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Report of the Council for July–December 2007: Council report

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President's foreword. 

In 2007, the Society adjusted its business year to coincide with the calendar year. As a result, and as part of the transition arrangements, this report covers the 6-month period from July 5th to December 31st, 2007. Even though this is only half of the length of the normal period, it is impossible to describe all of the many activities of the Society in a brief foreword, so I shall just mention a few.

One theme which occurs again and again in this report is the remarkable range of activities that the Society undertakes which have a significant influence on society in general. For example, the Society has continued to engage the media, under the guidance of External Affairs Theme Director Sheila Bird and Theme Manager Andrew Garratt. Following last year's very successful launch of the awards for excellence in statistical journalism, judging for the second year of awards took place in December. Once again, the considerable interest in these awards, as well as the high quality of the entries, promises well for the discipline. In November a workshop for journalists was held, aiming to present important statistical ideas in an accessible way, focusing on recent real events. The potential beneficial effect of this scheme is illustrated by the fact that over 40 journalists attended, and a further 20 would have liked to attend but were unable to. Now, rather than simply criticizing ignorance of statistics, the Society is doing something positive.

This wide relevance of statistics to society was developed in the annual conference, a theme conference on the topic of ‘Statistics and public policy making: hope vs reality’, which took place in July in York and which included a presentation from the Justice Minister, the Right Honourable Jack Straw. The conference attracted many participants who had not previously attended Society conferences.

The theme of social relevance was also driven home by the Beveridge Lecture, entitled ‘The giants of excess: a challenge to the nation's health’, presented by Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and by Tim Holt's Presidential address on ‘Official statistics, public policy and public trust’.

The Statistics and Registration Service Act gained Royal Assent in July 2007. This Act establishes an independent Statistics Board, now called the UK Statistics Authority, which is tasked with promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics, and which is chaired by Sir Michael Scholar. One of the Authority's primary aims is to improve the regard in which official statistics are held by the public. This is an exciting development—enhancing the reputation of official statistics can only have a beneficial effect on the perception of statistics more widely. It is the culmination of years of hard work by many, including my predecessor as President, Professor Tim Holt.

The future well-being of the Society, and indeed of the discipline, depends on new statisticians being trained and joining the Society. With this in mind, the Young Statisticians Forum has organized several very well-attended events for statisticians in the early stages of their careers. Overall membership continues to increase, by virtue of the efforts of Nicola Emmerson and the Membership Services Team, and especially their schemes for recruiting students and corporate members.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Society has continued to promote the professional qualification of Chartered Statistician as a stamp of recognition. The modularization of the Graduate Diploma has now been completed, and examinations will be set for the new modules in 2009.

The Society has continued to hire out its meeting rooms at Errol Street, providing a valuable additional income stream. Such alternative streams are important in the face of uncertainty about the long-term future of printed journals.

Looking to the future, 2009 is the 175th anniversary year of the founding of the Society, and a group has been set up, chaired by Professor Deborah Ashby, to devise a programme of activities by which this could be marked. Improved electronic access and resources are also being developed, with a group looking at recording of meetings for on-line access, plans for a new members’ database proceeding and further progress in implementing a Web-based on-line manuscript and peer review system.

In summary, we have a growing Society, increasingly engaged with the public and government, with its role and importance beginning to be more widely appreciated. All of these various activities, and the others described in this report, are only possible because of the selfless dedication of the many volunteers, and the commitment and efforts of the staff. On behalf of the Society, I would like to express my thanks to all of them.

David Hand
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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