Hal Varian’s ‘Statistics at Google’ talk now available to view

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At its conference last year, the RSS hosted a talk by Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian.
 
Footage of his talk is now available to view here.
 
In his talk, Hal outlined how statistics are used at Google in a number of areas, what kind of skills Google finds valuable, and what the future might hold for data analysis in technology-intensive industries.
 
The talk is one of a number of sessions at the conference filmed by the RSS. Footage of other sessions will be uploaded on the RSS conference website in due course.
 
 
 
 

New director at the NCETM

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The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) has announced the appointment of Charlie Stripp, current chief executive of Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI), as its new director.
 
He takes up the post as a part time secondment, thus enabling him to continue his role at the MEI which is one of the NCETM’s consortium partners in developing a CPD programme for maths teachers. Other consortium partners are Tribal, MyScience, and the Institute of Education, University of London.
 
Stripp succeeds Professor Celia Hoyles OBE, who will step down in March 2013 after more than five and a half years’ service. She congratulated Stripp on his appointment and said the NCETM would ‘benefit greatly’ from his experience.
 
 

New Significance board editors

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Significance magazine
Stephen Senn, Idris Eckley, Allan Reese and Michael Wallace have all been appointed to the editorial board of Significance, the bimonthly magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association.
 
Stephen Senn is a former vice president of the RSS (until 2011) where he was responsible for external affairs. He is currently based in Luxembourg, where he works at the Competence Center for Methodology and Statistics at CRP-Santé in Luxembourg, a publicly funded health care research institute. Prior to that he was a professor of statistics at the University of Glasgow. His research interests cover the design and analysis of clinical trials, ethics, meta analysis and reporting and analysing safety data. He also undertakes consultancy work in these areas.
 
Dr Idris Eckley has been a senior lecturer at Lancaster University since August 2007. Prior to that, he worked as a statistical consultant at Shell and completed his PhD at the University of Bristol. Idris is currently deputy director of the STOR-i Doctoral Training Centre and a visiting fellow of the statistics group at the University of Bristol. His primary research interests lie in the development of multiscale methods for the analysis of non-stationary time series and images.

Poster competition launched to help children engage with stats

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The International Statistical Literacy Project has launched its poster competition for 2012-13.
 
The annual competition asks children to design a one-page poster that tells a story about a set of data. It should include graphs, commentary on the meaning of the data, be attractive and also readable from a distance of two metres.
 
This year, children are invited to design a poster relating to the general theme of agriculture. The posters are judged in two age groups: 11-15 year-olds and 16-18-year-olds. Examples of winning entries from previous years can be viewed here.
 
The competition comprises a national competition within each country involved, followed by an international competition to determine the overall winners. This year, these will be announced and the posters displayed at the 59th Congress of the ISI in Hong Kong during August 2013.
 
Registration has begun and teachers need to register their students for the competition by following this link. The deadline for the submission of posters is 15 March 2013.
 

Nuffield study provides further support for new post-16 mathematics qualification

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The Nuffield Foundation has further reinforced the growing consensus that a new mathematics qualification should be introduced for those not studying maths A level in England.
 
Towards universal participation in post-16 mathematics: lessons from high-performing countries’ follows last month’s publication of two reports by ACME, the Advisory Committee for Mathematics Education, which also proposed a new ‘problem solving’ based maths qualification to combat England’s poor participation in maths post-16.
 
The Nuffield study recommends that such a qualification should focus on ‘mathematical fluency, modelling and statistics’ and be built into requirements for higher education in order to encourage take-up. It also recommended that GCSE Mathematics should remain compulsory until students have achieved a satisfactory grade (as previously recommended by 2011’s Wolf report).
 
By comparing maths education in England with Scotland, the USA, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand, the report also noted that in countries where maths was compulsory at this age, it was never the only subject to be so and recommended that other subjects, such as English language, also be made compulsory.
 
It also looked particularly favourably at post-16 education in New Zealand. ‘While we should be careful of the danger of ‘cherry-picking’ policies from other countries, the evidence from New Zealand shows that it is possible to increase participation by providing an alternative pathway, focused on statistics, that is widely recognised and valued by higher education and employers,’ said Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation.
 
Professor Jeremy Hodgen, who led the study, emphasised the importance of consulting the relevant stakeholders – notably higher education, employers, schools and colleges – in order for the new qualification to be valued. He also warned: ‘It’s important not to underestimate the timescale necessary for change, particularly if we are to address the critical shortage of mathematics teachers.’
 
Roeland Beerten, director of public affairs at the RSS, welcomed the report. ‘It is encouraging to see further evidence for the need to develop a qualification which teaches problem solving through statistics,’ he said. ‘It will be important, however, to ensure the qualification will meet a genuine and universally acknowledged need in higher education and employment.
 
‘The RSS is currently conducting research funded by the Actuarial Profession which looks at the requirements for statistical skills across a range of subjects in higher education and employment and the results of this work will be able to provide further insight on how such a qualification can be made as relevant as possible.’
 
The Nuffield study is a follow-up to their earlier report from 2010, ‘Is the UK an outlier?’, a study of mathematics education in 24 countries which has been highly influential in recent debates around post-16 maths education.
 

Free access to Significance app for the International Year of Statistics

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Significance magazine will be free to access on tablets and smartphones throughout 2013 via its app, to mark the International Year of Statistics.
 
The Significance magazine app, which is free to download for both iOS and Android platforms, will allow free digital access to all six issues of the magazine during 2013.
 
‘This offer is a great opportunity for non-members to access the content of Significance magazine,’ said Nicola Emmerson, operations director at the RSS. ‘We would urge all members to pass it on to any non-members who might be interested in reading it.’
 
The first issue of 2013 is due out in early February, but users can download the app for free at any time before then. App users can access previous issues (although some of these will be charged at £1.99 to non-members).
 
Significance is the bimonthly magazine and website of both the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association. It demonstrates, in an entertaining and thought-provoking way, the practical use of statistics and show how statistics benefits society.
 
RSS members will continue to receive the hard copy magazine as part of their annual subscription. Web-exclusive articles, also free for all to access, will continue to be published on the Significance website.
 

Mathematicians sought to help reduce use of animals in research

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Researchers are looking to use maths as a means of reducing or replacing the use of animals in research, as a forthcoming academic event demonstrates.
 
The NC3Rs (National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research) is organising a workshop to connect mathematicians with biologists. Mathematical modelling is an important tool for solving biological questions and increasingly its application is providing new ways of reducing the use of animals in research and development.
 
The workshop, which takes place on 15-18 April 2013 in London, will examine four biological problems chosen from those that have been submitted to the group. Mathematicians will be able to register for the event from 1 February 2013.
 
Further details on the workshop, which has been organised in partnership with the EPSRC-funded Mathematics in Medicine study group, are available on the NC3Rs website. Examples of previous problems undertaken can be found on the Mathematics in Medicine website.
 

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