RSS sections and groups meeting reports

RSS Merseyside local group: Anticipating extreme events

Written by Maria Sudell on . Posted in Sections and local group meeting reports

On December 6 2017, the RSS Merseyside local group hosted an afternoon session concerning 'Showcasing Statistics in Industry in Merseyside'. There were 40 people in attendance, approximately half of whom were RSS members.

As usual, the majority of attendees were from a range of departments at the University of Liverpool. In addition, there were also attendees from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Unilever and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. A larger number of undergraduate students from the university attended this meeting than previous meetings.

The afternoon commenced with a talk from Paul Pinnington and Mark Attwood from HMRC. An example of the work a statistician might do at the HMRC was given, namely working in costings for government policies eg the uptake of electric cars by businesses and private individuals. Another example was modelling the likelihood of businesses going into debt, in order to identify higher risk groups so that communication with such groups could be altered to reduce their risk of debt.

The second talk was given by David Leigh from HSE on the role of a government statistician. HSE’s mission is to prevent work related death, injury and ill health. Statisticians work with the data (which is collected by law), process the data as a team, and prepare statistical releases. The HSE works with the UK Statistics Authority to produce measures and outputs. An example of the impact of their work is that research into slips and trips for certain types of workers e.g. prison officers lead to a change in their footwear.

The third talk was given by Fiona Baines, a senior statistician at Unilever. Fiona talked about the wide-ranging work conducted by statisticians in Unilever. For example, statisticians are involved in developing experimental tests used when building robots for their Materials Innovations Factory, as well as developing automation in the production of reports and analyses. Statisticians are also involved in trials of products, such as new toothpastes, and also take part in Unilever’s sustainable living plan, which includes a programme to promote handwashing in order to decrease child mortality in areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

After a break for mince pies and other festive refreshments, the session reconvened with Dr Rob Gandy, visiting professor at the Liverpool Business School at Liverpool John Moores University, who spoke about the NHS and statistics. The talk commenced with a flowchart depicting the complexity of the health service and the various points at which data could be collected for the journey of a patient during treatment for breast cancer. The various areas in which statisticians are needed within healthcare were identified, including working in public health, cancer registers, in NICE, clinical trials, finance and planning projects for the future.

There were a range of questions from attendees in the room, including questions about the impacts of the examples of work given. All speakers gave descriptions of their day to day life as a working statistician, and a summary of how attendees could access more information about careers in their industries.

The next meeting of the RSS Merseyside local group, titled Wildlife Statistics, will take place will take place on February 7 at 2pm, with confirmed speakers Richard Glennie (University of St Andrews) and Dr Marcus Rowcliffe (Zoological Society of London). Further details of this, and all future talks, are available on the Merseyside local group website:

Merseyside local group

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