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REVIEW – Survival Analysis for Junior Researchers Conference in Leeds (13-14 Apr 2016)


The 5th Survival Analysis for Junior Researchers Conference took place in Leeds on 13-14 April 2016 with support from the Royal Statistical Society, and attracted over 40 delegates. The two-day event featured two keynote addresses on sequential analysis of clinical trials data (Prof Walter Gregory, LICTR), and how big-data and linkage creates challenges and opportunities for survival analysis (Dr Matthew Sperrin, University of Manchester). There were also a range of sessions in which delegates from across the UK and Ireland presented and discussed their research findings, with themes including flexible modelling, emerging methodology, subsequent therapy, and applications in practice. The RSS Young Statisticians’ Section were also in attendance, and provided an overview of the RSS and the benefits of being a member.

Next year’s meeting will be held at the University of Leicester.

REVIEW – “Voice of the Future” at Parliament on 1 Mar 2016

New YSS committee members Janette McQuillan and Maria Sudell report back from the 2016 Voice of the Future event, held at Parliament on Tuesday 1 March.


Janette - 2016   Janette McQuillan

“The Voice of the Future event provided an excellent opportunity to sit at the Committee ‘horseshoe’ table at Parliament and ask the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Mark Walport and MPs sitting on the Science and Technology Committee questions about science policy and their key priorities for the years ahead.”

I asked the Committee a question about the progress that has been made with making government datasets publicly available for analysis and how data-driven initiatives can help inform decision making processes in government. In response to my question, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Nicola Blackwood MP discussed the recently published Big Data report and specifically highlighted some of the key issues raised by the report that really need to be addressed – the variability inherent in data quality, the provision of an auditing framework and the necessity for the availability of data in real-time.

There was quite a discussion around the likely impact of the UK leaving the European Union on the scientific research community. The general consensus among committee members was that EU membership  was in the science community’s best interest because we receive substantial funding for our research from the EU and benefit greatly from international collaborations.

There were many questions relating to the obesity problem in the UK and the introduction of a sugar tax as a potential solution. Yvonne Fovargue MP, Shadow minister for BIS suggested that as a society we need better education about the sugar content of foods and we need to address the fact that the cost of healthy eating is significantly higher. She believes that we need to subsidise the cost of healthy food and explore how unhealthy foods can be used to supplement that.

Another issue that was discussed at great length was the lack of female representation in high level science positions in both academia and industry. The Committee recognise the need for a cultural shift in attitude at the C level for any changes in this area to be realised. There needs to be greater encouragement for young girls to study mathematics and physics at A-level. We need strong female role models to show that it is possible for women to be highly successful in what is typically seen as a male dominated environment. We need greater job security to enable women to pursue a career in academia. In industry, there needs to be more flexibility in working hours given to women with families. Stella Creasy MP suggested that men have a key role to play in this and need to be more supportive in relation to the provision of child care. Women need to be more supportive and encouraging of each other. Stella strongly believes that we all have the power to make this change happen.

The highlight of the event for me was a parliamentary first, a video message broadcast from 400km above the earth from Major Tim Peake (pictured below). It was fascinating to hear about the life science experiments he is conducting to investigate the effects of gravity on ageing and the potential impact this could have on those suffering with asthma.



MariaSudell3   Maria Sudell

“I was excited to attend the Voice of the Future 2016 event and to find out how policy for science was perceived at parliament. It was encouraging to see a wide range of scientific societies represented at this event, along with students from two high schools who also submitted questions to the panel. I hope that this event will continue to be run in the future, as a valuable link between parliament and those working in scientific careers.”

The Voice of the Future 2016 event was a great opportunity to discover and discuss the issues important to individuals working in STEM areas. We heard questions answered by the Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport, the select Committee on Science and Technology, the Minister for Universities and Science Jo Jackson MP, the Shadow Minister for Science Yvonne Forvargue MP and even a video message from Tim Peake at the International Space Station. Questions were submitted by a range of institutions and societies, including the Council for Mathematical Sciences (the CMS, comprising the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), the London Mathematical Society (LMS) and the Royal Statistical Society (RSS)). Questions submitted by the CMS covered areas such as making government datasets publicly available and possible initiatives to encourage school leavers to take up a career in mathematical sciences.  Several initiatives to engage students in sciences were discussed including STEM ambassadors, and the need for individuals and companies working in relevant areas to come into schools to give talks about future career paths. I was excited to attend this event and to find out how policy for science was perceived at parliament. It was encouraging to see a wide range of societies from areas as far reaching as Microbiology and Astronomy represented at this event, along with students from two high schools who also submitted questions to the panel.


REVIEW – YSS “Statistically Significant Careers” event at Queen’s University Belfast on 4 Nov 2015

Statistically Significant Careers

Centre for Statistical Science & Operational Research, Queen’s University Belfast

Reviewed by Caoimhe Carbery.

On 4th November 2015, the YSS collaborated with the RSS NI local group to host the second annual Statistically Significant Careers event which continues to be a huge success. Companies from throughout the UK and Ireland came together to showcase the vast range of careers available to the career young statisticians who were in attendance.

The event, which was held in The Great Hall at Queen’s University Belfast, was generously sponsored by the School of Mathematics and Physics alongside the RSS NI local group. The format of the event differed from the previous year, whereby the main body of the day consisted of presentations from the various companies and ended on a networking and drinks reception whereby the companies had an assigned space for posters and leaflets – this allowed the 60 delegates to network with potential future employers on a more informal level.

The event was opened by Dr Lisa McCrink, lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast and Meetings Secretary of the YSS, welcoming those in attendance. Lisa spoke about the different events and initiatives run by the YSS throughout the year, encouraging students to take advantage and sign up as a free e-Student member of the RSS, a brilliant opportunity for career young statisticians.

The company representatives then began, with the audience treated to talks from eleven companies based throughout the UK and Ireland, all of whom demonstrate a keen interest in the applications of statistical techniques within their respective industries. The companies included Pramerica, GlaxoSmithKline, Seagate, Kainos, Analytics Engines, Allstate, Ulster Bank, NISRA, Accenture and Quintiles. Each company delivered an inspirational and insightful 10 minute talk, with time afterwards for questions from the audience. With the multitude of companies providing talks from different application areas of statistics, the audience had the opportunity to gain valuable advice and perspectives in relation to future careers. Both the coffee break and the networking session at the closing of the event allowed the discussions to continue – which was a great chance for the attendees to meet fellow career-young statisticians.

A huge thanks to our sponsors and all the companies who helped make the event a success! The event has received positive feedback from both the students in attendance and the companies. As the event continues to be a success, the organising committee are excited for the next Statistically Significant Careers event which will occur in a year’s time in October 2016. If you would like to get involved or to hear more about the event, please get in touch by emailing Lisa McCrink (l.mccrink@qub.ac.uk).


REVIEW – YSS events at RSS 2015

Last month’s RSS conference down in Exeter was a tremendous success, with an unprecedented number of YSS sessions within the conference schedule:

  • Our early morning session “The Young Statistician’s Guide to Conference” helped attendees get to grips with the conference programme, and gave a rundown of the YSS conference highlights – many thanks to Jenny Freeman for presenting her sage advice on getting the most out of conference.
  • Our Tuesday lunchtime social / icebreaker was expertly run by Kaylea – for a full write-up and photos, see: https://www.statslife.org.uk/events/conference-blog/2473-young-statisticians-break-the-ice-for-conference-newcomers
  • Our Tuesday evening pub quiz, which was open to all conference attendees, was a huge success – you can try your hand at the questions here: https://www.statslife.org.uk/events/conference-blog/2470-try-your-hand-at-the-rss-2015-pub-quiz
  • We contributed to successful professional development sessions on submitting and refereeing journal articles, and inspiring young people with statistics and data – including how to become a STEM ambassador.
  • The YSS/Significance Writing Competition session – which saw presentations from the three shortlisted writers – was well-attended; for details on the talks, see here: https://www.statslife.org.uk/significance/2464-the-winner-of-the-young-statisticians-writing-competition-2015-is
  • The Statistical Analytics Challenge session (organised jointly with the RSS Research Section) featured presentations from the two winning teams – many thanks to Orlaith for administering the competition and running the session.
  • There were some excellent presentations from the prizewinners at the 2015 Young Statisticians Meeting and 2015 Research Students Conference.
  • Finally, Tim organised and chaired the final plenary panel session – “What’s the worst that could happen? Exploding popular myths surrounding uncertainty and risk” – for a full write-up, see https://www.statslife.org.uk/events/conference-blog/2468-confronting-myths-about-risks

All in all, the team had an extremely fun and action-packed week down in Exeter – though some of us probably need a few weeks to recover…

Keep your eyes peeled this Spring for details of the events we’re planning for RSS 2016 in Manchester!

REVIEW – YSS Statistical Showcase 2015 (London) on 17 Apr 2015


Review by Sarah Nolan. Event organised by Lisa McCrink, Orlaith Burke, Lauren Rodgers and Sarah Nolan (YSS Committee)

The 2015 edition of the annual YSS Statistical Showcase was held in the traditional venue of RSS headquarters, Errol Street, London on Friday 17 April 2015. With brand new audio-visual equipment installed in the main lecture theatre only one day earlier, the potential for technical gremlins to cause havoc was high, but luckily the new system behaved itself throughout the day, and the event – now one of the longest-running fixtures in the YSS calendar – ran as smoothly as ever.

The Showcase was opened by organiser Lisa McCrink (YSS Meetings Secretary) and Tim Paulden (YSS Chair) who spoke about who the YSS are and what we do, including the current YSS/Significance Young Statisticians Writing Competition (see here for details), the upcoming RSS Conference in Exeter (September 2015), and the new RSS e-membership now available free for students.

In total, 47 delegates came from all over the UK (including Northern Ireland) looking for statistical inspiration from 16 enthusiastic speakers – some starting out in their statistical careers, others with years of experience behind them – across two parallel-running streams consisting of three sessions each: Sports / Technology; Government & Consultancy / Environment; and Medical / Finance. Companies and institutions represented at the event included Allstate, ATASS Sports, Cancer Research UK, Experian, Google (DeepMind & Advertisements), GSI, Lubrizol, Mango Solutions, NHS Blood and Transplant, Quintessa, Roche, Shell, Sony, Sport Radar and University of Leeds. The afternoon was generously sponsored by DataTech, Lubrizol, Sparx and Winton.

Throughout the afternoon, we learned how amazing it is to work for Google (no, really it is!), how sports models can be used to detect match fixing, how statistical modelling can be applied to cracked bricks in energy reactors and to develop new chemical technologies and engines… and much more. And we’re now all addicted to Cancer Research UK’s Apple and Android app ‘Reverse the Odds’ – designed as part of the Citizen Science initiative – involving statistical data gathered from the public in cancer awareness analyses.

The proceedings were brought to a close with a fascinating and motivating keynote presentation from Professor David Hand, former RSS president and Guy Medal Winner. Professor Hand entertained his audience with tales of academic life, setting up his own consultancy business, the pressure of being an expert witness in a court case of fraud, and his passion for writing which has resulted in over 20 books to his name, including “The Improbability Principle”. Professor Hand also provided invaluable advice to career-young statisticians during the Q&A session, ranging from the desirable qualities required to be a successful statistician to finding motivation as a doctoral student completing a thesis in Statistics.

The post-event networking wine reception was kindly sponsored by Sparx, who reminded us that only a small proportion of students leave school with a good maths qualification, and that providing quality teaching of maths and statistics within schools should therefore be a key priority for society. This message summed up one of the underlying messages from the Showcase: that all of us who attended the event are very fortunate to have had a good statistical education which has opened the door to so many opportunities across such a wide range of fields and industries. And whether we are lucky enough to find the role we love early in our statistical lives, or, like Professor Hand, try out several statistical avenues to explore where our true passion lies, with a statistical qualification we will never be short of job opportunities.

If you are interested in organising a statistical showcase within your company or institution, or simply finding out more, please get in touch with us on youngstatisticiansection@googlemail.com for ideas and a cheat sheet!

REVIEW – Young Statisticians Writing Webinar on 19 Mar 2015


Review by the webinar organiser, Sofya Gorelova.

On 19 March, the YSS hosted our first ever webinar, with over 50 participants! The event was a very popular one and generated really positive feedback.

The goal of the event was to complement the current YSS / Significance 2015 Young Statisticians Writing Competition by bringing together some great speakers who would share their experiences and advice on science journalism, as well as providing a forum for anyone to ask questions related to the competition.

Our first speaker was Brian Tarran, the editor of Significance Magazine, who delivered a great introductory presentation covering the details of the competition and how to get involved. Jonathan Auerbach followed up with an entertaining talk describing how he went about writing last year’s winning competition entry, “Does New York City really have as many rats as people?”. Robert Matthews then rounded off the trio of talks with some great journalism tips based on his many years of experience as a successful science writer.

(You can browse through the slides for the talks here.)

The second part of the event was a live Q&A session where participants could question the presenters over the phone or via the webinar chat facility. A large number of varied and interesting questions came in, and were superbly fielded by all the speakers.

We’ve already collated lots of useful feedback from the session which will help us continue delivering exciting webinars in the future! If you’d like to submit any comments or have any questions, please drop an email to Sofya Gorelova at the address shown below:


Don’t forget to sign up for our next free webinar on Thursday 23 April: “Visualising data: A statistician’s journey”. Full details are available here.

REVIEW – YSS at “Voice of the Future” on 4 Mar 2015


On 4 March 2015, two members of the YSS committee – Tim Paulden and Silvia Liverani – attended the annual Voice of the Future event at the House of Commons, where a panel of young researchers aged between 16 and 35 is given the opportunity to quiz a variety of key political figures, including the Science & Technology Select Committee and the government’s chief scientific advisor.

For further details, please see the StatsLife article here.