Indeed the annual meeting of the RSS is in full swing, and, sadly, I have to leave early tomorrow morning. But today was splendid, everything one hopes for in a meeting.
The highlight of the conference today was the presentation I made at noon. OK, not really, but I did have the opportunity to present a talk titled “Building Trust: Accreditation and the Professionalization of Statistics.” In it, I explored ways we might take advantage of the synergy created by accreditation programs in four statistical societies (the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC), and the Statistical Society of Australia, Inc. (SSAI)) to further advance the status of statistics as a profession. The RSS and the ASA are finding a number of ways to collaborate, and accreditation is one of them.
The real highlight of the conference today, for me, was the preliminary announcement of the “getstats” program, a 10-year statistical literacy campaign created and led by the RSS. Martin Dougherty, Executive Director of the RSS, presented an overview of the campaign, which will launch officially on October 20 (20.10.2010), which the UN has designated as World Statistics Day. The goal of this campaign is well and succinctly stated: “A society in which our lives and choices are enriched by an understanding of statistics.” It is an ambitious goal, a truth that was brilliantly illustrated by a video Martin put together. The video is a “vox pop,” a series of interviews on the streets of London. People are asked some basic non-technical questions about the relevance and roles of statistics and statisticians. These were people who are clearly literate, but are also clearly not statistically literate. Clearly, there is work to be done.
The plenary sessions were excellent today as well. In the morning, Robert Groves, Director of the US Census Bureau, gave the Campion Lecture. Bob is a superb statistician and an extraordinary leader, and as Census Director he has served his country with distinction. He took on a census that was in the midst of some political turmoil, and quieted things down quickly. Thanks to his work, and that of the vast census team, the US has had a successful decennial census. One of the many things that impress me about Bob is his ability to listen constructively to criticism, even when it isn’t offered constructively.
In a thoughtful and informative talk, Bob reviewed the status of the 2010 census in the US, considered measures of data quality, and provided a look ahead at issues that will need to be addressed.
In the afternoon, Tim Davis, who is both a Chartered Statistician and a Chartered Engineer, discussed the role of statistics and statisticians in engineering. He encouraged early career statisticians to consider going to work in industry, where he said there is great need for their skills. Among many interesting things Tim said, I was particularly interested in his observation that it is the job of the statistical investigator/collaborator to a) encourage creativity (in research and experimentation) and b) ensure convergence (between theory and practice, or theory and data).
Once again, there was an excellent variety of concurrent sessions. I focused on sessions relating to the growth of professionals and the profession, but there was something for virtually everyone. I particularly enjoyed a session on statistical education in the UK, with the clever title “Cornish pasties and learning from teaching statistics.” Unfortunately, convention centre rules made it impossible for us to taste test the pasties.
In the late afternoon, I had the opportunity to get out and stimulate the local economy, and greatly added to the weight of my suitcase going home.
So I will wrap up my blogging from Brighton with three sets of thank yous: (1) to Gerald Goodall and Andy Garrett of the RSS, Judy-Anne Chapman of the SSC, and Nick Fisher of the SSAI for their wisdom and insight, which helped my presentation immensely; (2) to the staff of the RSS for warm hospitality and a superbly executed conference; and (3) to the ASA for making my participation at this conference possible.
Carry on, then!