The RSS initiative, Statisticians for Society has taken a further significant step this year towards increasing the opportunities for RSS fellows to volunteer their skills for good causes.
The Society has always encouraged members to give their time and skills to charities – indeed, one of its four key strategic objects is ‘for statistics to be used effectively in the public interest’. And when the Statisticians for Society initiative launched in 2014, the Society was able to start bringing volunteer opportunities to members across the UK and overseas via partner organisations DataKind and Statistics Without Borders.
Scott Keir, head of education and statistical literacy at the RSS, provides a round-up of all of the sessions and events at this year's RSS Conference that will be of interest to anyone involved in teaching or promoting statistics in schools or communicating statistics.
This year's RSS International Conference, held this week in the beautiful city of Cardiff, looks set to be a brilliant event. I'm especially pleased to see such a wide range of sessions that contribute to our strategic goal of education and statistical literacy. As I look back over the past few years' programmes, I see a steady increase in the range and number of sessions, to the point where 'Communicating and teaching statistics' is now a regular session stream, and the professional development stream routinely includes sessions focusing on developing communication skills, essential for the modern statistician.
On June 13 2018, the RSS hosted an important and well-attended meeting on ‘The Future of the RPI’, bringing together many distinguished speakers, including the UK National Statistician John Pullinger (pictured), representing a broad spectrum of opinions.
In 2011, the Office for National Statistics carried out a comprehensive investigation into one of the formulae (Carli) used in the compilation of the RPI and concluded it was flawed. However, a consultation in late 2012 showed an overwhelming majority in favour of keeping the RPI formulae unchanged so that the behaviour of the index was not altered. Acknowledging this, the National Statistician of the time decided not to change the formula and also to 'freeze' its compilation but at the same time to discourage its use. In 2013 the RPI lost its national statistic status. It remains, however, widely used.
The RSS promotes a wide range of activities that inspire young people about statistics and data, and on Tuesday 24 July 2018, at the University of Liverpool in London, around 30 people attended an afternoon workshop arranged by the RSS Education and Statistical Literacy Committee to find out more about some of these activities, and how to get involved.
Improving statistical education and wider statistical literacy is a core goal of the RSS, as Scott Keir, head of education and statistical literacy, emphasised in his introduction. RSS activities include education policy work, offering free e-teacher membership, and encouraging our members to engage with school students and teachers. Schemes that members are encouraged to get involved with include the RSS own William Guy Lectureship and programmes from other organisations including STEM Ambassadors, Inspiring the Future, RI Masterclasses, Nuffield Research Placements, and I’m a Scientist.
The Professional Statisticians’ Forum (PSF) was established in 2012 by the Royal Statistical Society's Professional Affairs Committee in order to supplement other activities laid on by the RSS by focusing on professional statisticians and how they make an impact in the workplace through the development of their skills and knowledge; and the novel application of statistical science.
Although the topics covered in PSF events are targeted to be of interest to professionally qualified members of the RSS, those holding GradStat, CStat and CSci awards, the meetings are free-to-attend and open to all, both members of the RSS and non-members.
On 22 June 2018, RSS William Guy lecturer, Jeff Ralph, presented a talk on 'Teenagers and society: How statistics reveal the changes in young people’s lives through the last century' at a Year 9 South West Mathematics Masterclass Event taking place at the University of Plymouth. The audience included about 150 pupils from schools across Devon and Cornwall.
Jeff used official statistics to illustrate just how much many aspects of life have changed over the last hundred years. He started by presenting the top five baby names from 2005 for boys and girls and showed how the most popular names have changed since 1900. Using the percentages of boys and girls being born with those top names for the whole population, Jeff produced a good approximation of the number of students in the room with these names, showing that the sample of students in the room provided a good representation of the population as a whole.