard, and the volunteers has the task been made manageable. All the Society's Honorary Officers deserve much praise and our appreciation for their hard work and leadership; I particularly want to express my personal gratitude to Deborah Ashby who now steps down after 6 years as Honorary Secretary for all her support. Without individuals prepared to commit considerable time and effort to the Society it would not be as successful and vibrant as it is.

The following pages of the annual report show a Society which functions on many levels; as a Learned Society and a professional organization, engaging in matters of public importance, delivering training, education and much more. It is difficult to summarize all of these activities succinctly but let me give my view of some of the session's highlights.

One of the first events of the session was the 2003 Society conference, a themed meeting on ‘Statistical genetics and bioinformatics’ held at the University of Limburgs at Diepenbeek in Belgium, the first time that the Society's conference has been held outside the UK. This was a truly international conference with more than 50% of the delegates coming from outside the UK and was most successful thanks to Geert Molenberghs and Terry Speed the Chairs of the local organizing and programme committees. As a second ‘first’ for the Society a two-day themed conference organized by the Business and Industrial Section and the Quality Improvement Section on ‘Business improvement through statistical thinking’ was held at Coventry, in the West Midlands. Apart from these conferences, the Society's activities continue to be served by a full programme of Ordinary, Section, Local Group and Study Group meetings. In all more than 130 talks, workshops and meetings were held during the session across the breadth of the country. As President I have been invited to address a number of the Society's 23 Local Groups and I hope to visit many more in the upcoming session. The Local Group structure of the Society is extremely important in maintaining a statistical voice and presence throughout the whole of the UK.

This session saw the launch of the Society's new magazine Significance—a title arrived at after much heated debate as part of the recommendations of the review of the Society's publications begun in the autumn of 2001. The review recommended that a new magazine style journal should have a broad appeal to Fellows as well as playing a role in reaching out towards non-statisticians, particularly those who were considered to be potential future members. The first issue of Significance has lived up to this aim and for that thanks are due to the Editorial Board, under the chairmanship of Sylvia Richardson, and particularly to Helen Joyce whose enthusiasm as Editor is in no small part responsible for the successful launch.

Despite there being no designated member of staff for External Affairs during the session the Society has been engaging itself in issues of public importance and I want to highlight one in particular. The Performance Monitoring Working Party, chaired by Shelia Bird, has been extremely active in promoting an improved use of statistics in the development of performance measures and the means of monitoring them. Starting with the launch of its report at a press conference in October, the Working Party ran a workshop for policy makers in Government in January to pilot the use of a protocol template for the implementation of good practice. Following this in March a ‘roadshow’ was held with the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology at Portcullis House for Parliamentarians and their researchers. In the future the Working Party intends to hold more roadshows and also to provide education for journalists, starting with the BBC, to help them not only to be able to frame appropriate questions about performance monitoring in the public services but also to improve the reporting of statistical uncertainty associated with it. I believe the engagement of the Working Party should become a model for the Society's future involvement in matters of public interest. It is not enough for the Society to highlight areas in which statistical thinking has an important role to play unless it is willing to commit time and effort to help in the education that is necessary for the implementation of these ideas. If we were to be seen merely to criticize without engagement in the improvement process we will fail to be as influential as we need. However, such engagement requires the commitment of considerable time and effort to achieve success. The members of the Performance Monitoring Working Party, in particular Sheila Bird, have themselves shown the way forward.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-11-01

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