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Voice of the Future 2018

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.

 

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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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REVIEW: Research Funding Workshop – RSS Conference 2017

Successful funding applicants and experienced members of funding committee shared their tips and secrets during this Professional Development session, organised by the Young Statistician’s Section. Presenter slides for the session can be found by clicking the links below.

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The session began with Dr Alison Ramage, a successful fellowship applicant and Research Director in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Strathclyde, speaking about tips for choosing the right funder, writing grant proposals and what reviewers are looking for.

Some tips on writing grant proposals – Alison Ramage

The session continued with Professor Jim Norman, senior group leader at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and CRUK Pioneer Award Funding committee member, speaking about the Pioneer Award, a high risk funding scheme which also brings high reward. Further information can be found on the Cancer Research website.

Cancer Research UK Pioneer Award – Jim Norman

The final speaker of the session was Dr Jim Lewsley, University of Glasgow and member of the Health Improvement, Protection and Services Research Committee at the Chief Scientist Office. Jim reflected upon research funding application processes and what committees are looking for in a good application, a good project and a good candidate.

Research funding – CSO HIPS perspective – Jim Lewsey

The session closed with a panel discussion where the three speakers shared further tips and secrets, with a reminder to not be discouraged if your research funding application is unsuccessful. Often luck is involved so try, try again!

REVIEW: Young Statisticians Meeting, YSM, Keele University (27th – 28th July 2017)

The Young Statisticians Meeting (YSM) is an annual event specifically designed for, and organised by, career-young statisticians. This year the conference took place at Keele University, on the 27th and 28th of July, with a fantastic programme of keynote speakers, delegate presentations, a poster session, and an evening social.

The two-day conference offers a fantastic opportunity for early-career statisticians and students to present their research in a friendly environment, network amongst peers, and discover the diverse range of areas that statistics may be applied to.

The plenary sessions provided insights into the fields of sports analytics (Prof Ian McHale), data visualisation (Prof Julius Sim), official statistics (Dr Gary Brown), and data science (Dr Aimee Gott). A wide range of delegate talks covered a variety of applications including clinical trial, genetics, meta-analysis, statistical theory, and public health.

The highlight of the conference was the conference dinner and ceilidh at the picturesque Keele Hall, a brilliant ice-breaker!

The conference closed with the awarding of the RSS sponsored prizes for best presentations and poster. Congratulations once again to Usama Ali, Katie O’Farrell, Kathryn Leeming, and Abigail Higgins.

 

REVIEW: Survival Analysis for Junior Researchers Conference, Leicester (5th – 6th April 2017)

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On the 5th – 6th April 2017, the University of Leicester hosted the sixth annual Survival Analysis for Junior Researchers conference.  The two-day conference, which originated in Leicester, was aimed at early career researchers with an interest in analysis of time-to-event data, and related topics such as multi-state models.

The conference programme included invited talks from keynote speakers Dr Nick Latimer (University of Sheffield), Dr Therese Andersson (Karolinska Institutet) and Prof Per Kragh Andersen (University of Copenhagen), as well as a contributed talks and a poster session.  The attendees’ talks covered a wide range of topics including multi state modelling, flexible parametric modelling and computational methods.  During the conference, participants were also treated to a conference dinner and evening social at the renowned Chutney Ivy Restaurant and Bar.   The conference concluded with a talk from a committee member of the Young Statisticians Section (YSS), and a career development talk delivered by Dr Laura Gray.

The conference was interesting and engaging, and was a perfect event for career young statisticians to present their research and network with a group of like-minded career young researchers in their field of work.

Next years meeting will be held on 24 – 26 April 2018 in Leiden, the Netherlands, further information can be found at SAfJR2018.com