Council Elections

Our Council, chaired by our president, is our main governing body, managing our income, funds, property and activities, and representing the Society and its members and to the wider statistical community. Membership to the Council is made up of volunteers who are fellows of the Society.

At the end of 2023, four Council members will be stepping down from their position as their four-year term in office comes to an end. The Council has shortlisted six candidates who have agreed to run in this year’s election to fill the four vacancies from 1 January 2024.

The 2023 Council election has now closed.
Meet your new Council members

Timandra Harkness

"I value the Society’s mission to use statistics for the public good, and would strengthen that mission in two areas:

Good statistical thinking needs to be put at the centre of data collection and analysis, both in practice and in the public mind. The Society should cultivate stronger links with data organisations, companies and practitioners, and its own distinctive public voice.

The public also needs a stronger voice in how data are collected and used. This means better formal and informal education, and including a broader range of people in public conversations. The Statistical Ambassadors could have great impact here."

Candidate biography
Timandra is a freelance writer, broadcaster and speaker, and a Graduate Statistician with the RSS, having gained a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics with the Open University.

She was part of the Special Interest Group in Data Ethics, helping it become the Data Ethics and Governance Section, and chairing several public events run by the SIG and the Section. She is now on the ONS SRS Advisory Group. Previously, Timandra participated in training the Statistical Ambassadors in public engagement and communication, and took part in Conference events, especially on matters around statistics and the public.  Much of Timandra’s work has been about making mathematical, scientific and statistical ideas accessible to the general public. She has written regularly for Significance, as well as for other publications from broadsheets to Men’s Health magazine. Her first book – Big Data: does size matter? – published by Bloomsbury in 2016, explained data analysis, its uses, potential and pitfalls, for lay readers. She has written and performed comedy about risk, the maths of death, and other scientific and statistical themes, from the Edinburgh Fringe to small town arts centres around the UK. She is regularly asked onto radio and television to explain technology and data news stories in comprehensible language.

In her spare time, Timandra enjoys inept boating on the tidal Thames, where she is regularly responsible for the lives of six rowers, and studying for a Philosophy MA at Birkbeck College, where an alarming number of the examples in moral philosophy involve people drowning.

Neil Spencer

"I believe an important RSS role is to bring together statisticians, data scientists, analysts, and others, from a variety of backgrounds, employment sectors and disciplines, helping us to learn about the world of Statistics beyond our normal professional/personal lives, and have a sense of shared community. My work spans activities from teaching and research to commercial consultancy and training and I see how involvement in each one of these areas can enrich the others. If elected, I will encourage the development of activities which break down subject barriers, avoid silos, and enable greater sharing of members’ knowledge and experiences."

Candidate biography
Neil is Professor of Applied Statistics and Director of the Statistical Services and Consultancy Unit at the University of Hertfordshire. He completed a BSc in Applied Statistics at the University of Reading before moving to the University of Southampton for an MSc in Social Statistics and then to Lancaster University for a PhD in Applied Statistics. He then became a lecturer at Staffordshire University, where he first became involved in consultancy, and moved on to the University of Hertfordshire. He is a Chartered Statistician.

Neil has been an active member of the RSS for many years. He is Vice Chair of the Business & Industrial Section and formerly its Meetings Secretary, having also previously been on the Statistical Computing Section committee. As a result of his experience in consultancy he has been a member of the Scoping Committee for the RSS’s Statisticians for Society scheme since its inception. He has been a member of the Conferences & Events Board for several years.

Neil has undertaken research in a variety of subjects, from Victorian censuses to value-added school league tables, paramedics treating patients whilst wearing protective equipment, health behaviour surveys of school children, compassion in education, creation of family memories, and surveys of gig economy workers across 13 European countries.

Consultancy work has included testing the randomness of National Lottery machines (for over two decades), parish plan surveys, appearing as an expert witness, methods for in-service testing of utility meters, and others, for a range of clients large and small.

Benjamin Guedj

"I am deeply humbled to be nominated for this Council Election. I have over fifteen years of involvement in learned societies, charities and political structures, and I strongly support the use of data and statistics as the backbone to any decision-making process, for the good of the public; I commit to improve statistical knowledge literacy among policymakers. If elected to the Council and as a Trustee I will commit to the vision of the RSS and actively support and expand its many activities; among which, international development, scientific events and enthusiast engagement with policymakers and the public."

Candidate biography
Benjamin is a statistician and machine learning scientist based in London. He is an Associate Professor at University College London (Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Department of Computer Science), a tenured research scientist at Inria (the top French research institute in mathematics and computer science), and a Turing Fellow with The Alan Turing Institute. Since Sept. 2020, he is the founder and scientific director of Inria London, a Franco-British joint lab.

Benjamin conducts research in mathematical statistics and machine learning. He holds a PhD (2013) in mathematics and statistics from Sorbonne Université (Paris, France) and focuses on statistical learning theory, PAC-Bayes, computational statistics, generalisation for deep learning, among other topics. He has contributed over 60 research articles in statistics and machine learning. He obtained several competitive grants in Europe and France, is involved in programme committees of most of the machine learning venues and has received several awards including three consecutive best reviewer awards for NeurIPS. He is leading the first Inria research team in the UK, and is a member of the ELLIS society and a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society (member of the CSML Section). Benjamin is a Young Leader of the Franco-British Council, and a Knight of the Order of the Academic Palms of the French Republic. He has served as deputy secretary, elected member of the board, and founder and president of two Committees of the French Statistical Society, and is committed to the Franco-British scientific cooperation and friendship. More details:

Rhiannon Edge

"I firmly believe in the Royal Statistical Society, and I would be honoured to serve on the council. The RSS is becoming increasingly relevant, it can quickly bring statisticians together to act in the public's best interest. For example, the COVID-19 Task Force pushing for data driven decision making at the highest level - this made me proud to be a fellow of the RSS. If elected, I promise to work hard to help the Society achieve its strategic goals. The RSS is vital, it gives us a method of advocating for statistics in the age of data."

Candidate biography
Rhiannon recently joined AstraZeneca as an Associate Director of Statistical Science. She previously held a lectureship position at Lancaster University for 6 years, after completing her PhD in Statistics and Epidemiology within CHICAS (Lancaster Medical School). Rhiannon has a BSc in Mathematics with Biology from Newcastle University, and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Rhiannon’s research interests are based around applied statistics to health research, paediatric vaccination uptake and occupational health epidemiology. As an early career researcher, she was invited to the 68th Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2018 following global competition. She regularly works with NHS organisations and in recent years she has worked closely with the ONS to better understand the occupational epidemiology of COVID-19.  She has supervised PhD Students and Master’s Students, as well as teaching statistics to undergraduate medical students. In her current role, Rhiannon is part of the strategic decision making related to emerging vaccine and immune therapeutics development and is learning a lot about clinical trial statistics! 

Rhiannon has been an active member of the RSS since joining as a PhD student in 2015. She was a committee member of the Emerging Applications Section before being nominated as Chair of the committee in 2019. Notably she organised the launch event for the section, guided the committee during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, and acted as representative to the Discussion Meetings Committee. 

Louisa Nolan

"We face significant global challenges: climate change, opportunities and risks from AI, the deluge of mis-information via social media, and more. Underpinning our societal response to these should be good data, sound analysis, robust ethics and standards, and confident, professional practitioners. The RSS has an important role in this, as the voice of a trusted, independent, professional body.
If elected, I would focus on two things. Listening to members, to understand what the RSS can provide to support your career development. And championing the role that quality statistics, data science and data fluency should play at the heart of decision-making."

Candidate biography
I’m currently Head of Data Science at Public Health Wales, enjoying the challenge to do more with data, automation and AI to improve health and well-being in Wales.
I’ve been developing cutting-edge statistics, research and analysis since joining the Civil Service in 2008. This includes the first ONS publication of real-time economic indicators. As Chief Data Scientist in ONS’
Data Science Campus, I was responsible for teams developing and delivering innovative data science for public good, and for building capability in data science across the public sector. I also led a significant programme of work improving the UK’s financial statistics using big data. I’ve worked with people across the public sector, private sector, academia and internationally. Earlier in my career, I led the development and publication of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation at the Welsh Government.
WIMD is still my favourite statistic!
Before joining ONS, I spent 10 years as an extragalactic astrophysicist, exploring the formation and evolution of galaxies. I’m now privileged to be a Visiting Professor at the University of South Wales (although not for astrophysics, it’s been a while since I did any of that!). Underpinning both parts of my career so far has been curiosity, for why things happen and whether we can do them better. I have been on the RSS Data Science and AI Section Committee since 2021. In my spare time, I’ve been playing with Raspberry Pi and robotics and sensors.
Waleed Backler

"At a time in which statistics has become increasingly crucial in today’s data-driven world, if elected, I will proudly promote the impressive work of the RSS locally and globally. Moving to the UK at the age of ten, with English as my fourth language, I will share my unique perspectives and life experiences to ensure the RSS continues to be more equal, diverse and inclusive. Against challenging economic conditions, I will help shape the Society’s strategy to ensure its continued success, investing smartly in our activities to deepen our impact and to make the Society relevant to broader groups."

Candidate biography
Waleed has been a member of the Government Statistical Service since 2016, leading critical work across several government departments in diverse policy areas, building effective partnerships and directly interacting with Ministers to shape the UK government’s strategy. In his current role as the principal data adviser to the UK government Law Officers at the Attorney General’s Office, he has responsibility for establishing data and evidence at the heart of the department’s priorities post-COVID, promoting good statistical practice while working closely with the Ministry of Justice, Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit.

Waleed is an advocate for maximising the use of administrative data to inform policy decisions, building trust in official statistics by using emerging technologies and innovations to improve data collection, analysis and dissemination processes, and enhancing users’ engagement with official statistics. He is also passionate about health statistics (Waleed was awarded the National Institute for Health Research studentship for his Medical Statistics MSc) and is a champion and promoter for diversity and inclusion, having been a mentor on HMRC’s Social Mobility Mentoring Scheme.

Waleed was an active member of the RSS Official Statistics Section committee (2017-2020), contributing to running the section, organising and advertising many events, and promoting the wider vision of the Society. Waleed is a staunch supporter of young professionals and students, publishing several articles and contributing to talks at academic institutions, including running data visualisation workshops for social scientists.
How to nominate

Do you think you’d make a good Council member, or know someone who would? Nominate someone for the next round of elections.

For more information, please email