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Monthly Archives: July 2017

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ANNOUNCEMENT – EVENT REPORT: PARLIAMENTARY LINKS DAY 2017

Daria Gromyko attended Parliamentary Links Day on behalf of the YSS.

This year I had the honour of being invited by Hetan Shah (Executive Director of the RSS) to the Parliamentary Links Day 2017 to represent the RSS as both a Young Statistician and an Official Statistics practitioner. This prestigious annual event is organised by the Royal Society of Biology and brings together the scientific community and Members of Parliament. The theme of this year’s event was “UK Science and Global Opportunities”.

Representatives from learned societies, academia and scientific professional bodies were welcomed to Parliament by Stephen Metcalfe MP and heard distinguished speakers including the Rt Hon John Bercrow MP (Speaker of the House of Commons), Sir John Kingman FRS (Chair Designate of UK Research & Innovation) and Jo Johnson MP (Minister for Universities and Science) talk about their vision for Science in the UK, the challenges we face and the way forward in addressing them. Themes touched upon were education and funding for scientific research, as well as the main theme of the day.

Two consecutive panel discussions chaired by BBC’s Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh focused on “Science in Europe” and “Science in the World”, featuring views from Prof Sir John Holman (President of the Royal Society of Chemistry), Dr Sarah Main (Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering), Professor Roberto Di Lauro and Dr Lorenzo Melchor (Science Attachés for the Embassies of Italy and Spain, respectively) and Chi Onwurah MP (Member of the House of Commons), as well as Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell FRS FRSE (President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh) and Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng (Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation and Chair of EngineeringUK).

The first panel discussion focused on the continued uncertainty around the impacts of Brexit on scientific research in the UK, with the Science Attachés for the Embassies of Italy and Spain presenting discouraging statistics which suggested that large proportions of both Italian and Spanish nationals working in UK academia are considering relocating to elsewhere in the European Union; the discussion addressed ways that the UK can seek to retain such talent.

In the second panel discussion Dame Jocelyn called upon the scientific community to strengthen their links and extend their support to their European colleagues as much as this is currently done for international colleagues outside the EU. There is nothing preventing us from networking with our European colleagues and reinforcing the UK’s reputation as a welcoming and prestigious place to pursue a scientific career – a strong and eloquently delivered message that received a spontaneous round of applause from the packed room.

The event was followed by a lunch at the House of Lords, where Prof Alex Halliday FRS (Vice President of the Royal Society) gave a final keynote speech with allusions to Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

It was a pleasure to meet distinguished colleagues from across the scientific community in the heart of London. The day was an inspiration to us all to use our influence as scientists to encourage young inquisitive minds and pursue opportunities for scientific progress in the face of challenging circumstances.

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ANNOUNCEMENT – The winner of our 2017 writing competition is…

Judging took place last month for our writing competition for early-career statisticians. It was the most competitive contest in years, with entrants from several African nations, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. We are delighted to announce our finalists and this year’s winner.

Kevin Lin, a fourth-year PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, is the winner of the 2017 Statistical Excellence Award for Early-Career Writing. Kevin’s article, “We, the millennials: The statistical significance of political significance”, explores the subject of political engagement and analyses changes in “upvoting” behaviour on the social news aggregation site, Reddit.com, over the past decade.

Judges found Kevin’s article to be both timely and topical. In addressing the subject of political engagement, he touches on an issue that is very much top of mind, not only in the US, but in the UK and other parts of the democratic world. His article makes interesting use of Reddit data, while taking the time to acknowledge the assumptions he has made, and the limitations of the information he has available. The story is clearly told and written in a journalistic style that makes it an ideal fit for Significance and a worthy winner of this year’s contest. Congratulations to Kevin – his winning article, “We, the millennials”, will be published in the October 2017 issue of Significance.

Our two runners-up are:

  • Levon Demirdjian, a doctoral candidate at UCLA Statistics, for “When truth overshadows power”, which examines the controversy surrounding the film The Promise and analyses the polarised review scores it has received on the Internet Movie Database.
  • Charlotte Moragh Jones-Todd, a research assistant from New Zealand, for “A time to kill: Great British serial killers”, a statistical “true crime” story that looks at the occurrence of serial murders from the 1820s to the modern day in an attempt to discern a pattern.
Thank you to all those who entered this year’s competition, who helped to make it such a fun and interesting competition to judge. We look forward to seeing many new and returning names for next year’s competition, which will be announced in early 2018.

Further information on the writing competition can be found here.