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.

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: David Cox on the significance test controversy

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The so-called ‘replication [or reproducibility] crisis’ in science has, in part, been blamed on the use of significance tests, or p-values, to derive whether or not a scientific discovery is 'significant'.

RSS Conference programme lead, Daniel Farewell, introduced the keynote session which offered a variety of perspectives on significance tests from leading experts on the subject. Deborah Mayo, a statistical scientist and philosopher from the Department of Philosophy at Virginia Tech is author of the book, Statistical inference as Severe Testing. Fellow Virginia Tech professor, Aris Spanos, who has authored many papers on the subject including ‘Severe testing as a basic concept in a Neyman–Pearson philosophy of induction’ with Deborah Mayo back in 2006, brought his perspective from the field of econometrics. Richard Morey from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, and who has just published a paper ‘Beyond statistics: accepting the null hypothesis in mature sciences’, talked from his background in Bayesian statistics and experimental psychology. Last, but certainly not least, David Cox brought his unique perspectives as one of the most influential thinkers in modern statistics.

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 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.

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