The depths of winter – the warmth of summer

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As you know the British are rather obsessed with the weather.  Possibly because we have a moderately temperate climate where the seasons merge slowly into each other.  So it is rather natural that I comment about the weather here in the UK when I write these blogs.  And in recent weeks we have had cold crispy mornings, with frost on the lawn – ideal for walking and fresh air.

The worldwide diversity of the ISI

But I remind myself when I write this that the ISI is a worldwide community, and some of you will have been enjoying time on the beach, in the summer of the southern hemisphere, while others live in more tropical climates, or are coping with hurricanes and tsunamis.  The worldwide diversity of the ISI is one of its notable features, with members in 120 countries.

This diversity is one of our strengths, but our worldwide reach does make it difficult to get together, and although some countries are now seeing an easing of travel restrictions, for others, vaccination rates remain below 20% and international travel remains in the future.  So, the UN recently announced that this year’s meeting of its Statistical Commission (UNSC), an annual meeting of the Chief Statisticians from across the world, would be held virtually for the second year running.  The ISI attends these meetings, which are a valuable opportunity to catch up with colleagues.  We usually host a ‘side meeting’, an opportunity to discuss a topic of current importance.

UNSC 2022: ISI side event on Statistical Leadership

This year we have chosen the topic of ‘Statistical Leadership’.  One of the delights of being an incoming ISI President is that various people ask you to speak at their conferences.  And with many of these conferences being on-line, accepting was, for me, not difficult – although time zones meant that one talk, scheduled to be at 2.30 am, had to be pre-recorded.  But what topic would I choose for my talks?

I have been thinking on the issue of Statistical Leadership for some time, and these invitations gave me the incentive to develop my thoughts further.  It seemed to me that, at least in the UK, the COVID pandemic had brought statistics on to the front page of the newspapers every day, and views of statisticians were being sought.  I could see that the UK Office for National Statistics had demonstrated real leadership with its rapid development of new data sources and new analyses, other statistics offices too, and it was going to be important to build on this achievement.

I was also influenced by some thinking of a few years back on whether statisticians are naturally good leaders, and why governments often choose non-statisticians to head statistics agencies.  Does the profession tend to attract people who prefer to stay in the background rather than come to the front, or does the work that we do not help to nurture leadership skills?  So leadership is an individual attribute as well as an organisational one.  And then there is the leadership role of statistical societies, such as the ISI, in influencing public debate.

Quite a lot of different aspects to discuss. I am looking forward to the UNSC side meeting and exploring these a bit further with people.

If you have thoughts on this subject, do let me know.

Steve

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