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.
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).
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.
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.
A full video of this years’ Voice of the Future event is available on Parliament TV Live.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Young Statisticians Writing Webinar for the Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writing competition with Significance Magazine.
The webinar will provide invaluable advice and motivation to those interested in the 2018 Writing Competition for Early-Career Statisticians, and for those who wish to make their statistical writing more accessible.
The YSS and Significance are hosting this free one-hour webinar at 3pm on Wednesday 28 March covering everything you need to know to start writing. Three fantastic presenters will be sharing their experience and advice, and you will have the chance to ask them any burning questions you have relating to the competition, or any more general queries you have on making your statistical writing jump off the page.
Our speakers are:
Brian Tarran, Editor of Significance Magazine.
Jonathan Auerbach and Sam Tyner, previous finalists of the competition.
Joining in is easy!
Either join through the Skype Meeting (you may need to install the app first) or dial in using the details below:
Phone number: +44 203 321 5256
Access Code: 16 507 182
Conference ID: 16 507 182
We hope you will be able to join us!
The launch for the new RSS section for Machine Learning and Computational Statistics was held on the 25th of January 2018. The launch event consisted of a series of talks giving introductions to machine learning, work into methodological issues, and examples of applications to real world issues.
The launch started with a talk from Sylvia Richardson of the MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge. She gave a talk covering work on data compression with statistical guarantees, specifically methods to conduct multivariate regression and model exploration in datasets that can contain upwards of 500000 individuals.
The second talk was given by Zoubin Ghahramani of the University of Cambridge and Uber AI labs. He gave a clear introduction to the areas of machine learning and computational statistics, including explanations of various key terms. His talk focussed on the area of deep learning.
The launch continued with a talk from Julien Cornebise of Element AI, who described ongoing work using machine learning to assemble evidence of destruction of villages in Sudan through examination of satellite photographs of the area.
The final talk was delivered by Yee Whye Teh of the University of Oxford and Deepmind. He described the benefit of using Bayesian approaches, such as utilising prior information, for complex networks of data (such as where there is a large amount of data, but relatively little data for each individual in the analysis).
The launch concluded with a networking session, which allowed researchers with a background or interest in the area to connect.
Committee… Competitions… Volunteering… Events…
We’ve just released Issue #6 of the YSS Bulletin – our short summary of what the Young Statisticians Section are planning and promoting!
Or that you could have the opportunity to teach in Africa with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences?
Check out the Bulletin to find out more!