Report of the Council for 2008: Council Report
After 16 years of service to the Society, Ivor Goddard retired as Director General in 2008. It is a pleasure to record both my personal appreciation to Ivor and also the appreciation and thanks of the Society, for guiding us over the past 16 years—a period which included such challenges as the move to Errol Street and the merger with the Institute of Statisticians. Council decided that a change of job title to Executive Director more correctly reflected the changing duties of the role, and Martin Dougherty was appointed to the position, assuming office at the end of August.
Membership of the Society continued to grow steadily, assisted by extension of the corporate membership strategy.
The 2008 conference, held at the East Midlands Conference Centre at the University of Nottingham in September, and chaired by John Copas, was a great success, with over 370 people attending. Jerome Friedman, from Stanford University, gave the Campion Lecture, and the other plenary speakers were Martin Hasler from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne and Alan Agresti from the University of Florida. Success of any meeting such as this is attributable to the degree of prior organization which goes into it—and the organizing committee and Errol Street staff clearly did a wonderful job.
After a lengthy and thorough tendering process, installation and implementation of the new database and the integrated Web site began. This promises to provide significantly enhanced services for the Society, as well as permitting more efficient, and hence cost-effective, use of staff resources. In this vein, 2008 also saw the introduction of the Web-based on-line manuscript and peer review system for submissions to our journals. The impact and potential of the Web was further illustrated by an electronic survey of the membership about RSS News, which drew responses from over 1500 people—a far cry from the handful who would have responded by post.
The contract with the host site of the Royal Statistical Society's Centre for Statistical Education is due to expire at the end of July 2009, so an extensive tendering process was followed to decide where it would be located after this date. Over 50 universities were invited to bid, and a short list of applicants was drawn up. A series of site visits and meetings led to the University of Plymouth being selected, and Council accepted this recommendation. The Centre begins at its new host on August 1st, 2009. Professor Neville Davies, the current Director of the Centre, will continue to head it.
In the previous year, take-up of the courses offered by the Professional Development Centre had proved disappointing, and the Centre had made a financial loss. 2008 was also a challenging year. Because of this, during 2008 the operational model of the Centre was changed, a new contract with the organization running the Centre was negotiated and the risk of significant loss was shifted from the Society.
The Society has continued to increase its engagement with external bodies, an engagement which has been reflected in a clear increase in the influence of the Society. In particular, with the establishment of the UK Statistics Authority, the Society's role as an independent expert commentator on statistical matters has become even more important—with, for example, significant press coverage of its contribution to the discussion of two breaches of the code of practice by the Home Office. The Society also responded to various public consultations and gave evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee on statistics users’ needs.
We continued our efforts to inform journalists about statistical matters, with two workshop days, attended by about 40 journalists. The year 2008 was also the second year in which the Society made its awards for statistical excellence in journalism. Chris Giles (Financial Times) won the print category, and Alastair Burnett and Jonty Bloom (Radio 4’s The World Tonight) won the broadcast category.
For the first time, in 2008 the Society produced a promotional annual report, to complement the usual report which provides a detailed record of the Society's activities over the year. This additional promotional report is part of the Society's outreach process, serving to demonstrate to external audiences the engagement of the Society and statistics with all walks of life.
In a break with recent tradition, I gave my Presidential address in December, halfway through my term of office rather than at the end, so that I could say what I wanted to achieve, rather than what I hoped the next President would do.
The new modular structure for the Higher Certificate level of the examinations was fully implemented (with 2008 being the final year of the old non-modular structure). Other educational activities included careers fairs, the RSS Schools Lecture (with Neil Sheldon as the lecturer), which is repeated throughout the country, a session at the British Association's Festival of Science, contributions to the national debate relating to General Certificates of Secondary Education and the Bologna framework, and the second Royal Institution–Royal Statistical Society Open Day.
Towards the end of the year, negotiation with the Science Council culminated in the recognition of the Society as a licensed body for the award of Chartered Scientist status.
The Young Statisticians Section was formally initiated, with its first committee meeting taking place in August.
The activities highlighted above represent a mere sample from the range of activities which the Society has undertaken over the past year. More details are given in the pages which follow. The breadth of this range of activities, and its consequent influence on the discipline and on wider society, is entirely attributable to the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the many volunteers, who run Sections, manage Local Groups, run committees and carry out a myriad of other activities within the Society, and to the matching energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the Errol Street staff, who tie it all together.