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Finalists announced for Significance-YSS early-career writing award

Articles about political polarisation, Poisson distributions and flying bombs, and a bot’s-eye view of the world are in the running for the 2019 Statistical Excellence Award for Early-Career Writing.

Judges from Significance and the Royal Statistical Society’s Young Statisticians Section met last week to review an assortment of entries.

Submissions were from early-career statisticians and data scientists from across Europe, the Americas and Asia. 

The finalists, in alphabetical order, are:

  • “A story about a tiny bot”, by Marco Antonio Andrade Barrera (National Autonomous University of Mexico)
  • “The flying bomb and the actuary”, by Liam Shaw (University of Oxford) and Luke Shaw (Office for National Statistics)
  • “Trouble in paradise: polarisation and the popular vote in Switzerland”, by Maximilian Aigner (Université de Lausanne)

The winning article will be announced on 11 July at the RSS Statistical Excellence Awards ceremony. The article will then be published in the October 2019 issue of Significance.


Review: Survival Analysis for Junior Researchers 2019

Attendees at SAfJR 2019

Copenhagen, April 24th – 26th, 2019

The University of Copenhagen was proud to host the second annual Survival Analysis for Junior Researchers (SafJR) conference outside the UK. This was the 8th annual SAfJR conference. It was a three-day event that was aimed at career-young statisticians with an interest in the application and development of time-to-event analysis and related topics. The conference provided a unique opportunity for participants to present and discuss their work with peers at a similar stage in their careers in a relaxed and friendly environment. The event included a short course on Recurrent Event Analysis by Per Kragh Andersen (University of Copenhagen), talks from keynote speakers Nadine Binder (University of Freiburg), Thomas Alexander Gerds (University of Copenhagen) and Christian Torp-Pedersen (Aalborg University), as well as contributed talks, a poster session and an informal and a formal conference dinner. Detailed information on the program can be found on the website:

We, the SAfJR 2019 organising team, greatly enjoyed the conference, which took place during beautiful weather in the heart of Copenhagen at the Royal Library. Both keynote and contributed sessions were very inspiring and of impressive quality, especially taking into account that for many speakers this was their first conference. In particular we would like to congratulate the oral presentation award winner Sven Erik Ojavee and the poster presentation award winner Natasha A. Sahr with their excellent contributions.

We are looking forward to next year’s SAfJR conference, which will take place from April 1-3 in Ulm. See their website for more information:

Paul, Mia, Kathrine and Corine

Review: The Voice of the Future 2019

By Sritika Chowdhury

The Voice of the Future (VOF), organised by the Royal Society of Biology, is a unique event that offers students and young scientists the chance to put forward their questions on scientific policies and issues to key political figures in the UK. YSS Committee member Sritika Chowdhury represented the Royal Statistical Society at this year’s event held on 12th March 2019, at the Houses of Parliament.

On a very busy day for the UK Parliament, representatives from various societies and high schools were given the opportunity to question members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. This included, Norman Lamb, Vicky Ford, Stephen Metcalfe and Carol Monaghan (the Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Sir Patrick Vallance(Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation), Chris Skidmore, Chi Onwurah a(Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation).

The event was opened by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, who spoke enthusiastically about the importance of science in our lives and encouraged the uptake of science, mathematics and engineering subjects by young students.

The questions posed were diverse, ranging from the impact of Brexit on UK’s role in various EU funded science and policy programmes, to the actions taken by school children to safeguard their future on climate change. Vicky Ford spoke about encouraging young girls in school to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to promote more jobs, happier and better quality of lives. Chi Onwurah also emphasised the need for additional funding to ensure there are suitable pathways into STEM that do not require STEM degrees. The Select Committee emphasised the importance of collectively tackling issues such as climate change, the need to increase investment in research and development to 2.5% of GDP, and the impact of Brexit on future research.

I asked the Committee a question about the impact of big data and machine learning techniques on our daily lives and the need for appropriate regulation. Sir Patrick Vallance acknowledged the need to test, pilot and regulate such techniques through working groups set up for regulation of innovation.

Overall, it was an interesting and inspiring event that showcased the extent to which politicians value science and their commitment towards young scientists. The whole session was an eye-opening experience, and one I would highly recommend to anyone interested in science, society and policy.   

A full audio of this year’s Voice of the Future event is available on Parliament TV Live.

Review: Writing Competition Webinar

On Wednesday 10th April, the YSS and Significance Magazine hosted a webinar for this years Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writing Competition.

The webinar, aimed at career-young statisticians planning to enter the competition, featured presentations from:

Brian Tarran (Significance) – The why, the what and the how

Letisha Smith (New York University) – Tips for Statistical Writing

The Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writing Competition is open until 27 May 2019.

Review: Women in Statistics and Data Science: Past, Present, & Future

By Altea Lorenzo-Arribas (YSS), Cecilia Lanata-Briones (RSS History Section) & Lucy Teece (YSS), organisers of the event.

Video recording of the Women in Statistics event at the Royal Statistical Society.

On the 8th March we gathered at the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) in London to celebrate International Women’s Day and specifically Women in Statistics and Data Science by highlighting progress through the history of the discipline.

“Past of Stats & Data Science” speaker: Dr Linda Wijlaars

Dr Linda Wijlaars (University College London) started the talks by focusing on the Past of Statistics and introducing the fascinating life of Dr Janet Elizabeth Lane-Claypon. Lane-Claypon was a pioneer in epidemiology who conducted the first major retrospective cohort study, which included a description of confounding, and the first use of the t-test outside of the Guinness factory.

“Present of Stats & Data Science” speaker: Prof Deborah Ashby

RSS President, Professor Deborah Ashby (Imperial College London), examined the Present situation of women in statistics and data science. She focused on the current representation of women fellows, award winners and presidents in the RSS and other organisations worldwide. She also highlighted the achievements of many influential women working in the field of statistics and data science, and inspired the audience with stories of the women that have supported her through her career.

“Future of Stats & Data Science” panel: Maria Skoularidou, Fatima Batool, Dr Susan Lovick & Dr Lauren Rodgers.

The last session looked at the Future of the profession with the help of a great panel of four women working in statistics and data science both in industry and academia. Dr Susan Lovick (Phastar) described her own experience as a woman in statistics and the great supportive environment she has found at Phastar. Dr Lauren Rodgers (University of Exeter) described the great support, events and grants offered by the Women in Mathematics Committee of the London Mathematical Society to encourage diversity and inclusivity in the field. Fatima Batool (University College London) concentrated on her role as ambassador of the Women in Data Science programme, emphasising the depth of data science and the evergrowing diversity in the field. The last speaker of this session, Maria Skoularidou (University of Cambridge) introduced the RSS’s newly formed Women in Data Science and Statistics Special Interest Group .

The talks were followed by a wine reception sponsored by Phastar that encouraged great networking.

You can find the slides from the event below:

Finally, for an overview of the fascinating Twitter discussion generated around this event check out the following link:

Professor Deborah Ashby said she had “never seen so many women in the RSS HQ” and now we can’t wait to meet even more of you next year!

Statisticians on Tour to the Liverpool Early Career Researchers Conference 2019

By Sarah Nevitt (RSS Medical Section and Young Statisticians Section (YSS))

The University of Liverpool was the host of the inaugural Early Career Researchers Conference 2019 bringing together early career researchers in Data Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) were sponsors of the conference, and three Liverpool based volunteers who are active volunteers with the RSS, as well as statistical and STEM ambassadors coordinated a special afternoon showcasing the RSS and ‘Hands on Statistics’ outreach activities.

Sarah Nevitt (RSS Medical Section and Young Statisticians Section (YSS)) firstly introduced the ‘Who, What, When, Where and Why?’ of the RSS; including the work of the RSS promoting the importance of data and statistics for the public good, getting involved with the RSS by becoming a member, attending section and local group events, the professional accreditations and training courses offered by the RSS as well as volunteering opportunities. Especially relevant for this conference of Early Career researchers in Data Science, Sarah also highlighted the work of the YSS including careers events, young statistician conferences, the RSS Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writingand how to keep in touch with YSS, especially on social media.

Laura Bonnett (RSS Education and Statistical Literacy committee and Teaching Statistics Special Interest Group), then lead an interactive afternoon of ‘Hands on Statistics’ demonstrating a range of different activities developed by the RSS Education and Statistical Literacy committee. These activities demonstrate a range of statistical concepts including probability, distributions, populations, sampling, means, standard errors, confidence intervals, as well as some more complex concepts such as simulation studies, random walks, Kruskals counts, Pollard’s Kangaroo and Capture-Recapture in a fun and interactive way using playing cards, dice, meerkats, penguins, ducks and Usain Bolt. The conference attendees then had a chance to develop and demonstrate some ‘Hands on Statistics activities’ of their own using our bank of statistical resources. Some excellent animal themed activities were developed including ‘Elephant Scales’ demonstrating Bayesian methods, distributions and iteration using stuffed elephants and ‘Count the poo, find the wombat’s blue,’ building on the concepts of populations and samples and also demonstrating the importance of sample size. The winning ‘Hands on Statistics activity’ of the afternoon was ‘Can you guess the colour?’, ademonstration and clear explanation of Bayesian methods and probability with playing cards. We shall certainly be taking some of these excellent ideas with us to careers fairs in the future!

Maria Sudell (RSS Merseyside Local Group) rounded up a great afternoon by sharing her experiences of being a STEM ambassador for the last four years, as well as some great tips for running outreach activities and details of how to sign up as a STEM ambassador.

We hope to have inspired many new RSS members and STEM ambassadors to try out some of our ‘Hands on Statistics’ activities and provided the encouragement to develop some outreach activities of their own!

Writing Competition Webinar (2:30pm 10th April)

If you are thinking of submitting an entry for the 2019 Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writing, we invite you to join our upcoming webinar for tips and advice on crafting an award-worthy article.

Our two speakers are:

  • Significance editor Brian Tarran, who will give an overview of the competition and offer guidance on writing an article that meets the expectations of the 2019 judging panel; and
  • 2018 award winner Letisha Smith, who will share her personal experience of the competition, from idea generation, to researching and writing her article, to presenting at the 2018 RSS International Conference.

Talks will be followed by a Q&A session, hosted by Sarah Nevitt of the Royal Statistical Society’s Young Statisticians Section.

The webinar takes place at 2.30pm (UK time) on Wednesday, 10 April 2019.

To join the webinar, either connect through Skype for Business (web or desktop app), or dial-in using the details below:
From UK: +44 (0)20 3321 5256
From overseas: Find local number
Conference ID: 5341 3870 #

We hope you are able to join us. If you have any questions about the webinar, or would like to ask a question for the webinar in advance, please email Significance.