Figuring it out: Training our third cohort of stats ambassadors

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in Features

The RSS statistical ambassador scheme is now in its fourth year with a third cohort of ambassadors recruited. On 18 June a new cohort of ten statistical ambassadors (see below for details) attended their first of two training days at the Royal Statistical Society in London.

A misunderstood statistic can have life-changing effects, such as causing thousands of unwanted pregnancies, or an extremely tragic miscarriage of justice. Even on a day-to-day level, miscommunicated statistics can cause confusion about whether it’s okay to eat bacon or not; or even whether changes to the national lottery increases your chances of winning.

The RSS takes this issue very seriously, which is why we launched the statistical ambassadors scheme in 2014. Since then, dozens of statistical ambassadors given expert statistical perspective in talks, written articles, provided statistical expertise to journalists and broadcasters, and been interviewed themselves on local and national TV and radio.

The RSS Statistical Ambassador Scheme was originally conceived to increase the number of our members talking about statistics in public. The Society calls on the ambassadors to help respond to requests from the press and elsewhere for assistance with explaining stats in a precise yet easy-to-understand way. Ambassadors respond to requests from the media, work with event organisers, and develop activities in their workplaces.

This year, following a callout to RSS fellows and selection process, ten new recruits convened at the RSS in June to attend a day-long training workshop. Sessions were led by RSS president Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter (Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge), BBC presenter/ journalist/comedian Timandra Harkness and Scott Keir, RSS head of education and statistical literacy. Between them, they ran a variety of sessions to get our stats ambassadors ready to communicate often complex ideas to a non-expert audience.

At the start of the day, the ambassadors broke the ice with each other by talking about their own fields of work in statistics. Then they were required to practice their skills in explaining statistical concepts succinctly and at appropriate levels according to their audience. Other sessions focused on how the ambassadors might improve their verbal presentation.

2018 Stats Ambassadors cohortThe ambassadors had portrait shots taken by a professional photographer, in preparation for event organisers and media requests. Some of the ambassadors took part in filmed interviews to promote the Society’s forthcoming Members’ Week.

 A second training day is scheduled for July and the ambassadors will now be added to the RSS’ growing list of experts who can be called upon where needed, be it to help put a large number into context, explain relative risks of a particular treatment or clear up confusion around seemingly conflicting research outcomes. Media requests in particular are by nature reactive, random and often require quick thinking; but with the training now under their belts, our stats ambassadors will at least have a good idea of what to expect and how best to prepare.




Introducing the 2018 cohort of ambassadors

Norma Bargary Norma Bargary, lecturer in statistics at the University of Limerick. Aims ‘to make statistics enjoyable, understandable and highlight its importance in our everyday lives’.
Catey Bunce Catey Bunce, reader in medical statistics in the School of Population Health and Environmental Science at King’s College London.  Hopes that the role of RSS statistical ambassador will help her better champion the message that ‘Better data = better research = better healthcare’. 
Chloe Gibbs Chloe Gibbs, senior research officer at the Office for National Statistics. Currently works on the Annual Survey of Goods and Services, a new survey created to more appropriately measure the UK service industry.
David Hodge David Hodge, probability lecturer at the University of NottinghamResearches problems with decision making and uncertainty. A keen game player, chess problem solver and bridge player.
Joy Leahy Joy Leahya statistics PhD student in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and a research associate at NUI Galway. Research interests include Bayesian methods for evidence synthesis and Network Meta-Analysis (NMA), with particular focus on the appropriate use of lesser quality evidence.
Darren Macey Darren Macey, former mathematics teacher currently working in curriculum research for Cambridge Mathematics (a project of Cambridge University). Co-author of Teaching Statistics (CUP). Blogs at
Anthony Masters Anthony Masters, data analyst at Nationwide Building Society,fascinated by the use of statistics in public debates. Spent a recent birthday at an opinion polling symposium.
Brooks Paige Brooks Paige, research fellow at the Alan Turing Institute in London, affiliated with the University of Cambridge. Previously lived in New York Citywhere he completed an MA in Statistics at Columbia University and also worked in software development and web design.
Lucy Teece Lucy Teece, a final year PhD Student at Keele University’s Research Institute for Primary Care & Health sciences. Studying the application of statistical methods to epidemiological, public health, and health service data. Current vice-chair of the RSS Young Statisticians Section.
Graham Wheeler Graham Wheeler, medical statistician in the Cancer Research UK and UCL Cancer Trials Centre. Is lead statistician for several studies of targeted drugs and immunotherapies used to treat patients with leukaemias, lymphomas and various other cancers.




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