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Review: Parliamentary Links Day 2018

review by Shikta Das (YSS) Imperial_profile_pic

Shikta Das attended Parliamentary Links Day on behalf of the Young Statistician Section (YSS).

I was honoured to attend the majestic location of Parliament for the Links Day on 26th of June, 2018. Royal Statistical Society (RSS) Executive Director, Hetan Shah, invited me to be a part of it and it was a huge privilege to be among the representatives of learned scientists and leaders of industry. The 30th Parliamentary Link Day was organised by the Royal Society of Biology and it welcomed Members of Parliament and leaders of the scientific community to discuss the theme of “Science and the Industrial Strategy”.

Keynotes

The day offered engaging sessions led by distinguished speakers and it was well represented by panellists from all areas of science and technology. Esteemed parliamentarian Stephen Metcalfe MP introduced the attendees to the excellent speakers, including Rt Hon John Bercow MP (Speaker of the House of Commons), R Hon Norman Lamb MP (Chair, House of Commons Select Committee on Science and TechnologyO, Chi Onwurah MP (Shadow Minister of Industrial Strategy), Rt Hon Claire Perry MP (Minster of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Dr Patrick Vallance (Government Chief Scientific Advisor) and Rebecca Endean (UK Research and Innovation). The speakers talked about the importance of Science in UK’s economy and industrial strategy and the continuing need to retain the best academics in the UK. Chi Onwurah MP highlighted the important issue of government funding for science and UK’s access to talent in a Post Brexit world.

Audience

The Panel discussions were chaired by BBC’s Science Correspondent Pallav Ghosh. The panel featured, Prof Jonathan Flint (Institute of Physics), Prof John McGagh (Institute of Chemical Engineers), Prof Carol Monaghan MP (House of commons select committee on Science and Technology), Prof Dame Carol Robinson (Royal Society of Chemistry), Hetan Shah (Royal Statistical Society), Dr Louise Leong (Royal Society of Biology), Prof Peter Bruce (The Royal Society), Prof Iain Gray (The Royal Society of Edinburgh), Dr Sarah Main (Campaign for Science and Engineering) and Dr Hayaatun Sillem (Royal Academy of Engineering).

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The first panel discussion was about diversity in science and UK’s access to bright people. Prof Flint, talked about access to bright people. He suggested that, among other things, UK’s industrial strategy should aim to make it the best place for innovation. Prof Robinson talked about the challenges in respect of diversity, especially for women and academics and scientists from an ethnic minority background. She also talked about training more technical staff. John talked about the immense opportunities offered by Artificial Intelligence and how it can dramatically change the way we observe science. Hetan Shah (RSS Executive Director) emphasized the need for encouraging participation and offering more opportunities to scientists from minority groups. He outlined some of RSS efforts in contributing towards the society, for example, the scheme to offer statistical volunteers for charities. He emphasized the need for a council for data ethics and developing more environmentally sustainable strategies.

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The second panel discussion was on the role of the royal societies and how can they help in developing and delivering strategies.

The event was followed by a lunch at the House of Lords where there was further opportunity to meet and network with a range of leaders from the worlds of academics, scientists, civil service, politics and industry.

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Overall, the Link Day was a great opportunity for young scientists like me to meet and hear from so many distinguished speakers and diverse set of attendees. It offered me a window to the world of policy making. As a scientist and a statistician, I was inspired to note that the work that we publish as part of our work is actually used to develop policies and strategies which affect everyone’s lives.

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Young Researchers Using Statistics Symposium 2018

23rd May 2018, review by David McLernon & Altea Lorenzo-Arribas (YSS)

The YRS Symposium aims to encourage early career researchers who are interested in statistics to chat about their research and to hear inspiring talks from peers and external speakers. The long-term aim is to create a supportive community of practice. The event was held in the architecturally impressive Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen, and was organised by a committee of young statisticians from the RSS Highlands Local Group, University of Aberdeen, and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS).

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Audience at YRS2018 (picture credits: Amaka Nwagbara, RSS)

YRS 2018 was a great success, selling out with over 60 participants from Scottish research institutions and universities based in the Highlands.

The first session of selected talks from early career researchers covered a range of health topics, from mental health to nutrition. The society session focused on economic modelling and the two talks in the environment session dealt with spatial models in fishery studies. A wide range of topics also featured at the poster session, including ecological occupancy models, juror systems probabilistic analysis and medical studies.

 

The symposium also included two fantastic keynote speakers; Jen Rogers, Director of Statistical Consultancy at the University of Oxford and RSS Vice President for External Affairs, and Liberty Vittert, Mitchell lecturer at the University of Glasgow.  Jen gave an interactive overview of risk misconceptions and stats misuse in media and advertising.  Liberty grabbed the audience with thought-provoking examples (including humanitarian aid work at the UN Refugee agency) highlighting the importance of making data relevant to people. During lunch there was an opportunity to network through a speed dating exercise.

The variety and high quality of the research showcased at the symposium made it extremely difficult for the jury to choose the recipients of the two prizes; Charlotte Huggins (University of Aberdeen) won the best presentation award (£50 Amazon voucher) for her talk, “Assessing the ability to understand one’s own emotional state”, and Tiberiu Pana (University of Aberdeen) won the poster award (£20) with a depiction of his research on “Impact of heart failure on stroke mortality and recurrence”.  Additionally, best tweet of the day was awarded to Alessandra Jibbs (University of Aberdeen) for an entertaining GIF of our YRS mascot, Norma the Normal!

 

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Professor David Elston, ex-director of BioSS closed what he defined as an “inspirational event that has brought together the best of the RSS, the Highlands Local Group and the YSS in terms of interaction between different stats applications, visibility of young researchers and networking”.  He also gifted us with a quote to remember: “there are three ways of reaching decisions: tradition, prejudice and statistical analysis (of the right data set)”. We would agree that the symposium included a remarkable collection of work aiming for the latter.

Feedback

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YRS2018 in numbers

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Twitter

A ‘wakelet’ highlighting the presence of the YRS symposium on Twitter can be found on: http://wke.lt/w/s/FRQeI

The analytics of the event tweets can be seen below:

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Acknowledgments: We would like to thank the YRS committee, the YSS, and the RSS for their continuous support and promotion of this event.

Manchester Careers Fair

Review by Maria Sudell (YSS)

On the 14th March 2017, the School of Mathematics at the University of Manchester held their annual Careers in Statistics Fair (for more information click on View Details at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/careers-in-statistics-fair-tickets-40035851309# ).

Around 40 undergraduate and postgraduate students of maths and statistics were in attendance and contributed stalls included the Royal Statistical Society (represented by Maria Sudell and Emily Granger of the YSS), the University of Manchester careers service, HM Revenue and Customs, Lubrizol corporation (a leader in speciality chemicals), and many others. The afternoon also featured inspiring talks from representatives of attending organisations regarding how statistics is used in their industries, current recruitment opportunities and the support that the RSS and the YSS will be able to provide to them throughout their future statistical activities.

Voice of the Future 2018

13th March 2018, review by Lucy Teece & Stephen Blaxand (YSS)

The Royal Society of Biology’s annual Voice of the Future event offers students and early-career scientists the opportunity to question key political figures about important scientific issues. YSS committee members, Lucy Teece and Stephen Blaxland, represented the Royal Statistical Society at this year’s event held in the Houses of Parliament during British Science Week.

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Throughout the morning a multitude of questions, raised by representatives from a wide range of scientific societies, organisations, and local high schools, were answered by the newly-appointed Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation (Sam Gyimah MP), the Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science & Innovation (Chi Onwurah MP), members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee (Martin Whitfield MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP, and Carol Monaghan MP), and the director of the Government Office for Science (Dr Rupert Lewis).

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Lucy Teece:

Diversity in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine) careers was a recurrent theme of the questions asked, and prompted discussions around the under-representation of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) researchers; the gender pay gap and ‘leaky pipeline’ producing a gender imbalance in high-level positions; and barriers preventing those from communities of low socioeconomic status from pursuing careers in STEMM subjects. The political figures present acknowledged the strength in diversity and communicated their commitment to encourage equal representation across both academia and industry. Chi Onwurah MP, who has a degree in Electrical Engineering, described the need for strong female and minority role models and leaders to inspire and support those seeking STEMM careers. Balance in STEMM subjects requires enthusiastic role models to reach out to students and spark an interest in these subjects at an early age, and to promote the exciting and rewarding careers available to those who study STEMM subjects.

This unique event evidenced a commitment by parliament to seriously consider the challenges faced by the younger generation of scientists and displays a willingness by the politicians present at the event to build and maintain a constructive dialogue with career-young scientists.

Stephen Blaxland:

 Sitting in the Horseshoe next to John Bercow with his radiant tie was a surreal experience. He opened the event with a passionate speech about the importance of MPs to communicate with scientists and take data-driven decisions.

More than 500 questions were sent to the event organiser’s steering committee, 40 were chosen, the primary focus was on Brexit and the importance of diversity in the workforce. There were some more esoteric questions on developing legislation for biohacking (when someone ‘hacks’ their genetics), especially as altering genomes would influence not just the hacker but also their future generations.

For me, Chi Onwurah stole the show with thoughtful responses about distributed ledger systems and how the government could develop legislation to encourage new technologies to the improtance of increasing diversity. It was very impressive to see these politicians spending time to understand and answer a diverse set of  topics. At the end of the day I left feeling humbled that these MPs spent time to answer and collaborate with the scientific community. Let us hope that the UK will continue to push forward this important collaboration.

 

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A full video of this years’ Voice of the Future event is available on Parliament TV Live.

 

REVIEW: DeMO 14th March

 
A YSS Discussion Meeting Overview (DeMO) based around the article “Optimal treatment allocations for online control of an emerging infectious disease” was held at RSS Errol Street on 14th March 2018. The meeting consisted of two 30 minute talks intended to prepare the audience for the Discussion Meeting to follow. The first talk was a general overview of optimal dynamic treatment regimes and causal inference by Robin Henderson from Newcastle University. He had ensured the notation used in his talk matched that used in the paper to be discussed later in the afternoon.
 
This gave a provided a smooth transition to the second talk, where Eric Laber from North Carolina State University introduced the paper and the background behind the work to be discussed. He started out by summarising decision problems and Thompson sampling, and then spoke about the problem at hand; determining where to apply interventions to stop disease. 
 
Discussion meeting overviews, called DeMOs, are arranged by the YSS to make the read papers at RSS Discussion Meetings more accessible to those unfamiliar with the topics discussed in the read papers (including career-young statisticians). The next DeMO is to be held on 18th April 2018 on the upcoming article The statistical analysis of acoustic phonetic data: exploring differences between spoken Romance languages, a preprint of the article is available here. The meeting will provide participants with some background information on spacial representations and properties as well as providing an introduction and background to the Discussion Paper.
 

Statistically Significant Careers 2018

Written by Emma Brown

The annual Statistically Significant Careers event, organised by the Mathematical Sciences Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast in conjunction with the RSS Northern Ireland Local Group, Young Statistician Section (YSS) and International Biometric Society BIR, took place on Wednesday 17th January 2018. We had a massive turnout of approximately 70 students, from mathematics, statistics, physics, and humanities, listening to 9 companies from a range of industries including data analytics, banking and biostatistics.

Each company presented for 10 minutes about the work their companies do and the importance of statistics in their companies. The presenters showcased their companies and highlighted how statisticians are essential in each major industry in the Twenty-first Century. The talks emphasised the benefits such as flexible working, input into research direction, analysis of novel and exciting problems such as delving deeper into data and uncovering complex relationships between biomarkers were a part of most demonstrations. Questions relating to entry requirements and internal opportunities were asked by final-year students at the end of the presentations.

A reception held after the talks allowed students to network with company representatives and ask further questions about initial training, day-to-day duties and continuing professional development. Both students and company representatives enjoyed these opportunities with many representatives discussing at length with groups of students. Many company representatives expressed their intent to attend the event again to continue their engagement with students and to increase interest in statistics.

 

PSI Medical Statistics Taster Day 2018

28th February 2018, University of Leicester, review by Sarah Nevitt (YSS)

As the ‘Beast from the East’ brought snow across the UK, over 100 students from Mathematics and Statistics affiliated degree courses headed to the University of Leicester for a ‘taster’ afternoon of careers in Medical Statistics.

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The event was organised by the Careers and Academic Liaison Committee of Statisticians in the Pharmaceutical Industry (PSI CALC) and 25 exhibitors attended from a range of pharmaceutical companies, clinical research organisations (CRO), clinical trials units, universities and professional societies.

Throughout the day, attendees learned all about current trends in medical statistics and drug development and stepped into the shoes of a medical statistician or data programmer in an interactive training session.

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Students also gained the first-hand experience of a new industry starter and heard from a panel of pharmaceutical, CRO and academic representatives on the best and most challenging parts of their roles, their most nerve wracking moment, their proudest achievements, their most interesting work travel experience and their most unusual project. Panellists also discussed diversity of careers in medical statistics with where their careers may be in 5 years’ time as well as key advice for students starting off in their medical statistics career.

The Royal Statistical Society was represented by Sarah Nevitt (Young Statistician’s Section) and Wendy Harrison (Medical Section). Students were interested to hear the benefits of e-student or student fellow membership of the RSS and many students were very excited to hear that their degree courses were GradStat accredited. This event was a brilliant opportunity to meet the aspiring statisticians of the future and we hope to see many of them again soon still wearing their ‘Eat, Sleep, Stats, Repeat’ badges!

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