Taking stats to school: A Q&A with William Guy lecturer Jeff Ralph

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Jeff Ralph is head of analysis at the Methodology Advisory Service in Methods, Data and Research (MDR) at the Office for National Statistics, and is this year's Royal Statistical Society William Guy Lecturer. Since taking on the role, Jeff has been delivering lectures about maths and statistics to school students around the UK and tomorrow he is due to speak in Belfast.

We caught up with him to find out how his experience in schools has been so far.

RSS and SAGE partner to create data courses for social scientists

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SAGE Campus, a suite of online data science courses tailored for social scientists, has been launched in response to an emerging skills gap among social scientists looking to work with big data. The Royal Statistical Society partnered with SAGE Publishing for two of these courses, as SAGE head of methods intervention, Katie Metzler, explains.

You may have heard the phrase 'data is the new oil', which Clive Humby, mathematician and architect of Tesco’s Clubcard, is credited with saying first in 2006. The comparison between data and oil refers to its value being extracted through refinement; or in the case of data, through analysis. But unlike oil, data is being produced at a faster and faster rate every day. As Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, put it: 'A billion hours ago, modern homo sapiens emerged. A billion minutes ago, Christianity began. A billion seconds ago, the IBM PC was released. A billion Google searches ago … was this morning.'

RSS creates training pathways for vital statistical software skills

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Do you know your Spark from your Shiny? Do you know what a tidyverse is? The RSS has added a raft of new software courses to its training programme to help statisticians gain or improve on their knowledge of statistical software. Programme languages such as R and Python are covered as well as big data platforms such as Hadoop and Spark to manipulate data at scale.

R is a free language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. It is a popular choice for statisticians because it enables a wide variety of statistical tools for data analysis and graphical techniques and is highly extensible. This year, the RSS is offering more courses in R than ever and our 2018 course programme offers a pathway for non-experts to follow a foundation course through to advanced techniques. 

A Q&A with National Statistician John Pullinger

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John Pullinger is a former Royal Statistical Society president and has held the top job in UK official statistics since 2014. As UK National Statistician, he is head of the Government Statistical Service and chief executive of the UK Statistics Authority; the latter role includes responsibility for the Office for National Statistics.

We asked John about his role in measuring the UN's new Sustainable Development Goals, the next census and why more people should join the Royal Statistical Society.

RSS outlines its priorities to new Education Secretary

Written by Scott Keir on . Posted in Features

The new year brought a new Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, following a Cabinet reshuffle on 8 January. We wrote to Damian Hinds to summarise some of the Society's priorities for education and skills in 2018, outlined below.

The RSS believes that everyone needs to be able to use and interpret statistical information, to benefit their studies (regardless of subject), their everyday lives, their engagement in the democratic process, and their future careers. Statistics and data are increasingly important to a wide range of subjects and areas of industry and commerce. Employers have unmet demand for people with strong numeracy skills that can be applied, and there is a substantial skills gap in data-driven industries.

Gender data gap: What we know and what we don’t - event report

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On 18 January 2018 the RSS co-hosted a meeting with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) called The gender data gap: Exploring the evidence base. Chaired by BBC More or Less presenter Charlotte McDonald, the event featured a keynote speech by the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP (pictured), who chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee. Emma Rourke, director of public policy analysis at ONS and Wanda Wyporska, executive director of the Equality Trust, were also on the panel.

Charlotte McDonald opened the full-to-capacity meeting by pointing out that the word ‘gap’ can refer to a gap in our knowledge; but it can also describe disparities within the data we have. This meeting, she said, was likely to cover both meanings. She pointed out that domestic duties are not always recognised in labour surveys and gave an example of where the official number of people in jobs in Uganda suddenly jumped upwards when the question measuring this was changed to ask about ‘secondary’ as well as ‘primary’ jobs. Women whose primary role was domestic began to record secondary jobs when they hadn’t before.

Event report: Launch of 'Statistics and Probability for Advocates'

Written by Anthony Cutler on . Posted in Features

RSS fellow and lawyer Anthony Cutler went to the launch of our new guide to statistics for those working in law. Here he reports on what both legal and statistical experts had to say about it.

'Probability is not foreign to the law. Evidence … is primarily a legal notion …' - Ian Hacking, The Emergence of Probability.

I was reminded of this quote on the evening of 27 November which saw the launch of Statistics and Probability for Advocates, a joint initiative of the Royal Statistical Society and the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA). The guide is an educational resource and ready reference for judges, barristers, solicitors and others who have to present and challenge statistical evidence at trial.

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