RSS Council meeting: March 2020

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Council, the Trustees of the Society, met for the first time in 2020 on 24 March in what was a very productive session. As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Council meeting was conducted by teleconference.

The Society’s president, Deborah Ashby, welcomed Sylvia Richardson to her first Council meeting in her role as president-elect.


Nicola Emmerson, the Society’s acting chief executive, updated Council on how the RSS office was responding to the Covid-19 lockdown. She advised that all staff were working remotely, and that some events had been cancelled, but where possible colleagues work working to either move events online or postpone them. Nicola said that it had been necessary to cancel some training courses, and the team were looking at the possibility of offering more online training.

There was a discussion about how the Society should respond to Covid-19 in terms of policy and external affairs work. It was noted that many fellows of the Society were working extremely hard to respond to the crisis, for example by developing statistical modelling to assist planners with predicting and managing the demand being placed on healthcare systems. Council members advised that Significance, the RSS magazine, would be publishing a series of short, accessible articles to help readers make sense of the plethora of data which is in circulation on Covid-19. Council noted that a call for contributions was on the Significance website. Deborah Ashby and Sylvia Richardson agreed that they would continue to work with other fellows to co-ordinate the Society’s policy work on Covid-19.

Moira Mugglestone, honorary officer for staffing, updated Council on progress regarding the recruitment of a new RSS chief executive. She advised that interviews would take place by teleconference on 25 March, and the Society hoped to make an appointment in the very near future.

Council was pleased to make a number of appointments which will take effect from January 2021. The meeting resolved that from this date, Christl Donnelly would become vice president for external affairs, Scott Heald would be honorary officer for conferences and events, and Blaise Egan would be honorary officer for sections and local groups. Council also approved the appointment of Trevor Llanwarne as chair of the Audit & Risk Committee from June 2020.

Karen Facey, honorary officer for sections and local groups, presented a report on the work of these groups. Council thanked Karen for this update, and noted that it was very positive to see that the Society’s 16 sections and 18 local groups were doing so much valuable work, and that three new special interest groups had been formed, on Finance & Economics, Teaching Statistics and Women in Data Science & Statistics.

Nicola Emmerson updated Council on the ongoing work to review and update the Society’s Charter and Bylaws. It was noted that Council and the Executive Committee had held a number of discussions about the proposed revisions, and there was a consensus that Council members were content with the draft documents. Council resolved that the revised charter and bylaws should be put before a general meeting of the Society's members. It was agreed that the Annual General Meeting in September 2020 would be a suitable opportunity to seek approval for the proposed revisions.

Finally, Nicola Emmerson updated Council on the Society’s membership figures. She advised that the RSS continues to have over 10,000 members (over 6,000 of whom are full fellows, with most of the remainder being e-members). Nicola advised that over 13% of fellows were employees of RSS corporate partner organisations. She went on to explain that once the new customer relationship management database was implemented, this would significantly improve the service being offered to members.

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