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Report of the Council for the session 2004–2005: Council report

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For the session ended June 15th, 2005, presented at the One Hundred and Seventy-first Annual General Meeting of the Royal Statistical Society, held at the premises of the Society on June 15th, 2005 President's foreword. 

As I come to the end of my period of office as President of the Royal Statistical Society I am constantly reminded of the enormous effort that is put into the running of the Society by many individual volunteers and the staff of Errol Street, admirably led as always by Ivor Goddard. I want to express my personal gratitude to them and to the Society's Honorary Officers. Without the efforts of these individuals the Society would not be the success that it undoubtedly is.

What follows in this annual report shows a Society continuing its work in many areas of public life. As a Learned Society it continues to champion the importance of the statistical view and the use of statistics in matters of great public importance; as a professional organization it works to foster and support individual professional statisticians working in industry, in commerce, in academia and in the public service by the delivery of training, education and much, 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 RSS 2004, the annual Society conference, held at the University of Manchester in September. We were fortunate that the then Secretary of State for Education, Charles Clarke, opened the conference. He delivered an address containing many pertinent thoughts about the value of statistics and mathematical education. To quote him:

‘… statistics … is a mechanism for trying to understand and explain what is going on in society using measurement. It can be used in every social aspect of society, every aspect of the physical sciences, in any area of study. It is the means of elucidating, rather than obfuscating, what is really going on around us.’

I want to express my appreciation for the hard of work of Simon French and John Fox who chaired the local organizing and programme committees respectively.

As would be expected 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 country. I have continued to visit many of the Society's 23 Local Groups during the session and have again been struck by the vibrancy of their activities in maintaining a statistical voice and presence throughout the whole of the UK.

This session saw the launch of the Statistics User Forum with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council. This is, and will remain, an important initiative of the Society aiming to engage with the wider statistics user community. The strength of the Society as it goes forward will be enhanced by forging closer links with organizations and groups whose members, although not primarily statisticians, nevertheless use statistics and statistical thinking. The forging of these links was also behind Council's acceptance of a linked associate membership category during the session. This category of membership will be open to members of other professional organizations and Learned Societies as long as they continue their membership of the ‘primary’ organization. It is also being made available for members of the Statistics Users Groups within the Statistics User Forum.

With the appointment of an External Relations Officer at the end of the last session the Society has enhanced its ability to engage in issues of public importance by enhancing our ability to interact with the media in a timely fashion. During the session the work that had been begun by the Performance Monitoring Working Party has continued; the Society has continued with its long-established interest in national statistics, issuing press releases on its views on the proposals by both the Statistics Commission and the Conservative Party for increasing the independence of national statistics within a statutory framework, the Working Group on Statistics in Schools issued its report on the proposals contained in Adrian Smith's mathematics education report and finally the Society established the Statistics and the Law Working Group, chaired by Colin Aitken, to take forward issues raised in the aftermath of the Society's involvement in the Sally Clark case. The launch of the Working Group coincided with the first issue of Significance dedicated to a single topic, ‘Statistics and the Law’. This was an extremely successful experiment and I look forward to similar ventures in the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-11-01

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