Ray Thomas 1930 – 2018
Following the sad news earlier this year that Dr Ray Thomas passed away, RSS fellows David Webster and Simon Briscoe have written an obituary.
Ray, who died in April, was very active in social, official and radical statistics until illness forced him to step away a decade ago. He was an economist who made major contributions as an expert on New Towns, and was a member of the team that produced ‘The Containment of Urban England’. He was also a pioneer of the Open University, and a fellow of the RSS for nearly 60 years.
RSS fellows to deliver prestigious lectures at the British Science Festival
Two RSS fellows will be delivering key lectures on the topic of risk at the British Science Festival next month.
On 12 September, RSS vice president for external affairs, Dr Jen Rogers (pictured right), will be looking at our personal relationships with risk and showing how statistics can help you make better decisions in the Mathematical Sciences Scientific Section Presidential Address, titled 'Do you look before you leap?'. Jen is currently president of mathematical sciences at the British Science Association and this event constitutes her Presidential Address. The lecture takes place at the Lecture Theatre 2, Allam Medical Building, University of Hull at 5-6pm, and you can register in advance.
Meanwhile, on 14 September, RSS fellow Dr Laura Bonnett (pictured left) will give an British Science Association award lecture about her work that influenced the DVLA to reduce its epilepsy driving restrictions. Laura is a member of the RSS Education and Statistical Literacy Committee and chairs our Merseyside local group. She was also co-creator of our 'Hands on' statistics resources. 'In the driving seat: what’s the risk with epilepsy?' takes place at the Middleton Hall Auditorium at 1-2pm, and you can also register your place in advance.
Ian Maclean, 1930-2018
We are sad to report the death of Ian Maclean, who died in July 2018 at the age of 87. Ian was a passionate and tireless campaigner for improving official statistics and for giving proper recognition to statistics users. He was the driving force behind the Statistics Users’ Council from its inception in 1970 until it became part of the Royal Statistical Society, as its Statistics User Forum, in 2004, and he continued to be actively involved thereafter. After a career working in market research, Ian went on to run his own company for over 20 years as a value-added provider of UK and international business and trade statistics. His service to the Statistics Users’ Council was recognised with his appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2005 New Year Honours List. Ian’s services to statistics were also recognised with the award of the RSS’s West Medal in 2012.
Ian was vice president of the International Statistical Institute’s International Association for Official Statistics as well as a member of the RSS Council. He was one of the UK representatives on the European Advisory Committee on Statistical Information in the Economic and Social Spheres and he chaired its Dissemination Committee. He also served on ESRC boards and committees.
It is for his lifelong commitment to improving the use and accessibility of official statistics that Ian will be long remembered. Aged over 80, he was still urging the Public Administration Select Committee to foster more of a marketing approach to official statistics. While his dream of a marketing plan for official statistics may not have materialised, many of the components are slowly starting to gain ground and to adapt, as Ian himself envisaged, to opportunities offered, such as by social media.
A full obituary will be published in a future edition of the RSS Series A Journal.
RSS fellow Professor Sir Ian Diamond has been announced as one of two new non-executive members of the UK Statistics Authority Board, along with Professor Anne Trefethen, from 7 June 2018. Both have been appointed for four-year terms.
Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, said he was delighted to welcome Ian and Anne to the board, saying: 'Ian’s experience working within the research community and Anne’s experience on numerical algorithms will be of enormous benefit to the UK Statistics Authority Board, as we work to mobilise the power of data.'
Sir Ian Diamond was until recently, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and is a former chief executive of the Economic and Social Research (ESRC) Council. He chaired the Welsh Assembly Government of the Higher Education Review for Wales reporting in 2016. He is a fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences, the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is also a board member of UK Research and Innovation and was recently announced as the new chair of the Council for Mathematical Sciences.
Congratulations to RSS fellow Jagdev ‘Dev’ Virdee, who was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018. He was awarded an MBE for ‘services to statistics and the Sikh community’.
Dev worked in the UK Government Statistical Service for 33 years until 2010 and served as a deputy head of the Office for National Statistics Centre for Regional and Local Statistics. He was also chair of the OECD Working Party on Territorial Indicators from 2006 to 2010. Since 2010, he has helped with projects related to regional statistics in several countries including Albania, Moldova, Mozambique and Tunisia.
He worked at the Royal Statistical Society from 2012 to 2014 as the User Engagement Programme manager seconded from the UK Statistics Authority. He is currently a committee member of our International Development Section, chairs the organising committee of our Awards for Excellence in Official Statistics and is a member of our Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Working Group.
Dev is also editor of the annual British Sikh Report and has made other many contributions to the local and national Sikh community.
Congratulations to RSS fellow Professor Noel Cressie of the University of Wollongong, who has been named a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. He was inducted into the Academy, along with 20 others from across the sciences, on 22 May 2018 in Canberra, Australia:
The Academy’s citation associated with his induction reads: ‘Noel Cressie is a world leader in statistical methodology for analysing spatial and spatio-temporal data, and its applications to environmental science. His fundamental contributions changed the basic paradigm for analysing observations in space and space-time. Cressie has also contributed to research on pollution monitoring, climate prediction, ocean health, soil chemistry, and glacier movement, and is a NASA Science Team Member for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission. Responding to the huge volumes of complex data in environmental research, Cressie has made ground-breaking innovations for “big data analytics” for remote sensing and climate change.’
Noel won the 2016 RSS Barnett Award foroutstanding contributions to the field of environmental statistics and delivered the Barnett lecture at our annual conference in the same year.
Douglas Altman, 1948-2018
It is with great sadness that we heard of the death of one of our fellows, the celebrated medical statistician Doug Altman. A world-leading expert on health research methodology and reporting, Doug was director for the Centre for Statistics in Medicine and professor of statistics in medicine at the University of Oxford, posts he held for more than 20 years. He was also senior statistical editor at the British Medical Journal.
Doug was a passionate advocate for improving the reporting of medical research. He sought to address these concerns through his work with the EQUATOR (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research) network, the Statistical Methods Group of the Cochrane Collaboration, the CONSORT reporting guideline group and the COMET initiative.
His Lancet paper on methods of measurement, written with his long-term collaborator Martin Bland, which has been cited more than 40,000 times according the Google Scholar. His book, Practical Statistics for Medical Research, has sold more than 50,000 copies.
An RSS member since 1970, Doug was both a chartered statistician (CStat) and a chartered scientist (CSci). He was awarded the Society’s Bradford Hill medal for contributions to medical statistics in 1997. RSS President David Spiegelhalter said: 'Doug was a truly extraordinary person. Google Scholar records him as the most highly-cited statistician, ever. And he was also kind, generous and fun.'
In 2011, he was elected a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and in 2015, his outstanding contribution to the improvement of the scientific and medical research literature was recognised in a BMJ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Doug will be missed by many RSS fellows and the Society sends deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Photo shows Doug giving his plenary lecture at the RSS 2013 Conference (full video here).
RSS fellows elected into the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences
Huge congratulations to RSS fellows Nancy Reid, Phil Dawid and John Speakman, who are three of 50 fellows elected this year to the Royal Society (FRS). Furthermore, Paula Williamson and Mark Woodward were announced as being elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences (AcMedSci).
Professor Nancy Reid (pictured) is professor of statistical sciences and Canada research chair in statistical theory and applications at the University of Toronto and director at the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI). Her main research contributions have been to the field of theoretical statistics. Nancy Reid is a celebrated theoretical statistician; she has won numerous prizes including the Statistical Society of Canada Gold medal and the Royal Statistical Society’s Guy medal. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a past president of the the Statistical Society of Canada. She also delivered the 35th Fisher Memorial Lecture at the RSS in 2016.
Professor Philip Dawid, emeritus professor of statistics of the University of Cambridge, has contributed to both the philosophical underpinnings and the practical applications of statistics. He has served as editor of Biometrika and of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series B) and was awarded the Royal Statistical Society's Guy Medal in Silver in 2001.
Professor John Speakman holds a personal chair at the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen and is a ‘1000 talents’ professor at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Dr Paula Williamson is professor of medical statistics, director of the MRC North West Hub for Trials Methodology Research, director of the Clinical Trials Research Centre (CTRC), and head of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Liverpool. She was elected AcMedSci along with Professor Mark Woodward, professor of epidemiology and statistics at the University of Oxford. Among his many achievements, Mark led the statistical work for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals training programme.
New members of NAS
Congratulations to RSS fellows Simon Tavaré (pictured) and Trevor Hastie who have both been elected, as a foreign associate and member respectively, to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as of May 2018. Simon, senior group leader and former director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, was one of 21 new foreign associates and Trevor, professor of statistics at Stanford University, was elected as one of 84 new members of NAS. Both were elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
The full list of new NAS members and foreign associates can be found at NAS online.
Credit: Photo courtesy of the Royal Society.
We were saddened at the news that RSS fellow Tata Subba Rao, a distinguished statistician well-known for his contributions to time series analysis, passed away earlier this month.
After travelling from Pune, India in 1966, to work with Maurice Priestley at Manchester University, Rao co-authored an often-cited paper on tests for stationarity (Royal Statistical Society Series B Journal, 1969). This was followed by one on estimation of time dependent parameters of Time Series models (JRSS-B, 1970), which was considered ahead of its time.
Later on, Rao’s 1981 papers on bilinear time series models and a test for linearity and Gaussianity triggered several publications by others on the subject. A smoothing two dimensional window he defined with M Gabr for estimating higher order spectra (now known as the Subbarao-Gabr window) has been used by nuclear physicists to study noise in nuclear reactors. In 1984 he authored a book with Gabr on ‘An introduction to Bilinear models and bispectral design of stationary time series’.
After retirement in 2009 he continued to work on space-time processes and from 2010 he spent two or three months each year at the CR Rao Institute in the University of Hyderabad, India.
An RSS fellow since 1968, Rao was an associate editor of JRSS Series C. He was well-liked by his students and will be remembered for his fine sense of humour, as well his many achievements.
Ruth King elected FRSE
Congratulations to Ruth King, Thomas Bayes' Professor of Statistics, University of Edinburgh, who has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Ruth has been an active member of the RSS and is currently on the committee of the Society's Research Section. She is also a faculty fellow and programme committee member of the Alan Turing Institute, and in 2015 she was a lecturer in the London Mathematical Society's 'Popular Lectures' which present exciting topics in mathematics and its applications to a wide audience.
Stanley F James 1927-2017
We regret to announce the news that RSS fellow Stanley James, the former assistant director of the Central Statistics Office (which preceded the Office for National Statistics), died in December 2017.
Stanley joined the government statistical service in 1956 and achieved rapid promotion to chief statistician at the early age of 39. In 1970 Claus Moser picked him out to be an assistant director of the CSO and in 1972 he became director of statistics and intelligence at the Inland Revenue. He took early retirement in 1984.
From 1976 to 1983 Stanley was a member of the Council of the Royal Statistical Society and from 1978 to 1983 he was Society’s Honorary Treasurer. He was noted for being calm and clear-headed under pressure and a kindly and considerate manager.
Stanley Oglesby obituary
We are sad to read in the Guardian’s obituary column that RSS fellow Stanley Oglesby has died aged 87. He was a statistician at textile company J&P Coates (now known as Coates) in Glasgow, rising to be head of operational research before he retired. He was a longstanding fellow of the RSS, having joined the Society in 1952.
RSS fellows awarded in New Year’s Honours list 2018
The RSS is delighted to note that a number of our fellows and award recipients have been named in the 2018 New Year Honours list.
Former RSS President (2010) Bernard Silverman received a knighthood for public service and services to science. Bernard was, until recently, chief scientific adviser at the Home Office.
Current RSS council member, Christl Donnelly, received an CBE for services to epidemiology and the control of infectious diseases. A professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial College London, Christl gave the President’s invited lecture at our 2016 conference and was until recently, our William Guy lecturer.
RSS Honorary Fellow John Curtice, received a knighthood for services to the social sciences and politics. John was awarded RSS Honorary Fellowship last year for his pioneering work on understanding voting behaviour. His expertise in political polling has been long recognised and he’s contributed as a political analyst to the BBC's election night coverage since 1979.
RSS fellow Diane Coyle, an economics professor was awarded an CBE for services to economics and the public understanding of economics. Diane recently won the prestigious Indigo Prize and has just been appointed Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge.
The RSS was also pleased to see a former Statistical Excellence in Journalism winner, Ben Goldacre, receive an MBE for services to evidence in policy.
The full list of recipients can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-years-honours-list-2018.
Marian Scott appointed to Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Congratulations to former RSS Council member and CStat Marian Scott, who has been appointed as an independent member of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), which advises the government on UK-wide and international nature conservation.
Marian is professor of environmental statistics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Glasgow. She is also an elected member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI) and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). She was awarded an OBE in 2009 for services to social science.
She joins Professor Melanie Austen and Charles Banner who were also appointed on 15 December 2017 and will hold the position for three years.
Michael Jacobsen 1933-2017
We are sad to hear of the death of statistician and epidemiologist Michael Jacobsen, who died on 28 October at the age of 84. Michael was a longstanding fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, having joined in 1963.
He was head of statistics and research and later deputy director of the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) in Edinburgh (1968-1989). Founded by the National Coal Board, the IOM assumed responsibility for research into the respiratory health of mineworkers. Michael’s proudest professional achievement was helping British mineworkers win a High Court battle granting compensation for work-related illnesses in 1997.
He also worked as a visiting scientist in India, the United States and Germany, and helped the ILO set international standards measuring coal workers’ lung disease.
An obituary is published in The Scotsman.
Diane Coyle wins Indigo Prize and is appointed new Cambridge professor
Many congratulations to RSS fellow Diane Coyle, economics professor at the University of Manchester, who is joint winner of a new economics award worth £100k.
Entrants to the Indigo Prize were invited to submit an entry of up to 5,000 words on designing a new economic measure for global economies. Diane’s entry, ‘Making the Future Count’ was written with Benjamin Mitra-Kahn, chief economist at IP Australia. Their entry was joint first place with another from a team of writers that included Imperial College's Jonathan Haskel and BEIS adviser Stian Westlake, both of whom have spoken at several RSS events.
Diane has also just been appointed in the inaugural post of Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. She will take up her post in March 2018 and take a leading role in the brand-new Cambridge Institute for Public Policy, conducting research in public policy economics, technology, industrial strategy and global inequality.
David Bartholomew 1931-2017
It is with deep regret that we announce the death of former RSS president (1993-95) David Bartholomew. David was emeritus professor of statistics at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Born and schooled in Bedford, David obtained his degree and PhD at University College London. After becoming a statistics lecturer, first at the University of Keele, and then with Dennis Lindley in his new department at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, he wrote his 1967 book, ‘Stochastic Models for Social Processes’. After moving to the University of Kent in 1967 as statistics professor, he developed stochastic models for manpower planning in the civil service. This work eventually gave rise to the influential book ‘Statistical Techniques for Manpower Planning’ which he wrote with AF Forbes. In 1973 he moved to the LSE, where published his 1987 book, ‘Latent Variable Models and Factor Analysis’. He also held influential positions in the department, as convener, on the appointments committee and as pro-director.
David joined the RSS in 1955 and was editor of the Society’s Series B journal from 1966-69, was on the journal’s editorial panel from 1973-76 and was awarded the Society’s Guy Medal in Bronze in 1971. He was secretary and treasurer of Council and served as President from 1993-95. He was also heavily involved in the move from the Society's old premises to its current location on Errol Street.
David was known for his efficiency, fairness, good judgement, and strong sense of duty. His long interest in religion resulted in several books; other interests included the history of ideas in psychometrics and a love of horticulture. A thanksgiving service for his life will be held on Friday 17th November; please contact the Society for details.
Jen Rogers appointed president of mathematical sciences at BSA
Congratulations to our vice president for external affairs, Jen Rogers, who has just been appointed president of mathematical sciences at the British Science Association for 2018.
The BSA organises many initiatives across the UK, including British Science Week, the annual British Science Festival and the CREST Awards. The Mathematical Sciences Section organises many of its own events, which are detailed on its webpage.
Jen is director of statistical consultancy services at the University of Oxford having previously worked as a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Statistics. She has been vice-president for external affairs at the Royal Statistical Society since the beginning of 2017.
Julian Mund new chief executive of PLSA
Congratulations to RSS fellow Julian Mund, who has been appointed the chief executive of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) as of 1 August 2017.
Julian joined the PLSA in September 2013 as Commercial Services Director and has been instrumental in growing the organisation’s commercial income by 29% and improving the overall quality and breadth of the PLSA’s offering. Prior to joining the PLSA, Julian worked at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) for 16 years, most recently acting as Director of Markets and Product Development, as well as at the Department for Education.
Julian said he was 'absolutely delighted' a the appointment to an organisation which represents more than 1,300 pension schemes, 20 million savers and 400 service providers.
Former RSS president receives honorary degree from Bristol University
Professor Bernard Silverman, chief scientific advisor to the Home Office and RSS past president (2010), has been awarded with a Doctor of Science honorary degree from his former institution, the University of Bristol. Prof Silverman spent ten years as professor of statistics at the university, from 1993-2003.
He received his degree on 18 July 2017 alongside Professor Stephen Frankel, Dr Russell Hamilton CBE and Richard W Pound at a degree ceremony in the Wills Memorial Building.
RSS fellow Dr Carl Michael O’Brien has been awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the latest Queen’s birthday honour list, for services to the management of internationally-shared fisheries. Carl said he was 'both extremely surprised and absolutely delighted' at receiving the honour, adding: 'I never dreamt of ever receiving this award of a CBE.'
Carl is chief fisheries science adviser at Cefas and explains how his career led him to specialise in this area: 'As an applied statistician, I have had an eclectic career – from modelling multi-component radioactive decay processes, determining three-dimensional crystal structures, developing commercial numerical software packages to modelling the phenology of tropical trees whilst working in the Brazilian Amazon. Over twenty years ago I changed direction and embarked upon the most rewarding period of scientific discovery working in fisheries science – first as a research scientist and then as a science adviser to our government ministers.'
He also pays tribute to his colleagues over the years. 'Personally, I am fortunate to have worked with many eminent scientists, both nationally and internationally, throughout my career, who have given freely of their time. Surrounded by a professional and strong team around me in Cefas and Defra, this award owes much to them as it does to my own endeavours. Too many to mention individually, I thank you all and hope that this award inspires our aspiring young scientists to embark upon careers in the scientific civil service.'
Congratulations to Patrick Wolfe, RSS fellow and professor of statistics and computer science at University College London, who has been chosen as the next Frederick L Hovde Dean of the College of Science at Purdue University in Indiana, USA. Patrick will join Purdue on July 17 where he will be responsible for the seven departments in the College of Science: biological sciences; chemistry; computer science; earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences; mathematics; physics and astronomy; and statistics.
Patrick is the founding executive director of UCL’s Big Data Institute and is a trustee and non-executive director of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute. He is also a past recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House. Mitch Daniels, president of Perdue, said: ‘Data science [...] is increasingly essential to leadership across the disciplines. Given these realities, Patrick Wolfe is a world-class recruit and a perfect fit for this critical position.’