The conference was launched with an interesting and compelling talk by Peter Donnelly, Professor of Statistics at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, which is affiliated with Oxford. His talk, “Statistics, Genomics, and Human Diseases,” focused on recent developments in identifying parts of the genome related to disease and traits in humans. These discoveries may provide new ways to understand the biology of disease development. At one time, Donnelly said, statisticians in genomics could be described humorously as people who “model genes.” “Now,” he said, “we are more explorers than modelers.”
David Hand, RSS President, brought words of welcome to the conferees. He noted the upcoming World Statistics Day on 20.10.2010, and emphasized the significance of the United Nations’ recognition of the important contributions of statistics and statisticians. Unfortunately, Hand noted, the level of public recognition is still rather small.
President Hand then presented an Honorary Fellowship to Janet Derbyshire for her important work in clinical trials, especially for her consistent recognition of the role of statistics in drug development. According to the RSS website, “Honorary fellowships are awarded for the Society to recognise the contribution of individuals of great eminence working in fields related to statistics who are not members of the statistical profession.”
In the concurrent sessions, there were a rich variety of themes addressed. Kudos are due to Vern Farewell and the rest of the programme committee for a job very well done.
Genomics, climate science, statistics and the law, and adaptive clinical trials are just some of examples of today’s presentations, reflective of the breadth of our profession. I attended a particularly interesting session in which three sources of data for climate science (plankton, surface temperatures, and ice cores) were discussed. Methods of measurement and modeling of uncertainty were shown. The speakers were clear, and did a nice job of talking in understandable terms about the science of measurement and the statistical science involved as well. However, as happens sometimes in discussions of climates, some of the questions after the talks reflected the biases of the questioners rather than the content presented.
A very nice set of posters were on display during the day and featured in the late afternoon. The topics and the locales represented were diverse, though a majority of them focused on some aspect of statistical work in the health sciences. The quality of the work was quite impressive.
The day was capped by the conference social, held out on the Brighton Pier, which was virtually empty (except for RSS conferees) due to the high winds lashing the area. But inside the pub I found cold drinks, warm food and even warmer fellowship. Some of the planned activities had to be cut back because of the weather, but it was a delightful evening nonetheless.
I am already regretting that I have to return home on Thursday, as I realize how many excellent sessions I will miss. In the future I will ask my friends to look at the RSS calendar before setting their wedding dates.