Conference 2018: Building statistical capacity and filling data gaps

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The breadth of the data required to measure the SDGs has tested even the most advanced statistical systems and this session looked at how governments and organisations are coming up with a variety of ways to fill the gaps.

Deirdre Appel from Open Data Watch (who also spoke at the conference’s session on gender data gaps) talked about building statistical literacy as well as capacity through the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With 232 indicators requiring data and some countries not even having a regular census or death registration statistics, there is a clear gap in capacity. Building partnerships between private and public sector/government is the aim, Deirdre said, but this will take resources and funding to achieve.

RSS helps define new poverty measure

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The RSS has helped the Social Metrics Commission (SMC) formulate a new poverty metric (PDF) which takes into account factors such as assets and 'inescapable costs' that can affect people's spending power. The new data shows who is poor now and how that has changed over time, to provide a clear focus for policy makers.

The SMC, an independent non-partisan commission founded in 2016 by Baroness Stroud, brought together poverty specialists with data/analytical experts to develop a new approach to measuring poverty. RSS executive director, Hetan Shah, was one of the commissioners along with representatives from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Conference 2018: How do we measure the ‘sharing economy’?

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Pauline Beck

You might have read about the 'sharing economy', but what is it exactly? That’s a question the statisticians at the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) have been wrestling with.

Speaking at RSS Conference on Wednesday afternoon, Pauline Beck gave an overview of the work ONS has done to date, all of which stemmed from a recommendation in the Bean Review of economic statistics, calling for more data on this relatively new part of the UK economy.

RSS responds to consultation regarding new data ethics centre

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On behalf of members, the RSS has responded to a government consultation into the role and remit of the proposed new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI).

The new CDEI was confirmed by the chancellor at the 2017 Autumn Budget to oversee the future development of algorithms and the ‘decisions’ they make, while maintaining public trust. Roger Taylor, the co-founder of Dr Foster and current chair of Ofqual, was announced as chair in June 2018; following that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) invited ‘all those who have an interest and stake in the way data use and AI are governed and regulated’ to submit their views to this consultation.

More ‘Hands-on’ materials to inspire students with statistics

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The RSS has launched four new activities designed to engage with students and young people at careers fairs, at festivals and in schools. The new ‘Hands-on’ resources consist of short, practical activities for face-to-face interactions, which can be extended for use in school workshops.

The ‘Hands-on’ activities, available to download at, were launched at the RSS Conference 2018, a year after the first four were launched at the 2017 Conference.

Conference 2018: Does Britain still back Brexit?

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John Curtice

Has Britain changed its mind about Brexit? That was the question explored by John Curtice, probably the UK’s most famous pollster, during his keynote presentation on the final day of RSS Conference.

The talk followed days of media coverage of a report Curtice had overseen for NatCen Social Research, which suggested that were a second referendum to be held now, 59% would support Britain remaining in the European Union, up from 48% who voted remain in 2016.

Conference 2018: Fraser Nelson on why fake stats have such virality

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Fraser Nelson

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has 'always been fascinated by the way statistics shape public debate'. But like many today, he is worried by the ease with which fake facts are pedalled to, and accepted by, the masses.

In an address to RSS Conference on Thursday, he despaired at how misinterpretations and falsehoods gain rapid virality – especially those that the present the world, our society or a particular issue in an unfairly negative light.

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