Statisticians for Society: A volunteer's perspective

Last year, RSS fellows Laura Howell and David Loughlin worked with the charity Embrace Wigan and Leigh (EW&L) to help the organisation analyse its data and improve its current evaluation and collection methods. It was a connection made via the RSS Statisticians for Society project. Ahead of Volunteers' Week 2020, Laura describes how she became involved and the work that she did with EW&L.

My interest in statistics began during my BSc in Mathematics studies. After my degree, I went on to complete an MSc in Statistics. My first job was working as a senior research assistant at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) supporting projects on various health topics including cancer and stroke research. I then worked as a research associate in medical statistics based in the Clinical Trials Unit at UCLan. My role involved providing statistical support to four NHS trusts, helping with the designing of trials, performing sample size calculations, preparing ethics applications, data analysis and writing publications. In April 2017 I began working as a statistician for the Government Statistical Service.

I have always wanted to get involved with providing statistical support to charities and so the RSS Statisticians for Society scheme was a great opportunity for this. My colleague, David Loughlin, and I decided to sign up to the scheme and we were linked to the charity Embrace Wigan & Leigh (EW&L). The RSS set up our initial connection with them and briefed us on what would be required from us. The RSS offered support and guidance when needed and a QA panel to assure our work.

The project
EW&L is a user-led charity dedicated to supporting disabled people and their families in the Wigan and Leigh area and surrounding districts. EW&L wished to enhance their data capabilities to meet their charity objectives and so our work proposal covered four key areas: The first was to help the charity develop their current method of data collection to provide them with more knowledge of their clients. The second was to support the charity to be more consistent with data collection before and after an intervention so they could monitor and compare impacts effectively. The third was to explore the data that the charity currently holds on existing clients and advise on the possible analysis that could be undertaken. The fourth was to support the charity to be consistent across multiple projects with data collection and therefore align processes where possible.

We provided a report to EW&L, outlining recommendations for improving data collection methods for their projects. We also advised on the analytical methods that could be used to assess the impact of their interventions.

I found taking part in the Statisticians for Society scheme very rewarding and the charity felt that the information we provided would benefit them going forwards, especially with funding applications. I continue to support the charity by attending quarterly management committee meetings as a subject matter expert.

Read more about about the Embrace Wigan and Leigh project

Want to get involved? Sign up to our Statisticians for Society as a volunteer or charity looking for statistical expertise.

This article was originally published in the Royal Statistical Society's February Member Update.

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