The RSS Annual General Meeting is a key opportunity for members to review the Society’s activities, finances, and governance arrangements.
This year, the Society's new Chief Executive, Stian Westlake, will give a presentation on the Society's work. Following this, members will discuss and vote on proposed changes to the Society’s Charter and Bylaws. The trustees are recommending several amendments to clarify and modernise these documents. A small number of substantive changes are proposed, notably the introduction of a new category of professional membership, titled ‘Data Analyst’ which will recognise good statistical knowledge at a modular level. Further details about the proposed amendments are given below.
Members will also be asked to either approve or amend:
- The 2019 Annual Report and Financial Statements
- The recommended member subscription rates for 2021
- The proposed audit arrangements for 2021
The online live event will be free to attend. It will only be open to RSS fellows, as non-fellows do not have the right to vote at our AGM (Annual General Meeting). We encourage fellows to attend and hope you will be able to join us.
Information about the proposed amendments to the RSS Royal Charter and Bylaws
Background information on the Charter and Bylaws
The RSS governance structure is contained in our current Charter and Bylaws. Following our merger with the Institute of Statisticians in 1993, the 1887 Charter was redrafted to secure European Union recognition of UK professional statistical qualifications.
A supplemental Charter was approved by the Queen in Council on 20 September 2005 and came into effect on 1 April 2006. The current Bylaws date from 1 April 2007.
Detailed rules and procedures for the implementation of our Bylaws are drawn up by our Council. For details on our current rules and procedures, download our regulations. If the proposed Charter and Bylaw amendments are accepted by the RSS fellowship and the Privy Council, revised regulations will be drawn up by Council.
What is a royal charter and when was it awarded to the Royal Statistical Society?
Many new professional bodies were formed in the 19th century, representing the new post-industrial revolution industries. These bodies sought recognition by gaining royal charters, which lay out their constitutions and defined the professions in question, often based on occupational activity or expertise. To their various corporate aims, these professional bodies added the concept of working in the public interest – something not found in earlier incarnations of professional bodies. This established a pattern for British professional bodies, and the ‘public interest’ has become a key test for a body seeking a royal charter.
The Royal Statistical Society was one such body. Originally formed in 1834 as the ‘Statistical Society of London’, it became the Royal Statistical Society in1887 upon being awarded its Royal Charter.
What are Bylaws?
An organisation’s Bylaws are concerned with the operation of the organisation and set out the form, manner, or procedures in which it should be run. Bylaws vary from organisation to organisation but generally cover such topics as the purpose of the organisation, who are its members, how it is governed and how trustees are elected, how meetings are conducted and what officers the organisation will have and a description of their duties. The wording of the Bylaws must be precise, otherwise the meaning may be open to interpretation.
The Royal Statistical Society Bylaws describe the constitution of the Society and its disciplinary procedures.
Making amendments to the Royal Charter and Bylaws
One of the sections in the Bylaws describes the procedures for amending Bylaws. It describes who can amend them (usually the membership), how much notice is needed and how much of a vote is needed.
Whilst the Bylaws describe the procedure for amending both the Royal Charter and Bylaws, even if a change is agreed by a vote of the membership, the request to change must then be approved by the Privy Council.
What is the Privy Council and why is it involved in the proposed RSS Charter/Bylaw changes?
The Privy Council of the United Kingdom is a formal body of advisors to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom and its membership includes senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
Among its many duties, the Privy Council advises the sovereign on the issuing of royal charters which enables certain professional, educational, or charitable bodies to grant ‘Chartered’ status to its members upon meeting the required standards set by the body. The RSS Royal Charter allows it to award Chartered Statistician status.
Why is the RSS Council recommending changes to the Charter and Bylaws?
The RSS Council agreed at its meeting in March this year to recommend to the fellowship the implementation of proposed changes to the Society’s Royal Charter and Bylaws. Council considered the proposed revisions will modernise and clarify the Charter to better administer the Society without changing the fundamental purpose for which it was founded. Council agreed that the proposed revisions should be succinct, fit for purpose and meet the requirements of the Privy Council.
The proposed amendments to the Bylaws have few substantive changes but the document has been edited with many clauses being transferred to the Society’s Regulations (these will be reviewed at a later date as Council has authority to adapt and amend Regulations).
The intention when editing was to ensure that the overall meaning was kept for each of the Bylaws.
What are the main changes being recommended?
There are two substantive changes to note:
1 - Bylaw 19: The Professional Affairs Committee (PAC) shall be the registration authority for admission to the Register of Chartered Statisticians exercising authority delegated from Council.
This proposed change is so that PAC is more clearly identified as having delegated authority from the Trustees, particularly in respect of its disciplinary powers, because the courts recognise that the trustees are conflicted (wanting high standards but also not to lose income from removal of members). So while the trustees will retain their ultimate authority, the PAC will have more independence in its managing the Register of Chartered Statisticians.
2 - Bylaw 2.4 There shall be a category of Data Analysts whose members may continue to use the postnominal ‘Data Analyst’
This proposed change is to allow the Society to launch a new category of membership, ‘Data Analyst.’ The Privy Council requires sight of the creation of any new categories of membership or qualification.
Can I see both the existing versions of the RSS Royal Charter and the Bylaws, as well as the proposed versions of the Charter and Bylaws?
Yes – they are available here:
Current RSS Charter
Proposed RSS Charter (PDF - changes in red)
Proposed RSS Charter with tracked changes (.docx)
Current RSS Bylaws
Proposed RSS Bylaws (PDF - changes in red)
Proposed RSS Bylaws with tracked changes (.docx)
What happens next?
The process and timeline for making the proposed revisions and subsequent submission of amendments to the Privy Council are as follows:
- The Society to call a Special General Meeting at which a resolution to make amendments to the Supplementary Charter and revisions to the Bylaws will be put to the fellowship of the Society. Council has agreed to put the resolution to the RSS fellowship at the AGM on 16 September 2020.
- Those RSS fellows present at the AGM will be called on to vote on the resolution to revise the Charter and Bylaws.
- If the fellowship agrees to the amendments, Council can continue with the application to the Privy Council.
- The Society to compile a list of non-objectors for the Privy Council: this is a list of other professional organisations who have been consulted on these changes and have raised no objections.
- Once Council has agreed to the changes, and any later changes, the documents are delivered to the Privy Council with the Petition signed by the President and sealed.
The proposed resolution will be put to the fellowship as described above, as part of the Society’s AGM on 16 September.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the proposed amendments to either the Charter or Bylaws, please contact Nicola Emmerson by Friday 4 September.