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Report of the Council for 2010

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President's foreword.  For the Royal Statistical Society, the year 2010 was first and foremost the year of the ‘getstats’ campaign. The first World Statistics Day, sponsored by the United Nations, took place on 20.10.2010, and statistical Societies around the world took part in activities to raise awareness of our discipline and to celebrate its many achievements. According to the United Nations, the day ‘was celebrated in over 130 countries and areas’, and the Society chose this auspicious date to launch getstats, its 10‐year statistical literacy campaign (). Statistical literacy is a key ability in today's data‐driven society, comprising a fundamental set of skills and knowledge needed to make important life choices as well as to support roles in employment, research and policy making. At the launch event John Pullinger, Chair of the getstats steering group, argued that ‘just as the 3 ‘‘Rs’’ were the new skills that were needed for advancement in the time of the industrial revolution, so the fourth ‘‘R’’ (statistical Reasoning) is now a vital life skill’.

The campaign launch was marked by a paper read to the Society entitled ‘Towards more accessible conceptions of statistical inference’ by Chris Wild, Maxine Pfannkuch, Matt Regan (University of Auckland, New Zealand) and Nicholas Horton (Smith College, USA). This was followed by a reception at which excerpts of the BBC‐commissioned film ‘The joy of statistics’ were shown (its YouTube clip has now topped 4 million views). There were also impressive demonstrations by developers of new exploratory data sites and data visualization tools, before a countdown to 8.10 p.m. (20.10) when the red button was pressed to launch the campaign. A further week of launch events followed in London and Plymouth organized by the RSS Centre for Statistical Education and included activities for teachers in schools and higher education, employers and young statisticians.

Collaborating bodies for getstats include the Actuarial Profession, the British Academy, the Institute of Physics, the Nuffield Foundation, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, the UK Statistics Authority and many others. In particular, funding from the Nuffield Foundation is enabling the Society to appoint a Getstats Director in 2011, giving a real impetus to the campaign.

The Society has more than 7000 members, of whom roughly 20% now have Chartered membership. The numbers of both Chartered Statisticians and Graduate Statisticians are growing, and roughly a seventh of professional members now have Chartered Scientist status. A new development this year is the provision of on‐line continuing professional development recording; this facility is available to all Fellows of the Society. The continuing difficult economic climate has inevitably had an effect on the Society's finances, but the staff at Errol Street have been very effective in reducing expenses wherever possible and the Society has been able further to raise its profile and activities across a range of areas. As usual, the Society has run a very extensive programme of Ordinary Meetings, and Section and Local Group meetings, and it held a successful and enjoyable annual conference in Brighton. Highlights of the conference included well‐received plenary lectures by Tim Davis, Peter Donnelly, Robert Groves, Nancy Reid and Robert Stine, a fish‐and‐chip supper on a wind‐swept pier and a conference dinner with a highly entertaining after‐dinner talk from Andrew Dilnot. The next (revamped) annual conference will take place in 2012, following a full review of the conference structure and consultation with the membership. The annual awards ceremony is another regular event in the Society's calendar. In 2010, as well as Guy, Greenfield and Chambers Medals, awards were given for Statistical Excellence in Journalism, which has continued to attract increased interest, and, for the first time this year, for Excellence in Official Statistics sponsored by the ONS. Plans are now in hand for an award for Excellence in Pharmaceutical Statistics sponsored jointly with PSI (Statisticians in the Pharmaceutical Industry).

Short courses and workshops took place before the Brighton conference, and the Professional Development Centre ran a varied programme of nine training courses appealing both to statisticians and to statistics users throughout the year. The successful programme of workshops for journalists continued and, in addition, funding was obtained from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to co‐ordinate science training for non‐specialist journalists, with a member of staff seconded from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology acting as national co‐ordinator. Through the Professional Affairs Committee, the Society continues to accredit universities for their statistics degrees both in the UK and overseas, and attracted an increasing number of candidates for its Ordinary and Higher Certificates and Graduate Diploma. Education in schools is also an essential part of the Society's activities, in which the Education Theme and the RSS Centre for Statistical Education are playing a vital role through the ‘Significance in schools’ projects, CensusAtSchool (funded by the ONS) and involvement in student conferences such as ‘Planet Earth—over the limit?’.

The Society actively continued its programme of policy development and communication, engaging with politicians and government, the media, education funding and regulatory bodies, and many other groups. For example, its call to the UK Statistics Authority for a comprehensive review of inflation measures was given wide media coverage and, before the general election, more than 300 Fellows and guests heard representatives of the three major political parties setting out their views on the official statistics system. The Statistics User Forum brings together users of official statistics across the spectrum from industry and local government, through to Learned Societies and research institutes. The Society's expertise is sought on a wide variety of subjects, and it submitted responses to consultations and invitations to comment from many official bodies including the Cabinet Office, the Forensic Science Regulator, the Law Commission, the ONS, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation and the UK Statistics Authority. In addition, it has regular meetings with the National Statistician, and with the other mathematical Learned Societies through its membership of the Council for the Mathematical Sciences. As part of the latter, there are regular meetings with the Chief Executives of the Higher Education Funding Council for England and of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The shortage of trained manpower in statistics is an on‐going problem, so it was particularly pleasing that a presentation by the Society at a liaison meeting with the manager of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's mathematics programme led to continued funding being earmarked for Masters training in statistics and operational research for a further 3 years.

The Society's journal series (A, B and C) form a crucial part of the output of the Society, providing a service and resource not only to members but also to statisticians world wide. This year, more papers were submitted than ever before. Changes to the procedures for handling those papers submitted for possible reading to the Society were introduced: an important aspect is that all Sections of the Society are now encouraged to sponsor papers for reading. The year 2010 also saw a transformational step for Significance, with the agreement with the American Statistical Association for joint publication. This has resulted in a fourfold increase in the readership and plans for more frequent issues. To the relief of some, English spellings have been maintained, and the content included censuses, oil spills, ethnic profiling and Pictish carvings. The year also saw the launch of its own Web site, where rapidly changing short articles and news stories can be found. The Significance Web site was quickly accepted by the Google News aggregator, not only recognizing it as a reputable news source but also giving it greater prominence on Google. Links with other statistical Societies are increasingly important also. Discussions on closer co‐operation took place in Paris with the Presidents of other European Societies, and these will be continued at the next International Statistical Institute World Congress in Dublin.

This foreword gives only a taste of the activities of the Society in 2010. More details, with accounts of all the Themes, Section meetings and other activities, which give a much fuller picture of all that the Society does, can be found in the following report. A striking feature is the incredible number of names that appear in these pages. A very great many people give their services to the Society, as committee members, organizers and speakers, as editors and referees, and in other capacities. They contribute enormous energy, enthusiasm and commitment, complementing that of the Society's permanent staff. The Society owes all these people, staff and volunteers alike, a great debt of gratitude for all they enable it to achieve.

Valerie Isham
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2011

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