Society announces winners of RSS Statistical Excellence Awards

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The RSS Statistical Excellence Awards, which celebrate statistical excellence in journalism, official statistics and in the pharmaceutical industry, have just been announced (PDF).

The awards celebrate the application of statistics in the above three fields and are given out at an awards ceremony held during the Society’s annual conference, along with the presentation of the Society’s honours and medals.

The winners names, along with a brief explanation of their work and what impressed the judges, are listed below.

2014 RSS Award for Statistical Excellence in Journalism

In the Broadcast category, the unanimous winner was Adam Blenford's BBC News report ‘100 women: what chance does a young girl have?’, which he created with David Botti and Fiona Crack. The report used animation to explore the lives of women today and communicate the issue of gender inequality across the globe. The judges were impressed at how the team had used animation to effectively explore a very important issue and to convey the key points. It was high impact, with good graphics that conveyed a clear message.

Two other BBC programmes, both from Radio 4, were commended by the judges for making statistical concepts accessible to a much wider audience. The More or Less broadcast, ‘An army of drunken children’ explored the claim that over 300 young children had presented at Accident and Emergency Units in the previous year through drunkenness. The judges praised the way the programme highlighted the problems that arise when not considering the number in context, the source of the data and how they were collected.

Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage team was also commended for its programme on risk which explored how attitudes to risk are influenced by one’s own perceptions and prejudice. The judges were impressed by the range of examples that clearly explained the issues in a useful, simple fashion.

In the Print category there were two joint winners, both deemed excellent by the judges in their own way. Guardian journalist James Ball’s article ‘The Thatcher effect: what changed and what stayed the same’ was commended by the judges for the fair, unbiased and accessible manner in which it sought to examine the lasting impact of Margaret Thatcher using an analysis of contemporary and historical statistical data.

The award was also given to Jan Piotrowski of the Economist for his examination of why the findings of much scientific research is likely to be wrong - and its consequences. The article drew together a range of evidence and the judges commended the article for its use of graphics to aid explanation and the way in which it defined key statistical concepts in easy-to-understand terms.

In the Online category, which has now been running for four years, the award goes to Chris Cook, Martin Stabe and Cleve Jones at the Financial Times for their work on a piece titled ‘The problem with education statistics’ which examined the flaws in the current system of evaluating and comparing schools. The work submitted was part of a two-year project that explored social mobility in education achievement and used a range of methods - print, animation, links to other articles and links to the data on which the analysis was based. In particular, Chris Cook developed his own more nuanced index for assessing school achievement, explaining through the use of animation, how flawed the current metric was and how his new metric was calculated.

2014 RSS Award for Statistical Excellence in the Pharmaceutical Industry (awarded jointly by the Royal Statistical Society and PSI)

The award recognises statistical innovation or outstanding application of existing statistical practice that has strengthened investigations in the pharmaceutical industry. The judges in particular look for work that can inform other users of statistics in the pharmaceutical industry and widen the applicability of their work.

The latter was particularly in evidence with this year’s winner is Craig Mallinckrodt, a research fellow at Eli Lilly & Company, based in Indianapolis, USA. Craig’s book, Preventing and Treating Missing Data in Longitudinal Clinical Trials, provides a comprehensive ‘analytic roadmap’ for missing data in longitudinal clinical studies. His work drew together many strands of academic research on analysis techniques and has since influenced regulators, academics and pharmaceutical companies alike in their approach to the treatment of missing data. It has also been praised for being accessible to a wide variety of researchers.

2014 Award for Statistical Excellence in Official Statistics (awarded jointly by the RSS with the UK Statistics Authority)

For the main award there were joint winners out of the total 15 entries received on a diverse range of topics and techniques.

Using centrally held administrative data and statistical modelling techniques, the Ministry of Justice created the Justice Data Lab to help organisations working with ex-offenders measure the impact of the work they did. Judges were impressed by the use of statistical techniques to assess success (or failure) in a critical area and by the exceptionally close way MoJ statisticians had worked with their users, mainly non-statisticians.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) won its third award in this category for its National Energy Efficiency Database (NEED), a data linking project that utilises private and public sector administrative data to provide insight into how energy is used in different types of households. Judges were impressed by one of the major outputs from the project, www.comparemyenergy.org.uk which helps householders to assess their energy use as well as providing more information about energy saving potential generally.

This year, a prize for the ‘most improved statistical release’ was offered, in addition to the main award. The inaugural winner of this award was judged to be the Children’s Social Work Statistics for Scotland. In the words of one of the judges, ‘the new release is very clear with an excellent use of context, positive user feedback and high impact’.

Official Statistics RSS Excellence Awards

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