The RSS Sections and Local Groups are run by a committee of volunteer RSS fellows. Sections organize scientific meetings and events which focus on a particular branch or application of statistics. Whereas Local Groups organize a wide range of meetings based in and around a particular geographical region. The Section and Local Groups meetings are open to all members of the Society. The events offer a great opportunity to share statistical expertise, discover new developments in statistics, and to network with statisticians with similar interests.
Find out more about the Sections and Local Groups by watching the videos below!
Meet the Statistics and Law Section
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Graham Jackson. I am an independent consultant forensic scientist, specialising in the principles and application of forensic inference. I am not a qualified statistician, my formal qualification amounting only to an A-level in Pure Mathematics with Statistics. Like many scientists of my generation, when I first started my professional career, my use of statistics was quite basic, i.e. only when necessary, not frequently and not too complex! Forensic science in its early days was largely a descriptive science – we described what we had done at a scene of crime or in the laboratory and we described what we had found and what we thought it meant. We conducted studies and collected data on, for example, the transfer and persistence of trace materials and the frequency of occurrence of such materials. We were focussed on questions such as – how much material could be transferred; how long could it last; how common is it? I think we were more interested in the outliers in a distribution, e.g. what’s the maximum time that this transferred material could stay on a surface? Even with these relatively few studies and databases, our interpretation of our findings was, I believe, more of an art than a science. In the 1980s, a few forensic statisticians began to explore application of a probabilistic approach to some forensic problems. That approach really took off when DNA analysis exploded onto the scene in the late 1980s. As practitioners, we were exposed to, at some times, quite challenging statistical concepts in the logical evaluation of evidence. However, I became hooked and, because the principles of logical evaluation are eminently transferable, I was soon exploring the application to other areas of forensic science. It is now very pleasing to see these principles being widely researched, applied and accepted in the forensic science community.
Why you joined the RSS and your Section
I joined the RSS when I was invited in 2006 to participate in a new working group – the Statistics and Law Working group – that had been set up in the wake of several high-profile cases that involved the misuse of statistics. I was a little apprehensive about whether I would be out of my depth but I soon discovered the pleasure and usefulness of working with a range of statisticians who were keen to develop helpful approaches to practical problems not just in forensic science and the criminal law but in the civil fields of epidemiology and causation. Our group has provided responses to various consultation exercises and has published four Practitioner Guides booklets to help judges, lawyers, police and expert practitioners. I was privileged to have had the opportunity to help co-author two of those Guides.
The group is now a fully-fledged Section of the RSS and, among other activities, organises regular seminars on current issues in Statistics and the Law.
The objectives of the section and events
The purpose of the Section is to enable the RSS to make informed and, hopefully, influential contributions to the administration of justice as well as encouraging research and disseminating knowledge amongst the statistical, legal, forensic science and forensic medicine communities.
We hold around three events per year on a variety of topics. Our most recent meeting was on the evaluation of digital forensic evidence (such as mobile phone tracking) – we heard from a forensic scientist, an academic and the forensic science regulator about the statistical challenges in this field. We also regularly hold events jointly with the legal community (e.g. an event on causation and epidemiological evidence held at Fountain Court chambers in London). We have a follow-up event to this planned for the coming year, as well as events on decision-support in legal procedures and on predictive policing.
How to get involved
We have a mailing list where we advertise our events and send out information that might be of interest to those following the section. We welcome all at our meetings – it is not necessary to have a background in forensic science or the law! We are also happy to speak with anyone interested in getting involved in this field or who would like to work with the section on a joint project or event. Of course we would also welcome anyone who would like to volunteer as a committee member!
Meet the Young Statisticians Section (YSS):
Meet the RSS Merseyside Local Group:
Meet the RSS Glasgow Local Group:
Tell us a bit about yourself, why you joined the RSS and why you joined the Glasgow Local Group.
My name is Sebastián Martínez, I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Glasgow. My research focuses on how to do statistical inference in networks, with an application on public health. I am from Colombia, where I did one Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and one in Economics. Before coming to Glasgow to do work on my Ph.D., I lived for a couple of years in Berlin doing a Master’s in Public Policy and learning how to make sausages (when in Rome…).
I believe in the proper dissemination of science, and given that this was the topic of one of the first events organised by the RSS Glasgow Local Group I attended, I was hooked from the beginning. At the beginning of 2018, they were looking for new members for the committee, so I submitted my name and have been a part of it since.
Tell us about the objectives of the Glasgow Local Group and any recent events of interest
The local group is well established, and has been organising events for the local members since its inception. Just like other local groups, the main objectives of the Glasgow Local Group is to engage with the local community through public events on specific areas of statistical interest.
We organise around 6 events every year, with a broad range of topics. At the beginning of the year the University of Strathclyde hosted us for an event with the President of the RSS, David Spiegelhalter, on the topic of ‘Trust in Numbers’. We partook in the Glasgow Science Festival, at the Kelvingrove Museum, where members from our committee taught passers-by about a ‘cool’ statistical technique to estimate the number of penguins in an area, without having to count them all. We are currently engaging with the International Development Section of the RSS to talk about the data challenges of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
How can we get involved with the Local Group?
We have a mailing list which anyone can join, and a Twitter account that helps us spread relevant news from our local group. I am sure I speak for the committee when I say that any one of us would be happy to talk to any person interested in our events, our work, the local group, being a member of the committee, or statistics in general.