New £30 million Big Data Institute to launch in Oxford

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

A research centre based at the University of Oxford and funded by £30 million of government and private investment, was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron and entrepreneur/philanthropist Sir Ka-shing Li, on 3 May 2013.
 
The Big Data Institute, based at the University of Oxford, will capture, store and analyse extensive sets of health data for a better understanding, and treatment, of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, malaria and influenza. It will receive £10 million from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, or HEFCE), matched by a further £20 million donation from the Li Ka Shing Foundation.
 
 
The Institute will be the second phase of a major £90 million project which will form the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery. The first phase is the Target Discovery Institute, a new building which will soon house research generating data about disease using genomic and chemical screens.
 
It is hoped that bringing health-related datasets together for researchers to scrutinise in an anonymised way will provide powerful new insights into who develops illnesses and why. ‘Big data will transform the way we treat patients and understand disease in the coming decades,’ said Professor Andrew Hamilton, vice-chancellor of Oxford. ‘We are collecting much of this data already. We owe it to ourselves to make full use of it and deliver more effective treatments for all of us as patients.’
 
David Cameron said the centre as a whole had ‘potential to revolutionise medical research and healthcare in this country and beyond’.
 

Recent PhD graduates needed for survey

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Research Councils UK (RCUK) is inviting PhD graduates from 2003/04 to 2005/6 to take part in a survey to examine their career pathways, their impact in employment, and how their skills contribute to innovation and growth.
 
Questions focus on the importance of research skills and expertise developed during doctoral training in gaining employment and the extent to which a doctoral degree enabled long-term career aspirations.
 
Professor Rick Rylance of RCUK explained: ‘The Research Councils and others interested in postgraduate training want to know what graduates with research degrees actually do: is a PhD necessary for their jobs? How do their skills help them and their employers across all areas, whether in business, academia, public service or the third sector?’
 
Alongside the survey, a number of graduates will be needed to take part in in-depth interviews. The findings of the study will be published by the end of 2013 and will develop a research tool that could be used again to help fill gaps in evidence.
 
A blog about the doctoral cohort study is published on the RCUK website and the online survey is available here. It closes on 31 May 2013.
 

Environmental Audit Committee launches inquiry on Well-being

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee is undertaking an inquiry on the ‘Measuring National Well-being’ survey which was published last November (2012) by the Office for National Statistics.
 
The ONS analysis compared people’s well-being according to gender, age, ethnic group, relationship status, health, disability, employment status and occupation, as well as by nation, region and local authority. This has potentially opened up new data for social science and policy making that reflects well-being and sustainable development.
 
Well-being comprises four ‘capitals’—natural capital, produced capital, human capital and social capital. The Treasury usually concerns itself with produced capital (GDP). The new Natural Capital Committee made its first report to government (opens as pdf) in April.
 
The EAC inquiry will examine how the information from the initiative should now be used in government policy making. It will also consider what human and social capital policy making could be drawn, given the ongoing work on natural capital. Dieter Helm, chair of the Natural Capital Committee, gave oral evidence to the committee on 9 May. In the meantime, written evidence is being taken until 14 June.
 

New data reveals mixed public attitudes to statistics

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

It was standing room only at the ‘Margins of Error’ event on 14 May 2013, a major policy debate co-hosted by the Royal Statistical Society with pollsters Ipsos Mori and King’s College London.
 
The event, which examined public understanding of statistics in an era of big data, is the first of a series of public lectures discussing perceptions of statistics. This lecture marked the launch of new research conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the RSS and King’s College London on the public’s understanding of statistics and their perceptions of the role it plays in public policy.
 
‘Margins of Error’ was chaired by RSS president John Pullinger, who introduced proceedings by talking about the aims behind the RSS getstats campaign. He introduced the panel of speakers, comprising Ipsos MORI MD Bobby Duffy, UK Statistics Authority chair Andrew Dilnot and head of the School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London (and former RSS president) Denise Lievesley.
 
Bobby Duffy kicked-off proceedings by presenting the findings of new research which identified a lack of public confidence in politicians using official statistics accurately when talking about their policies – only seven per cent felt they did so. He also, however, revealed a rise of public trust in science and also a marked increase in civil servants.
 
Public attitudes to numbers were mixed: while 92% of respondents correctly deduced that 50 is 25% of 200, only a quarter correctly calculated that the probability of getting two heads in two tosses of a coin is 25%. The research also suggested that the public appeared not to value understanding of numbers very highly. When asked which would make them most proud of their child, 55% said ‘being very good at reading and writing’, as opposed to just 13% who opted for ‘being very good at numbers’.
 
Andrew Dilnot focused on the importance of data to challenge public misconceptions. He talked about policy makers being too focused on small quarterly changes in GDP, which has actually risen fivefold since 1948. Another misconception, Dilnot pointed out, was so-called ‘soaring teenage pregnancies’ which statistics show have actually been dropping in recent years. He demonstrated the importance of conveying the level of uncertainty with figures, using recent norovirus figures as an example. He also talked of the importance of looking at the ‘bigger picture’ rather than ‘getting wound up about small, short term trends’.
 
Denise Lievesley gave the statistician’s perspective, and spoke of the difficulties often faced by them when presenting data. She cited a number of ‘tensions’ faced by statisticians in their work, such ‘relevance vs autonomy’, ‘trust vs scepticism’, ‘measurement vs quality’ and ‘pragmatism vs purism’. She declared that statisticians should aid interpretation, adding: ‘numbers don’t speak for themselves’.
 
A lively discussion followed, which covered the lack of statistical training on university journalism courses, supporting statisticians around the world and the challenges of big data, which prompted Andrew Dilnot to conclude: ‘Big data does not necessarily equate to more intelligence’. John Pullinger ended the debate on a brightnote,  pointing out that it ‘has the potential to do so and it is up to all of us to make it happen’.
 
The debate continued afterwards via Twitter via the #MarginsOfError hashtag. More information is also available on the getstats blog, and the actual data report is available on the Ipsos MORI website.
 

2013 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Sense about Science, the organisation committed to equipping people with the necessary know-how in order to make sense of science and evidence, has launched its annual prize for ‘standing up for science’.
 
The John Maddox Prize rewards individuals who have promoted sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, despite facing difficulties or hostility in doing so. Nominations of active researchers who have yet to receive recognition for their public-interest work are particularly welcomed.
 
The prize, £2,000,  is presented in November and the announcement of the winner is published in Nature. The deadline for nominations is 20th August 2013.
 
Full details and online nomination form are available on the Sense About Science website.
 

RSS members elected as Fellows of the Royal Society

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Widely renowned statisticians Terry Speed and Gareth Roberts have been elected as Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS).
 
Only the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth are elected via a peer review process. There are currently only around 1,450 fellows, including luminaries such as Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee and more than 80 Nobel Laureates.
 
Professor Terence Paul Speed, senior principal research scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia, was particularly commended for his work on the analysis of microarray data. He has been a member of the RSS since 1973, and is currently on the editorial board of Significance magazine.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Professor Gareth Owen Roberts, currently at University of Warwick, is renowned for his work on applied probability, Bayesian statistics and computational statistics – and in particular, his contributions to the Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods. He received the Royal Statistical Society’s Guy Medal in Silver in 2008. He has been editor of the Royal Statistical Society’s Series B journal since 2010 and is currently a member of the RSS Applied Probability section.
 
Other scientists elected into the Royal Society this year include Sophie Wilson, Michael Burrows of Google, Lord Ara Darzi, Professor Jon Crowcroft and Professor Zhu Chen. Author Bill Bryson was also elected as an honorary member.
 
Sir Paul Nurse, current president of the Royal Society, welcomed this year’s fellows, saying: ‘[they] have already contributed much to the scientific endeavour following in the footsteps of pioneers such as Newton, Darwin and Einstein and it gives me great pleasure to welcome them into our ranks.’
 
 

Peter Diggle nominated for RSS presidency in 2015/16

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Professor Peter Diggle has been nominated to be the next RSS president after John Pullinger’s presidency comes to a close at the end of 2014.
 
He was chosen from a list of nominees considered by the President Nominating Committee and recommended to Council, which endorsed the nomination at the beginning of May.
 
Currently distinguished university professor in CHICAS (Combining Health Information, Computation and Statistics) at Lancaster University and professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Liverpool. Prior to joining Lancaster in 1988 he spent five years in Australia, in the mathematics division of of CSIRO (Australia’s version of the UK’s Scientific Civil Service), where he was chief research scientist. He began his career in 1974 as a lecturer in statistics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
 
Peter’s main methodological research interests are in spatial statistics, longitudinal data analysis and environmental epidemiology. Most of his research centres around applications in biomedical, clinical or health sciences, and in 1997 he received the Royal Statistical Society’s Guy Medal in Silver.
 
Peter has been active in the RSS for several decades; he was a member of the Research Section committee in the 1980s when he was also a member of Council. In the 1990s he was honorary secretary of the Society, chaired the Research Section committee again from 1999 to 2000 and was a member of the Society’s Honours committee from 2004 to 2008. Most recently, he has been joint editor of the Royal Statistical Society’s Series B Journal.
 

Join the RSS

Join the RSS

Become part of an organisation which works to advance statistics and support statisticians

Copyright 2019 Royal Statistical Society. All Rights Reserved.
12 Errol Street, London, EC1Y 8LX. UK registered charity in England and Wales. No.306096

Twitter Facebook YouTube RSS feed RSS feed RSS newsletter

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies and Terms of Use.