young statisticians section

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ANNOUNCEMENT – The winner of our 2017 writing competition is…

Judging took place last month for our writing competition for early-career statisticians. It was the most competitive contest in years, with entrants from several African nations, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. We are delighted to announce our finalists and this year’s winner.

Kevin Lin, a fourth-year PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, is the winner of the 2017 Statistical Excellence Award for Early-Career Writing. Kevin’s article, “We, the millennials: The statistical significance of political significance”, explores the subject of political engagement and analyses changes in “upvoting” behaviour on the social news aggregation site,, over the past decade.

Judges found Kevin’s article to be both timely and topical. In addressing the subject of political engagement, he touches on an issue that is very much top of mind, not only in the US, but in the UK and other parts of the democratic world. His article makes interesting use of Reddit data, while taking the time to acknowledge the assumptions he has made, and the limitations of the information he has available. The story is clearly told and written in a journalistic style that makes it an ideal fit for Significance and a worthy winner of this year’s contest. Congratulations to Kevin – his winning article, “We, the millennials”, will be published in the October 2017 issue of Significance.

Our two runners-up are:

  • Levon Demirdjian, a doctoral candidate at UCLA Statistics, for “When truth overshadows power”, which examines the controversy surrounding the film The Promise and analyses the polarised review scores it has received on the Internet Movie Database.
  • Charlotte Moragh Jones-Todd, a research assistant from New Zealand, for “A time to kill: Great British serial killers”, a statistical “true crime” story that looks at the occurrence of serial murders from the 1820s to the modern day in an attempt to discern a pattern.
Thank you to all those who entered this year’s competition, who helped to make it such a fun and interesting competition to judge. We look forward to seeing many new and returning names for next year’s competition, which will be announced in early 2018.

Further information on the writing competition can be found here.

ANNOUNCEMENT – YSS Bulletin #5 released!


Events… Opportunities… Support… Networking…

We’ve just released Issue #5 of the YSS Bulletin – a quick two-minute summary of what the Young Statisticians Section are currently doing!

The deadline for the 2017 Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writing  organised jointly with Significance magazine is fast approaching! There’s still time to get your entry in by the 29th May. This year’s Statistical Showcase will take place on Friday 30th June with a morning training session provided on R/R Shiny.

Check out the Bulletin to find out more.


ANNOUNCEMENT – Review of “Celebrating 20 Years of CRAN and R supporting statistics” – 25th April 2017

The “Celebrating 20 Years of CRAN and R supporting statistics” event was jointly hosted by the Glasgow Local group and the Young Statisticians Section of the Royal Statistical Society. The event consisted of speakers Dr. Charis Chanialidis, Dr. Mike Spencer and Dr. Colin Gillespie presenting and celebrating the history of CRAN and R software and the multitude of benefits and applications of this statistical tool. The event was co-hosted by Johnathan Love and Kate Pyper and had approximately 50 attendees that attended in person and approximately 50 attendees that joined in on the event, via livestream.

Dr. Charis Chanialidis of the University of Glasgow presented his thoughts about data visualisation and statistical modelling in Shiny, a package from RStudio that provides a web framework for building web applications (apps). In his talk, Dr. Chanialidis highlighted that this package is gaining in popularity and R users can turn statistical analyses into useful and interactive web applications and this was accompanied with a live demonstration using several Shiny apps. One significant point that was highlighted was the fact that Shiny apps can prove to be a useful tool for engaging with non-statisticians and/or the general public.

Afterwards, Dr. Mike Spencer of Scotland’s Rural College, presented his work on predicting snowmelt using R software. Dr. Spencer highlighted how snowmelt contributes to flood risk and gave a brief history of how some of the largest floods, such as the second largest recorded flood event on the River Thames after the winter of 1947, were attributable to snowmelt. In his talk, he demonstrated how he was able to utilise R to model the risks of snowmelt to reservoirs in Scotland, via extreme value analysis. Highlights that Dr. Spencer touched upon include being able to run R as a platform within other software (e.g. GRASS, GIS), and the production of spatial maps that one is able to produce using R software.

Finally, Dr. Colin Gillespie of Newcastle University and jumping rivers, presented a history and the development of CRAN and R software over the past 20 years. In his talk, Dr. Gillespie explained what CRAN is and the requirements involved in producing packages to be installed in R software. One of the main highlights from Dr. Gillespie was how the development of packages has grown tremendously over the past 20 years, such that the number of packages available to be installed in R/RStudio software has surpassed 10,000 as of the 24th April 2017.

Overall, this was a well turned out event by those who could attend in person to the University of Strathclyde and across the country, via livestream, and a rare celebration of CRAN and R software.

ANNOUNCEMENT – 40th Research Students’ Conference in Probability and Statistics held in Durham

The 40th research students’ conference (RSC) in probability and statistics took place from April 18th to April 21st 2017 in the Calman Learning Centre, Durham University.  The RSC is a large annual conference that is organised by PhD students for PhD students in any field relating to probability or statistics.  Being a student conference, the RSC provides delegates with a friendly and relaxed environment to discuss research and exchange ideas.

This year was the second time RSC has been in Durham (with the first time being back in 2007), and it was a triumphant success.  68 delegates attended the conference from a large number of universities across the UK and Ireland.  Almost every delegate gave a talk or poster presentation at the conference, with a wide range of topics covering many aspects of probability as well as both frequentist and Bayesian methods being covered, for example medical statistics, statistical modelling, non-parametric inference and stochastic processes to name but a few.  We had four distinguished guest speakers giving plenary talks: Professor Denise Lievesley (Principal of Green Templeton college, University of Oxford), Professor Nicholas Bingham (Imperial College, London), Professor Michael Goldstein (Durham University) and Dr. Peter Avery (Newcastle University).  These talks were very inspiring, covering both the speakers’ fascinating careers as wells fundamental research areas of probability and statistics.

In addition to the academic aspect of the conference, a number of social events were organised to bring the postgraduate community together to establish friendships and showcase the beauty of the historic city of Durham.  A combined posters and sponsors event allowed delegates to present their posters and sponsors, from both research and industrial backgrounds local and national without whom the conference would not have be possible, to advertise their companies.  Other events included a trip to the cathedral, a tour of Durham castle and a fun-filled mathematically themed quiz, with the whole week culminating in a conference dinner and ceilidh in the great hall of Durham castle – a truly magical experience that the delegates will be unlikely to forget!

RSC 2017 was a great success, with feedback from delegates being very positive and indicated their appreciation of such a smooth flowing, informative and fun conference.  RSC 2017 has hopefully left all those present with newly established research ideas and newly established friendships, along with fantastic memories.  Focus now already turns towards next year’s gathering in Sheffield which promises to be equally entertaining and informative.

ANNOUNCEMENT – Webinar: False Starts in Elite Athletics

Are we sure that when an athlete is disqualified for a false start, in an Olympic 100 m event say,  that they have actually false started? On Wednesday 29th March YSS committee member Kevin Brosnan gave a webinar discussing the false start rulings used in elite athletics and questioned if the existing rules are fair. The webinar was hosted by the Statistics in Sports section of the Royal Statistical Society, as part of their new webinar series which will see interesting interactions of sports and statistics.

The webinar focused on research which modelled existing response times of athletes to the starting gun with data from 1999 up to 2014. The research identified that false starts currently detected are indeed true false starts, however the outstanding issue is that some true false starts remain undetected under the current rules. Using statistical modelling we have proposed new false start time limits for male and female events, while also identifying an interesting and questionable result at last summer’s Rio Olympics.

To find out more a copy of the presentation can be found at, while a recording of the presentation including the audio will be available on the RSS Youtube channel ( soon!

YSS at Voice of the Future 2017

Voice of the Future is an annual event which offers young scientists the chance to raise and discuss important issues about science policies to key political figures. The event is held in Parliament each year as a part of British Science Week. This year YSS Committee members Johnathan Love and Lucy Teece attended the event as representatives of the Royal Statistical Society.

Johnathan Love:johnathan

The Voice of the Future was a unique opportunity to interact and ask Members of Parliament, Sir Mark Walport the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee questions about the opportunities and challenges that Science in the UK faces in the foreseeable future .


Johnathan’s Highlight:

Coming from a mathematical and statistical background and being a STEM ambassador, one of the highlights for me was a question asked by a school pupil onVOF1 the panel to Chi Onwurah MP, which focused on how can we, as a society, change young people’s negative attitudes towards maths and also convince people that numeracy is an essential skill to have. Chi’s response to this question highlighted that we should be giving “more and better rewards for teachers” and that the media can have a role to play in changing the country’s perception of Maths as a subject; though the responsibility of changing these attitudes and perceptions lies with our society and we should be doing more to promote the fact that Maths is a really “important, creative and beautiful subject.”

As can be expected, questions around leaving the European Union featured heavily, with a number of conVOF2cerns raised about the effect of this change on research funding and collaboration with existing European colleagues. It was encouraging to hear Jo Johnson MP confirm a commitment from the Government to research and development as a “big priority” and that £4.7 billion is planned to be spent by 2021 on UK Research and Development, which is a 20% increase of what was planned to be originally spent on UK Research and Development.

A multitude of topics were discussed by Sir Mark Walport and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: ranging from genetic technologies, driverless cars, food security, artificial intelligence, commercial spaceflight, antimicrobial resistance and the influence of the arts, humanities and social sciences on scientific policy.

This unique event encourages young scientists from all over the UK to take part in political debate and shows that there is a real interest in government to engage with the scientific community.

Lucy Teece:

Lucy T - 2016

“I was honoured to be asked to represent the Royal Statistical at this year’s Voice of the Future event. This excellent opportunity shows a willingness to build and maintain a constructive dialogue between parliament and the younger generation of scientists.”

Throughout the afternoon we heard questions from representatives from a wide range of scientific societies, organisations, and local high schools. There was a great deal of involvement from many of the UK’s greatest science organisations, such as the Royal Society, the British Pharmacological Society, and the Campaign for Science and Engineering. These questions were answered by Chi Onwurah MP (Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation), Sir Mark Walport (Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Jo Johnson MP (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation) and members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

A full video of the Voice of the Future hearing is available on the website.

ANNOUNCEMENT – YSS Bulletin #4 released!









Events… Opportunities… Support… Networking…

We’ve just released Issue #4 of the YSS Bulletin – a quick two-minute summary of what the Young Statisticians Section are currently doing!

For example, did you know that our 2017 Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writing – organised jointly with Significance magazine – has now gone live? Or that this year’s Statistical Showcase will take place on Friday 30th June?

Check out the Bulletin to find out more.


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