RSS Council ballot results

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The results of this year’s Council member ballot have just been announced.
 
A total of 1,278 votes were cast, representing a turn-out of 20 per cent, and the votes were counted using the single transferable vote system.
 
The following members were declared elected:
 
  • Professor Steve Brooks
  • Dr Helen Clough
  • Professor Peter Diggle
  • Dr Rob Mastrodomenico
  • Dr Moira Mugglestone
  • Mr Stephen Pyke
  • Professor Geert Verbeke
 
Members of Council serve a four-year term and are also trustees of the Society. More information on Council’s role in the Society is available here.
 
Further details of the vote can be obtained in by emailing Sarah Simpson at Errol Street.
 

Business & Industrial Section AGM 2012

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The annual general meeting of the Society’s Business & Industrial Section will take place at the start of the next meeting of the Section on Wednesday 28 November 2012 at the RSS in London.
 
In accordance with the regulations of the section, the following are recommended by the section committee as members of the committee for the 2013 session:
 
Chair: Housh Mashhoudy (Coventry University)
Vice-chair: Giuliana Battisti (Warwick University)
Secretary: Kirsty Horrocks (Johnson and Johnson Inverness))
Meetings secretary: Jake Ansell (Edinburgh University)
*Gordon Blunt (Gordon Blunt Analytics Ltd)
Steve Ellison (LGC)
Trevor Duguid Farrant (Kraft Foods)
Dean Fletcher (ONS Newport)
Giovanni Montana (Imperial College)
*David Smallbone (Asset Management Consulting)
Ben Torsney (Glasgow University)
Kostas Triantafyllopoulos (Sheffield University)
 
Unless alternative nominations are received by the theme manager for sections Paul Gentry before 14 November, these persons will be declared elected at the annual general meeting.
 
* indicates new member
 

RSS long term strategy ratified by Council

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At its June meeting, the RSS Council approved the final recommendations of the Long Term Strategy Group, which provides a route map for the future work of the Society in the period 2014-2018.
 
The paper, which is downloadable from this page, is the result of a consultation process that began in April 2012 that included input from individuals, committees and other stakeholders. In March 2013 the Society invited comments from fellows on a draft document, and the feedback from that has now been incorporated into the final recommendations to Council.
 
The 2014-2018 Strategic Plan is now a public document which outlines six strategic  goals that will provide the direction for the next five years. The strapline ‘Data, Evidence, Decisions’ will be adopted to augment the RSS logo to explain to the wider world the context within which the Society operates, using words that are readily understood. An outward facing document will be developed by the Society in due course to communicate the strategy more widely. This strapline directly links to a vision statement: ‘Where data are at the heart of understanding and decision making.’
 
The document summarises six strategic goals, where the Society works to support statistics, statisticians and society. It includes four core goals (1-4 below) which relate directly to the Charter and two (5 and 6) that support the achievement of these core goals.
 
  1. For statistics to be used effectively in the public interest, so that policy formulation and decision-making are evidence based, for the good of society.
     
  2. For society to be more statistically literate, so that people’s understanding of data, risk, and probability can inform their daily decision-making, leading to better outcomes.
     
  3. For a strong body of professional statisticians to maintain and develop the skills they need so that they can critically apply methodology, interpret results and communicate findings.
     
  4. For statistics as a discipline to thrive, so that methodology is advanced, applied and made accessible, leading to greater understanding of an increasingly complex world.
     
  5. For an engaged and energised membership and staff to work collaboratively with partner organisations and other stakeholders in meeting these goals, so that the Society can maximise its impact.
     
  6. For the RSS to be a financially sustainable and well run organisation, with effective governance and use of technology, so that it will grow in relevance, exert influence and have wider impact.
 
The group would like to thank everyone involved in the process and who provided feedback, including sections and local groups, various RSS committees, individual members, and external stakeholders.
 
Download the document by clicking here (links directly to Word document).
 

Society reaffirms its position on open data in clinical trials

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The RSS has reaffirmed its support of open data in clinical trials in the light of recent developments that may lead to data from clinical trials of pharmaceuticals being more readily available.
 
In September this year, doctor and columnist Ben Goldacre published his second book, Bad Pharma, which is heavily critical of the availability of clinical trial data, or lack thereof, regarding certain pharmaceuticals. In a recent interview, Goldacre stated: ‘We need to make sure that all results from all clinical trials are always published, with no exceptions. What’s more, we need to go and dig up all the results from trials that were run in the past, because those are the trials that were done on the drugs that we are currently using.’
 
In October, GlaxoSmithKline announced that from January 2013 it will allow researchers to have access to data relating to its clinical trials, subject to approval from an independent panel of experts. Trial data collected since 2007 will be placed on a password protected website and earlier data, in non-digital formats, would be made available on ‘an ad hoc basis’.
 
The British Medical Journal’s editor-in-chief, Fiona Godlee, praised GSK’s decision and said medical journals ‘could leverage their power and publish only where there is a commitment to make the relevant anonymised patient level data available on reasonable request.’ She announced that as of 1 January 2013, BMJ would only publish clinical trials of drugs for which full data are openly available.
 
Availability of social and scientific data has long been championed by the RSS; back in June 2011 the Society issued a statement on the matter, saying that it was ‘crucially important that the results of scientific research should be made publicly available and disseminated as widely as is practical in a timely fashion after completion of the scientific investigation.’ The RSS statement also stressed that ‘decisions to publish should not be based on whether research findings are “positive” or “negative”’.
 

Society hosts dial-in meeting for professional statisticians

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PSF online event
The Society’s Professional Statisticians’ Forum (PSF) held its first virtual meeting in June, using the Society’s teleconferencing system.
 
The meeting, titled ‘A statistical career in engineering and industry’, featured Tim Davis outlining his 30+ year career in industry, at Dunlop, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, through to setting up his own consulting business. More than 35 members, many from outside the UK, signed in and participated in the discussion. Slides from the meeting are currently available on the PSF webpage www.rss.org.uk/psf and a podcast of the meeting will be made available shortly.

Nate Silver’s US election predictions hailed as a victory for statistics

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The outcome of the US presidential elections was so close to the prediction made by statistician Nate Silver, that it has been deemed by some as a victory for statistics itself.
 
Nate Silver, who blogs for the New York Times, predicted the outcome of this election when he gave Barack Obama a ‘nearly three in four chance’ of winning the election back in September. Since then he has consistently put President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney, despite Romney leading in several national polls during that time.
 
Silver is famed for using statistical models to predict elections based on poll results and historical form. During the weeks running up to the election he admitted that he was ‘running about 40,000 Electoral College simulations each day.’ He was, however, heavily criticised by some political commentators who believed his calculations to be biased in Obama’s favour. Josh Jordan, of the political website The National Review, said that the distribution that  the ‘weighting’ Silver’s calculations attributed to state polls were ‘highly subjective’ and gave an edge to Obama. Silver recently responded on Twitter to criticism by MSNBC presenter and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, by challenging him to a $1,000 bet on the election outcome.
 
It was not just Silver crunching numbers to predict the election result, however. Professor Sam Wang, a biophysics statistician at Princeton and blogger at the Princeton Election Consortium, also correctly predicted the outcome of the election using mathematical models based on polls. Betting companies were also calling the election earlier than the pundits, as Mike Smithson of PoliticalBetting.com noted: ‘even when Betfair punters had all but given up on Romney the media was still calling it a tight race,’ he said.
 
The results now show that Silver predicted every single state outcome accurately and many are hailing the election result as not just a victory for Obama, but also for statistics. Rafa Irizarry of the Simply Statistics website yesterday wondered: ‘Will the Pundits Finally Accept Defeat?’ in a blogpost responding to the outcome.
 
Mark Henderson, head of communications at the Wellcome Trust, said on his blog: ‘The success of Silver and Wang shows that geeks have something rather important to contribute to political analysis, which is rather more valuable than much punditry. I hope editors take note.’ Simon Singh, author and TV presenter, tweeted: ‘Obama’s win a big vindication for Nate Silver, king of the quants.’
 

Forthcoming ISI conference focuses on building statistical capacity in developing countries

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The International Statistical Institute (ISI) is about to hold a conference centered around the theme of building statistical capacity in developing countries.
 
The ‘Expertise Builds Capacity’ conference, which takes place in Daejeon in South Korea on November 14-15, 2012, features speakers from statistical organisations around the world. RSS executive director Hetan Shah will talk about how the RSS works to build statistical capacity and literacy amongst key audiences in society, and Stephen Penneck – President of the International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS) – will look at funding opportunities for capacity building projects.
 
High-ranking and senior statisticians are also due to deliver talks; former Australian Statistician Dennis Trewin will talk about conditions for succeeding in building statistical capacity projects and Oliver Chinganya, from the African Development Bank, will look at capacity building with regards official statistics.
 
The conference’s main aim is to exchange knowledge in this area and explore the role that the ISI should play, be it through education programmes, fostering young statisticians or by helping to develop the right infrastructure.
 

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