Society to host conference on stats in universities

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The Royal Statistical Society is co-hosting a one-day conference on the way in which statistics is taught in higher education on 13 May 2013.
 
The conference, titled ‘Teaching Statistics in Universities: Where to next?’ will feature talks by a number of experts, including Roger Porkess, former chief executive of Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) and author of last year’s RSS report, Future of statistics in our schools and colleges (opens as a pdf). RSS vice-president Kevin McConway will talk about the future of academic statistics in the UK and Gillian Lancaster from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Lancaster University, will examine the future of postgraduate taught courses in statistics.
 
The conference is being co-hosted by the Society’s Medical Section and ASLU (the Association of Statistics Lecturers in Universities). The importance of statistics for medical students will also be addressed by Gill Price (UEA), Annie Herbert (UCL) and Jenny Freeman, also a vice president of the RSS. Nasrollah Saebi of Kingston University will start off the day with a talk explaining the role of ASLU in statistical education.
 
The talks will be followed by a discussion of statistics curricula in universities.
 
Further information and registration details are available on the RSS events page.
 

Next date for Journal Club

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The Society has set a date for another Journal Club, following the success of the first event, which took place in April.
 
The next Journal Club, sponsored by Quintiles, will take place on 13 June, via teleconference, between 2pm and 4pm (BST).
 
The article being discussed, titled ‘On information quality’, is to be published in the Society’s Series A Journal, ‘Statistics in Society’ (doi: 10.1111/rssa.12007) and will be available online to non-subscribers shortly until a few weeks after the event.
 
In the paper, authors Galit Shmueli (Indian School of Business, Gachibowli, India) and Ron S. Kenett (KPA, Raanana, Israel, University of Turin, Italy, and New York University–Poly, USA) define the concept of information quality ‘InfoQ’ as ‘the potential of a data set to achieve a specific (scientific or practical) goal by using a given empirical analysis method’. During the teleconference, both authors will talk about the paper and applications and related work.
 
 
Meanwhile, the last event, which was a joint session with PSI, sponsored by Quintiles and Wiley, was deemed a great success with more than 70 individuals or groups dialling in. A podcast of this event will  be available shortly.
 

New £30 million Big Data Institute to launch in Oxford

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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’.
 

2013 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science

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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.
 

Council meeting, 1 May 2013

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The council of the Royal Statistical Society met for the second time in 2013 on 1 May.
 
Denise Lievesley, RSS representative to the board of the International Year of Statistics,  gave an update on activities held so far during Statistics2013.
 
Andy Garrett, chair of the Long Term Strategy Group attended to discuss the draft strategy document which will go to Council for final approval in June.  Council were positive towards the work of the group thus far.
 
Council also approved the accounts for 2012 and agreed subscription fees which will go to the AGM in June.  They also considered the recommendation from the president nominating committee as well as candidates for council, which will be communicated to members shortly.
 
Other items on the agenda included updates on recent activities from the president and executive director, as well as  the summary of honours to be awarded later in the year.
 

Recent PhD graduates needed for survey

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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

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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.
 

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