RSS fellows to play key roles in the Alan Turing Institute

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Five RSS fellows are to play key roles in the ongoing development of the Alan Turing Institute, which was officially launched last Wednesday at an event attended by science and universities minister Jo Johnson and government chief scientific advisor Mark Walport. 

Among those joining chairman Howard Covington on the Institute’s board as a non-executive director is John Aston, professor of statistics at Cambridge's StatsLab, who until last year was secretary of the RSS's Research Section. Patrick Wolfe (pictured, above right), professor of statistics and honorary professor of computer science at University College London, is deputy director, working with director Andrew Blake to lead the Institute.

Wolfe, an associate editor of the RSS Series B journal and member of the Society’s Research Section and Conference Board, said, ‘I'm delighted to be helping lead our efforts on behalf of the UK's new national institute for data science. Modern statistics has a great deal to contribute to - and to learn from - this exciting new interface with computer science, the broader mathematical sciences and application areas.  As statisticians, we have a responsibility to develop new methodologies to help practitioners ask and answer the types of questions that arise from the new types and volumes of data which surround us in our modern world.’

Other RSS fellows have taken roles in the Institute’s executive team; Sofia Olhede, Mark Girolami and Zoubin Ghahramani are university liaison directors for universities partnered with the Institute - UCL, Warwick and Cambridge respectively.

Sofia Olhede (pictured, above left) has been involved in helping to set up the Institute over the past year, and led the initial scientific direction-setting as chair of the Institute's Interim Programme Committee. 'Part of this has involved setting up some 30 workshops within the data science community, which are taking place at the Institute, and at universities around the country this autumn until early next year; the results of which will then be published,' she explains. The workshops are running concurrently with a series of 'data summits' with the wider science community, which aims to work out the current range of data science capability and requirements for the future. The Institute has established a roadmap which the current scoping work will feed into.

Olhede says it is encouraging that there is such a strong presence of statisticians at the Institute and hopes that more RSS members can become involved. 'We feel very supported by the RSS and are keen to maintain links with the Society,' she says. She also hopes that eligible RSS members will apply for the Institute's new prestigious Alan Turing Fellowships (see link below).

Mark Girolami, professor of statistics at Warwick University, will work with Andrew Blake in setting the research strategy of the institute and building a statistics research programme. ‘It’s great that we have so many RSS members appointed,’ he says. ‘As a member of the RSS Research Section, vice chair of the Statistical Computing Section and member of the Strategic Advisory Team in Mathematical Sciences for the EPSRC, I see this role as an important one in highlighting the importance of the discipline of statistics in the new emerging data science landscape.'

The Alan Turing Institute is one of a number of data analysis hubs now in operation globally; the US has recently established the Simons Center for Data Analysis and Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS). In France, there is now a Paris-Saclay Center for Data Science.

Last week’s launch event also saw the announcement of a new strategic partnership with Intel (which now joins the Lloyds Register Foundation and GCHQ as key partners), along with the creation of new prestigious Alan Turing Fellowships.


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