RSS president Sir David Spiegelhalter has co-signed a letter on the Society's behalf to the prime minister of Greece in support of the former head of Greece’s statistical authority (ELSTAT), Andreas Georgiou.
The letter, published on European Statistics Day, urges the Greek government ‘to unambiguously take all actions necessary to publicly defend against any efforts to undermine the credibility of the Greek statistics produced by Andreas Georgiou and his former colleagues.’
Georgiou was given a two-year prison sentence earlier this year, convicted for failing to put Greece’s revised deficit figures to the board of Greece’s Statistical Authority for approval, despite having been acquitted of the same charges in December 2016.
At the time, Georgiou said: ‘In Europe we do not put statistical results up for voting. I would defend and apply the principle again today with no hesitation and so should every head of statistical authority.’ The American Statistical Association (ASA) was quick to issue its support, saying that the decision to retry him amounted to ‘double-jeopardy’.
European statistical organisations have now added their voice collectively through a letter from FENStatS - an association of 20+ European national scientific societies of statistics, of which the RSS is a member.
The FENStatS letter points out that during Georgiou’s five-year term, his figures and methodology 'are still used today by Greece in its official actions vis-à-vis the EU, and have been validated by Eurostat'.
These prosecutions, the letter says, 'raise alarms about the continuing politicisation of statistics in Greece'.
Also mentioned is the personal cost to those involved. ‘The legal convictions against these modern Greek statisticians are unjustified, they destroy their professional and private lives.’
The letter concludes: ‘We again respectfully urge that the Greek authorities halt any further prosecutions of Andreas Georgiou. We also urge that he be promptly reimbursed for all legal costs and that Greece publicly apologise to him.’
President of the RSS, Sir David Spiegelhalter, said: 'Andreas Georgiou is a man whose only "crime" was to ensure that his team provided the Greek government with accurate, if unwelcome, statistics. Since then he has been repeatedly been cleared of wrongdoing, only to have the charges reinstated.
Alongside my European counterparts, I urge the Greek authorities to halt any further action against Andreas and his former colleagues. It has been a shocking episode which demonstrates the need for constant vigilance to protect statisticians and statistical integrity.
On European Statistics Day, it is only right to highlight this case and to defend Andreas, his colleagues and their professional integrity: he has been under a sustained political attack for far too long.'
The RSS has expressed support for Georgiou in the past, via a letter from our then President John Pullinger. Significance, the Society's flagship magazine, also recently published an interview with Georgiou.