We are delighted at the news that one of our statistical ambassadors, Robert Cuffe, is to take up the position of head of statistics at BBC News.
The post was created to help the Corporation ‘to better tell stories that contain numbers and data’. In his new role, which starts in September 2017, Robert will act as a consultant to BBC journalists across the News division, and will work closely with the data team within Visual Journalism on stories where complex statistical analysis is needed.
Robert is a chartered statistician working at GSK. He was until recently the head of statistics at ViiV Healthcare, where he worked on HIV prevention and making clinical trial data available to researchers. Robert also chaired the UK pharmaceutical statisticians’ industry body, PSI, where he helped set up the Science Media Centre’s ‘Before the headlines’ project (also supported by the RSS).
Robert was one of the RSS’s first cohort of statistical ambassadors and since joining the scheme, has given a talk on statistical concepts (along with former RSS vice president Kevin McConway) to health journalists from national media outlets such as BBC, The Sun and Reuters and to press officers at universities and lectured at City University to journalism students. He has also taught stats to both statisticians and non-statisticians in drug companies and talked about statistics to school students.
Robert feels that much of his experience relevant to his new post was gained through the statistical ambassadors scheme and encourages others to do the same. ‘I don't think my application would have been successful without the RSS stats ambassadors programme,’ he says. ‘The programme has been important to me personally, largely because the RSS helped me find opportunities that fit my profile, skills and desired development - opportunities that I trotted out one-after-the-other during my interviews. I hope my appointment goes down as one of the success stories for the programme.’
The RSS has been pushing for improved statistical literacy in the media as part of our core aims for statistics to be used effectively in the public interest and for society to be more statistically literate. The Society has run a number of courses for journalists and also offers free online courses for journalists on science and statistics. More recently, the RSS contributed to a review by Jil Matheson on the impartiality of the BBC's reporting of statistics, in which the RSS commented that the lack of comprehensive statistical guidance at the corporation was 'a cause for concern’. As a result of this review, the new position of head of statistics was created along with new editorial policy guidance on reporting statistics (to which senior RSS fellows contributed).
The Society wishes Robert all the best in his new role and looks forward to working with him in future.