Society adds support to petition for full clinical trial transparency

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The Royal Statistical Society has added its support to a campaign lobbying governments, regulators and research bodies to publish all results of clinical trials, whether the results are good or bad.
 
The RSS has signed the ‘All Trials Registered, All Results Reported’ petition, an initiative of Sense About Science, Bad Science, BMJ, James Lind Alliance, the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine and other research, patient groups and medicine.

ESRC seeks committee members for 2013

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The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is currently inviting applications from suitably experienced individuals to be members of its committees.
 
The ESRC has several committees. Three policy committees – the Methods and Infrastructure Committee, Research Committee and the Training and Skills Committee – each represent the main sections of its research portfolio and work alongside the Audit Committee and the Evaluation Committee, which help measure the overall effectiveness of the ESRC’s work.
 
Successful applicants are normally appointed for two years and committee members are expected to commit at least 10 working days per year.
 
The application deadline is 18 March 2013. Further details, including vacancy specifications and application forms, are currently available on the ESRC website.
 

RSS member offer – free course: Data Scientist and Big Data Analytics

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The Royal Statistical Society has been offered a free place for one of its members to attend a new data science course, which provides a hands-on practitioner’s approach to the techniques and tools required for analysing big data.
 
Course provider EMC Greenplum is holding the invitation-only five-day Data Scientist and Big Data Analytics class, based in Bracknell, from the 4-8 March. There are just 12 places, one of which is being offered to a Royal Statistical Society member.
 
The course and accompanying exam is aimed at: business and data analysts looking to expand their skills in big data; managers of big data groups, business intelligence or analytics; database professionals looking to enrich their analytic skills; or college graduates considering data science as a career. The content of the course is currently utilised by a number of universities in the US.
 
Members interested in attending the course should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 31 January 2013 to register their interest. We will pick one person at random to attend the course and will contact them by 4 February to let them know they have been chosen.
 
The chosen participant should be:
 
  • Free and able to attend the course in the dates mentioned above
     
  • Able to provide their own food and accommodation for the duration of the course
     
  • Willing to take the exam at the end of the course to obtain the official accreditation
     
  • Willing to provide feedback to the course providers on the course and its content.
 
Good luck!
 

DWP launches statistics consultation

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The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a consultation around proposals to change the way its statistics are collected and disseminated, the outcome of which will shape DWP statistics through to 2017 and beyond.
 
The changes are being made in part to reflect the current benefit reforms taking place, such as the introduction of Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit.
 
The consultation document contains a series of proposals on which user views are requested. Key proposals include the development of Stat-Xplore, an online interactive data analysis and visualisation tool which will allow users to explore DWP statistics. The first phase of the site is currently being trialled and contains data on housing benefit claimants.
 
Statistics for the newly introduced Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment will be published along with those on the other DWP benefits, and over time, a wider range of breakdowns will be made available from the data source. New statistics on those affected by the Benefit Cap will also be published once it is introduced. These, and other statistics, will be produced monthly and published three and a half months after the reference date.
 
Comments on these proposals should be made by 24 April 2013, and any users of these statistics interested in registering their views can do so at the StatsUserNet website.
 

Education secretary announces A level reforms in England

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The education secretary Michael Gove has outlined proposals to scrap the modular nature of A levels in England, indicating that he wants AS levels to become a standalone qualification and no longer contribute to a full A level. He also proposed re-introducing A level assessment by exam at the end of two years.
 
In a letter (opens as pdf) to Glenys Stacey, chief executive of the Office of Qualifications and Exam Regulation (Ofqual), Gove set out the reasoning behind the proposed changes, citing a ‘clear dissatisfaction’ with A levels among academics. ‘Mathematicians are concerned that current A level questions are overly structured and encourage a formulaic approach, instead of using more open-ended questions that require advanced problem-solving,’ he wrote.
 
The education secretary proposed that AS levels should become a standalone qualification; under this system, AS levels would no longer contribute to a full A level, which would become fully linear, with assessment taking place at the end of the course.
 
‘Moving to a linear A level assessed at the end of two years will address the issues of modularity and resits leading to grade inflation,’ he wrote. ‘This will allow students to develop a better understanding of their subject through the greater maturity that will be developed over two years of study – something that I know teachers believe can be particularly important for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.’
 
In his letter, Gove also announced that the Russell Group of universities would be advising Ofqual on the content of the A levels most commonly required in university admissions. ‘The involvement of respected academics will help to ensure that the qualifications are designed to equip students for university,’ he said.
 
Gove claimed that the changes in A levels would ‘restore their reputation’ and proposed that the reformed qualifications be ready for the classroom by 2015.
 
Although only recently announced, the proposal has already sparked a mixed response. While Kevin Stannard of the Girls’ Day School Trust said that the reforms would ‘put teaching above testing’, Brian Lightman of The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was ‘a classic case of fixing something that isn’t broken’. Teaching unions have also voiced grave doubts about the reforms.
 
The RSS will be considering the detail of the proposals and provide a response in due course.
 

Society welcomes ‘Fair Data’ initiative

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The Market Research Society (MRS) has just launched a new ‘Fair Data’ mark for personal data. The mark will indicate to the public that organisations signed up to the initiative will use and retain personal data properly and ethically.
 
The Fair Data logo can be used by public and private sector organisations who sign up to ten core principles. The ten core principles will be supplemented by an advisory service for participating organisations, including face-to-face, telephone and email support plus seminars on best practice. For those not already accredited by MRS, a third party audit will be undertaken upon joining the scheme.
 
The UK’s Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has welcomed the initiative, saying: ‘Organisations need to make a public, visible commitment to standards in the handling of the personal data of others.’
 
‘In a world awash with data it is more important than ever that organisations can demonstrate to the public that their data is collected and used ethically,’ said Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society. ‘The Fair Data initiative is an important step in making this happen.’
 

Council meeting 30 January 2013

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Council met yesterday (30 January) for the first time in 2013, chaired by the new president John Pullinger. 
 
Diana Garnham, chief executive of the Science Council, attended the meeting and gave a presentation on the work of her organisation and how the RSS works with it.
 
Council received an update from former RSS vice president Sheila Bird, who is leading the society’s work on the issue of delayed registration of deaths in England and Wales.  Council had agreed a policy statement in 2012 and commended the work that Sheila has undertaken so far.  There will be a further update on this issue in due course.
 
Another key agenda item was membership and Council examined the membership trends from 2012 as well as preliminary results from the member survey.  The strategy around membership structures was discussed and Council will be looking more closely at this area in the future.
 
Council discussed member communication, prompted by the fact that Frank Duckworth is standing down as editor of RSS NEWS at the end of May, having given the Society twenty years of exemplary voluntary service. Council took the view that it was time to integrate the Society’s member communications into one stream through the e-bulletin and the RSSeNews website, and so the June issue of RSS NEWS will be the last in that form. The Society plans to maintain the type of content in RSS NEWS and integrate it into members’ regular e-bulletins and on the website.
 
Council formally appointed Stephen Pyke as vice president of Professional Affairs, Jenny Freeman as vice president of External Affairs and Kevin McConway as vice president of Academic Affairs for 2013.  It also approved the nominations for the society’s honours which will be announced formally once all of the recipients have been informed.
 

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