Conference 2018 session: Lets talk about stats

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While pretty much everyone attending the Royal Statistical Society conference can agree that statistics are very important and interesting, how do we convince everyone else of that fact?

Many in the science community devote a significant amount of their time engaging with children and young people to show them how statistics and data analysis techniques can lead to greater insights about the world around them, and three of those people spoke in the RSS conference session on ‘Showcasing statistics through outreach and public engagement’.

Conference 2018: Hannah Fry on being human in the age of machines

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For decades, human activities and decisions have been supported by algorithms. They are the hidden rules and instructions that help our computers to process data and run complex calculations. But in recent years, algorithms have moved from a supporting to a starring role. As our machines have become more powerful, the algorithms have become more sophisticated – so much so that they are now in control of potentially life-changing decisions.

This is the setup for Dr Hannah Fry’s latest book, Hello World. The UCL mathematician, who once explored the 'mathematics of love', has grown fascinated with the relationships between humans and algorithms, the responsibilities we give them, and the impact they are having on our societies – whether good, bad, or ugly.

New William Guy Lecturer 2018-2019

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We are delighted to announce that the new RSS William Guy lecturer for the coming academic year is Dr Lee Fawcett, following an open call and a competitive selection process. Named in honour of William Augustus Guy, an early medical statistician and past RSS president, this prestigious volunteer role recognises fellows with a successful track record in undertaking school outreach activities.

Over the coming year, Lee will be delivering lectures to school students in the UK on the topic of ‘The Storm of the Century! Using data to anticipate extreme climate events’, which looks at what insights statistics can provide for extreme weather events.

Conference 2018 session: Filling and exploring gender data gaps

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Embedded within the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a host of gender-relevant indicators relating to issues such as education, work and employment, and peace and justice. But the data needed to inform these indicators is often incomplete, and sometimes missing entirely, says Deirdre Appel, a research associate with Open Data Watch (ODW).

SDG 5 relates specifically to gender equality, but speaking at the RSS Conference on Tuesday morning, Appel identified more than 50 separate indicators across the gamut of SDGs that call for evaluation of the different experiences of men and women.

Mathematics the most popular choice at A level

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Mathematics is the most popular subject to study at A level, having risen by 2.5% on the previous year, according to the 2018 exam results. Most of the students taking these exams will have sat the pre-reform A level Mathematics this year; the new reformed A level started being taught in September 2017. Meanwhile, in Scotland, A-C attainment at Higher went up slightly (0.5%) on the previous year.

At GCSE/National 5 level, where Maths is compulsory, results remain stable. The Department for Education (DfE) reported that in England, 71% of GCSE Maths entries got a grade 4 (or C under the old system) or above - up from 70.7% last year. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) reported a slight increase in Maths National 5, with an A-C attainment rate of 64.7%. In Northern Ireland, the percentage of Maths entries achieving A* - C grades has increased by 1.7 percentage points to 68.1% and in Wales, the figure was 44.2%.

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