What are the chances? The perils of communicating risk

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in Features

Dr Alexandra Freeman is executive director at the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, based at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics. We asked her about the new centre’s aims and why organisations like these are needed in a ‘post-truth’ age.

In a world where new breakthroughs in science and technology are giving us ever increasing amounts of data, we are often faced with complex decisions to make about our health, lifestyle, and how we navigate our way through everyday life. With so much information now available at our fingertips, it’s not surprising that some of us are finding it difficult to find – and understand – what’s out there.

The Smith Review: an opportunity to improve maths and stats skills

Written by Scott Keir on . Posted in Features

A new report on the future of mathematics education in England has just been published. Scott Keir, RSS head of education and statistical literacy, explains the background to the review and the role the RSS has played so far, as well as what we see as the next steps.

The government has just published a review of mathematics education for post-16 students in England by past president of the Royal Statistical Society, Professor Sir Adrian Smith.

Four ideas to tackle ‘Fake News’

Written by Leighton Andrews on . Posted in Features

Professor Leighton Andrews looks at the factors that contribute to 'fake news' and argues that a multi-faceted approach is required to challenge them.

There has always been ‘fake news’, but in the age of the smartphone and platforms like Facebook and Google, it has taken on a new character. Democracy depends on open public debate, and while arguments, opinions and emotions form part of that debate, and facts may be disputed or interpreted in different ways for partisan purposes, the trust that underpins democratic decision- making, including the outcomes of elections, requires some consensus on what is generally regarded to be ‘true’.

Event report: Parliamentary Links Day 2017

Written by Daria Gromyko on . Posted in Features

This year I had the honour of being invited by Hetan Shah (RSS executive director) to the Parliamentary Links Day 2017 to represent the RSS as both a young statistician and an official statistics practitioner. This prestigious annual event is organised by the Royal Society of Biology and brings together the scientific community and members of parliament. RSS statistical ambassador and PhD student at MRC Biostatistics Unit in CambridgeSusan Connolly, also attended on behalf of the RSS. The theme of this year’s event was ‘UK science and global opportunities’.

Representatives from learned societies, academia and scientific professional bodies were welcomed to Parliament by Stephen Metcalfe MP, the former chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee. Speakers included John Kingman (chair designate of UK Research & Innovation), Jo Johnson (universities and science minister) and House of Commons speaker John Bercow, who all talked about their vision for UK science, the challenges we face and the way forward in addressing them. Themes touched upon were education and funding for scientific research, as well as the main theme of the day. 

Victory against spin: Ministers lose pre-release access to stats

Written by Hetan Shah on . Posted in Features

RSS executive director Hetan Shah explains why the move to prevent ministers getting access to official statistics before everyone else does will help to increase public trust in them.

In these 'post-truth' days of fake news and 'alternative facts', you could be forgiven for thinking facts and figures don’t stand much chance against the power of politicised misinformation. It can all get very depressing – so I’m pleased to be able to report a small but very important step forward in the fight for truth.

What is a Royal Statistical Society Discussion Meeting?

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The Society's three academic journals (JRSS A, B and C) are some of the most highly cited journals in the discipline of statistics. Discussion meetings are a way of bringing some of the papers published in these journals to the wider membership. We explain how they work and how RSS fellows can get involved.

One of the great traditions of the Society is the presentation of papers for discussion at open meetings of the Society. Formerly called ‘Ordinary Meetings’, these give people the opportunity to present for debate the latest statistical developments and their views on contentious statistical issues in front of a lively audience. They also, through the subsequent publication of the paper and discussion in the Society’s journal, help to advance the subject and to inform the wider community.

In stats we trust – an interview with David Norgrove

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The RSS was delighted at the appointment of one of its fellows, Sir David Norgrove, to the position of UKSA chair back in March 2017 when Sir Andrew Dilnot stepped down. We spoke to David a couple of months after his appointment to ask him about his plans as he gets to grips with his role.

David is no stranger to the inner workings of government; he was former private secretary (1985-88) to the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and after spending 16 years with Marks & Spencer he became the inaugural chair of the Pensions Regulator in 2005 and chaired the Low Pay Commission (2009-16).

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