Finding a statistical consultant can be a tricky business; the RSS reception desk receives at least one call a week from people looking for recommendations. As the RSS charter forbids us from favouring a particular member over another, we direct them to our neutral Consultants Directory. Published online on the RSS website, the directory lists details of dozens of statisticians, all of whom hold the Society’s esteemed Chartered Statistician (CStat) status. Between them, those listed have a variety of specialisms, ranging from randomised control trials to survey analysis.
The Consultants Directory was originally created around ten years ago to pull together a list of professionally qualified members who offer a statistical consultancy service. It contains profiles created by the consultants, with information on their specialisms and background as well as their contact details. It only contains Chartered Statisticians who are professionally active and available to undertake consultancy work.
The directory has always been searchable, but the search function was reviewed and redesigned in 2015. Nigel Marriott, himself a CStat listed in the directory and who was on the working group behind the redesign, says it is now 'much improved'. And judging from the inquiries he is now getting, he reckons that people are using it more since the redesign. 'The new keyword search engine is designed to match consultants with those looking for particular skills,' he explains. 'The search function offers the user three fields in which to put key skills that they are looking for. For example, anyone who enters the words "sales forecast model", into those three fields will find consultants with at least one of these words in their profile in the search return. Highest priority is given to consultants that use all three words, lowest to those who only use one word.’
Statisticians listed on the register are encouraged to include key words to help directory users find them. Nigel advises statisticians to focus on the words that clients will think of when looking for a statistician and the types of problem they can help solve, as well as the industry they specialise in. Indeed, in some cases, a statistical consultant can often introduce data-related ideas from one industry that are applicable to another.
Nigel has taken on particularly varied work as a consultant - he has been hired as an statistical expert witness in court, he’s worked in developing regulations, survey design / analysis and in insurance, helping to discern whether a claim is likely to be fraudulent. He’s even been hired to assess a new roulette wheel.
The RSS has published search guidance notes (PDF) to help clients find the right consultant for their organisation. ‘We believe the most helpful way to classify problems is to use the RSS’s strapline of ‘Data – Evidence – Decisions’, the notes state. It goes on to explain that if a client’s problem involves lots of questions starting with the words ‘what’, ‘when’ or ‘where’ then it is likely to be data related, since these questions often reflect a desire to measure the current state of affairs. Problems that start with the words ‘how’, ‘who’ or ‘why’, on the other hand, known as ‘evidence problems’, are likely to involve data analysis with the aim of drawing conclusions from the data presented. Finally, any problem that asks ‘should we…?’, ‘which...’, ‘can we ...?’, ‘If ... then ... else ...?’ seeks to predict or plan for the future – defined as a ‘decision problem’.
The RSS has a number of systems in place to ensure that the Consultants Directory is both updated and quality assured. CStat holders now have to go through a revalidation process to demonstrate they are keeping their skills up-to-date, and the Directory is checked regularly to ensure consultants’ contact details and listed information is present and correct.
The RSS Consultants Directory can be found on the RSS website at www.rss.org.uk/consultants.