Report of the Council for the session 2006–2007: Council Report

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Abstract:

President's foreword. 

This year's annual report shows another very successful year for the Society. The range of the Society's new initiatives bears testament to our vigour and to the energy and enthusiasm of Fellows and staff. It is difficult to summarize all of these but I offer a brief overview of some of the highlights.

This year we have awarded the first annual prize for ‘Statistical excellence in journalism’. It is too easy to bemoan the general quality of coverage of statistical issues in the press and other media. But simply moaning does not improve the situation. As a positive step, on the instigation of Sheila Bird and Andrew Garratt, the Society decided to initiate an award for the best journalistic coverage of a statistical issue. This year first prize was awarded to Ben Goldacre of The Guardian. I hope that these annual awards will offer a positive focus on good coverage and help us to promote best practice.

This year, also, we have set up the Professional Development Centre to act as a focus for statistical training both for statisticians and for others who use statistical methods as part of their work. It thus reflects our support for continuing professional development for our Fellows and at the same time provides outreach to members of the statistical user community who want to improve their statistical skills. We welcome Nicola Bright as the Director of the Centre and wish her every success.

I am pleased to say that it is not just the Society centrally that has taken new activities this year. The Manchester Local Group have initiated a prize for final year undergraduates from any higher education institute in the north-west. At a time when there are concerns about the number of well-qualified graduates coming into the statistics profession this seems an excellent way to attract the attention of final year undergraduates. I wish this initiative every success.

Another development to which the Society has contributed is the Higher Education Funding Council for England project ‘more maths grads’ which is designed to promote participation in undergraduate degrees in the mathematical sciences. A good supply of mathematically trained graduates is essential to the UK economy in general and to the health of the statistics discipline in particular. It is good that the Society is involved in practical developments that are aimed at increasing participation.

The final new initiative that I shall draw attention to is the ‘first-in-man’ report which is concerned with the statistical design of drug trials aimed at testing novel treatment types. The working party was set up as a result of the adverse reactions suffered by healthy volunteers to a first-in-man trial of monoclonal antibodies and who were subsequently admitted to Northwick Park hospital. The report makes a series of recommendations about the design of such trials and will, I hope, contribute to the safety of future trials. I would like to thank Stephen Senn and the members of the working party for their considerable efforts.

As well as these new initiatives there were, of course, many other continuing activities that are noteworthy. The annual conference in Belfast was a great success with many lively sessions and a good number of participants. In particular it was good to see a high number of young statisticians participating in the conference, reflecting the continuing impact of the Young Statisticians Forum on which I commented in the previous annual report.

Another continuing activity for the Society is the statistical legislation going through Parliament as I write. The Society has long campaigned for legislation for official statistics. The issue now is to try to get good legislation which will have the required effect and will help the Government Statistical Service and other statistical producers to produce high quality, authoritative statistics in an environment that commands public confidence. As first published, the Society was disappointed with the Bill but we have worked to build support for amendments that, in our view, are essential. Time alone will tell how effective the final legislation will be in meeting our aims.

I would like to draw attention to the success of the Membership Services team. We, although with other statistical Societies, have experienced a decline in membership in recent years but the team have turned this round. They are helping to recruit new Fellows and to retain the commitment of existing Fellows. This is a fine achievement and I would like to thank Nicola Emmerson, Ed Swires-Hennessy and the whole team.

Finally we have, at last, reached a conclusion in our dealings with the Privy Council and will implement the second phase of constitutional changes. In future our business year, financial year and year for elected appointments will all coincide on a calendar year basis. There will be transitional arrangements but in due course all our administrative arrangements will coincide and will improve efficiency and co-ordination. This has been a long journey, steered effectively by our Director General, Ivor Goddard, and I congratulate him for a successful outcome on your behalf.

As you read this report, I hope that you will share my impression of a Society that is lively and spawning many new programmes. We have a dual commitment: to the well-being of statistics as a discipline and to the promotion of statistical understanding and practice to the benefit of Society at large. In both respects I feel that the Society is in good health. This is due to the unstinting efforts of a large number of individual volunteers, including in particular our Honorary Officers and also, of course, the staff at Errol Street. On behalf of all Fellows, I wish to express my thanks to everyone involved.

Tim Holt

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-985X.2007.00505.x

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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