RSS President John Pullinger on statistics making an impact


  • Author: John Pullinger and Statistics Views
  • Date: 04 November 2013

Each week, we select an article hot of the press and provide free access for a limited period. This week's is from the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, written by the Society's own President, John Pullinger on the important role that the Society has to play. It is available to read for free until 2nd December. 'Statistics provides a special kind of understanding that enables well-informed decisions. As citizens and consumers we are faced with an array of choices. Statistics can help us to choose well. Our statistical brains need to be nurtured: we can all learn and practise some simple rules of statistical thinking. To understand how statistics can play a bigger part in our lives today we can draw inspiration from the founders of the Royal Statistical Society. Although in today's world the information landscape is confused, there is an opportunity for statistics that is there to be seized. This calls for us to celebrate the discipline of statistics, to show confidence in our profession, to use statistics in the public interest and to champion statistical education.'

To read the article in full, please click on the link below.

Statistics making an impact
John Pullinger

Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, Vol. 176 (4), pp. 819-840.
DOI: 10.1111/rssa.12023

thumbnail image: RSS President John Pullinger on statistics making an impact

Pullinger discusses the history of statistics and power, its relationship with citizenship and the place of the Royal Statistical Society and its role in improving statistical literacy, furthering the public's awareness of statistics for their own interest, helping with statistical qualifications and ends with a call for action:

'The Royal Statistical Society is ready: with its international membership and dedicated staff; with its communities of interest at local levels and across all disciplines; with its infrastructure of well-established Sections and new Sections in areas as varied as applied probability and statistics in sport; with its growing and vibrant Young Statisticians Section; with its high energy international conferences; with its well-respected journals; with its tradition of sharing information across the Society, fostered over so many years by Frank Duckworth, whose wonderful contribution to statistics I would like to acknowledge today as he steps down from his role as Editor of RSS News, with its partnership with the American Statistical Association to deliver the runaway success that is Significance magazine; with its rich history for inspiration.

The Royal Statistical Society is ready to play its special role.

Through support for statistical education and the getstats campaign, we are ready to help to give people the competence and confidence to use statistics and to think statistically: making the data deluge a force that helps citizens to make better choices in their lives rather than letting it wash over them or, worse still, sweep them aside.

Through supporting statistics for the public interest, we are ready to help to make knowledge about the work and performance of government and the state of the world around us relevant and available to everyone.

Through promoting the role of the professional statistician, we are ready to inspire the next generation to make statistics their career of choice.

Through celebrating the discipline of statistics, we are ready to help it to thrive in our universities, to attract the best and brightest minds and to provide the insights and innovations that will support us in addressing the problems of the future.

The ideas of statistics and the state go hand in hand. If this century is to be the citizen's century, statistics is ready to give the people the power to choose. Our choices will continue to be governed by our biological needs, our emotional desires and our spiritual beliefs. That is the joy of the human condition. But through statistics we can have a special kind of understanding that enables us to make well-informed decisions:

informing the state in making just laws that we as citizens respect and informing the delivery of the justice that those laws demand;
informing businesses in giving citizens the goods and services that we want at prices we can afford and building a strong economy;
informing individuals and communities in making wise choices for today and for a sustainable future for our children.

Statistics appeals to our rational side, our heads providing a balance to our sometimes wayward hearts. In the data rich world that is emerging as our future, those nations, governments, businesses and individuals who use the power of numbers will prosper. Those who ‘get stats’ will get on. Those who do not will get left behind.

Let us use statistics to make an impact.'

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