Announcing our honours recipients for 2021   

Every year we award medals and prizes to people who have made outstanding contributions to the development of statistics. We are delighted to announce the recipients of this year’s honours, who will be presented with their awards at a ceremony during our annual conference in Manchester this September.   

The 2021 winners are: 

  • Guy Medal in Silver – Håvard Rue 
  • Guy Medal in Bronze – Pierre E. Jacob 
  • Wood Medal – Katie Harron 
  • Chambers Medal – Sara Hilditch 
  • Bradford Hill Medal – Bianca de Stavola 
  • West Medal – Peter Goldblatt  
  • Howard Medal – Brian Francis 
  • Greenfield Industrial Medal – Philip Jonathan 
  • Research Prize – Chengchun Shi 
  • Barnett Award – Jonathan (Jonty) Rougier 

Professor Sylvia Richardson, RSS President and Chair of the Honours Committee, said: ‘This year’s recipients have made a profound contribution to both the discipline and to the Society. Their work is a splendid showcase of the impact that statistics can have. On behalf of the Honours Committee, I would like to give my congratulations to them all.’ 

Guy Medal in Silver – Håvard Rue 
The Guy Medal in Silver is awarded to Håvard Rue for his substantial and significant contributions in the area of efficient and scalable computational techniques for the data analysts’ toolbox; specifically the theory underpinning the INLA (integrated nested Laplace approximation) software. These contributions include the two highly influential and impactful JRSSB papers read before the society: ‘Approximate Bayesian inference for latent Gaussian models by using integrated nested Laplace approximations’ (co-authors: S Martino and N Chopin) and ‘An explicit link between Gaussian fields and Gaussian Markov random fields: the stochastic partial differential equation approach’ (co-authors: F Lindgren and J Lindström).  

These papers focus on computational modelling issues, providing scalable techniques and practical model fitting solutions. The latter paper describes the relationship between continuously indexed Gaussian fields and discretely indexed Gaussian Markov random fields leading to significantly simpler model-fitting. The former paper lays the foundation of the integrated nested Laplace approximation approach for latent Gaussian models permitting the fitting of complex methods quickly and accurately, which has revolutionised the area of spatial statistics, and has been applied to areas ranging from gene expression to public health. 


Guy Medal in Bronze – Pierre E Jacob  
The Guy Medal in Bronze is awarded to Pierre Jacob for his innovative and fundamental contributions to Bayesian and computational statistics, including the paper, ‘Unbiased Markov chain Monte Carlo with couplings’ (with J O’Leary and Y Atchade) which was read to the society in 2019, and which introduces new solutions to the long-standing problem of how to remove bias from MCMC estimators. Other notable work includes the highly-cited paper ‘SMC^2: An efficient algorithm for sequential analysis of state-space models’ (with N Chopin and O Papaspiliopoulos), published in JRSS B in 2013, that presented a principled sequential sampler for online Bayesian inference that avoids the sample degeneracy that afflicted many earlier approaches; and the 2019 JRSS B paper, ‘Approximate Bayesian computation with the Wasserstein distance’ (with E Bernton, M Gerber and CP Robert), that introduced new ideas and approaches to inference for complex models which are easy to simulate from but otherwise intractable. 

Wood Medal – Katie Harron 
The Wood Medal is awarded to Katie Harron (University College London) in recognition of her outstanding methodological work on record linkage. As the range of available administrative and other data expands, the methodology of accurate and ethical record linkage has become both more challenging and more important, especially in enabling longitudinal research, research across generations (such as parent-child) and research linking social and health conditions and outcomes. She was a co-author of the GUILD report on data linkage: the Government Statistical Service’s only external guidance standard for data linkage. Her substantive research uses data from health, education and social care for the first time at a national level, in order to determine outcomes of early intervention for first time teenage mothers. She is an associate editor of JRSS Series A and a member of RSS Council. 

Chambers Medal – Sara Hilditch 
The Chambers Medal, which recognises outstanding service to the Society, is awarded to Sara Hilditch. Sara has been secretary and treasurer of the Sheffield local group of the society for many years, organising seminar programmes, booking speakers and rooms, and undertaking the often invisible but absolutely vital work that keeps RSS a lively and effective institution. Sara took a leading role in the hosting of the RSS national conference at Sheffield in 2014, staying on the conference board afterwards to share her experience. In 2018 she became Honorary Officer for membership, launching the new membership strategy and being a RSS Diversity Champion. 

Bradford Hill Medal – Bianca de Stavola 
Bianca De Stavola is awarded the Bradford Hill Medal for her innovative development of methods for analysing longitudinal epidemiological datasets and for her work in applying causal analysis in medical statistics. In both of these fields she has been prominent in teaching and encouraging others in their use and in particular, her work in causal analysis has served as a bridge between modelling.  

Bianca De Stavola has had a sustained and important impact over many years on the analysis of longitudinal data sets in epidemiology, in particular where missing data are a problem. In more recent years she has become involved in developing and applying causal analysis to a variety of topics including, for example, structural equation modelling, mediator analysis and time-varying effects. 

In these areas she has not only developed and applied methods but has been an enthusiastic exponent of their use through both written tutorials and lectures. In particular, her work has helped others in medical statistics to become familiar with causal analysis. This award recognises her important work in development, application and exposition of novel methods in medical statistics. 

West Medal – Peter Goldblatt  
The West Medal is awarded to Peter Goldblatt for his many outstanding contributions to the development and interpretation of official health and social statistics, to increase public understanding of the causes of ill health. Peter Goldblatt is held in high regard by users of the statistics for which he has had responsibility, recognising his strong commitment to encouraging accessible and informed use of data. His exemplary analyses of the OPCS Longitudinal Study (LS), which links census, civil registration and cancer data securely for research, helped establish how this sheds light on major health and social questions. For example, work with Kath Moser and others during the 1980s provided key information on the impact of unemployment on health and how there are stark socio-demographic differences. 

Later, Peter Goldblatt was an authoritative and respected Chief Medical Statistician, the last person to hold this role following reorganisation within the new Office for National Statistics (ONS). He continued to support and mentor less experienced analysts while playing an important role in significant applications of official statistics. Examples include the Shipman Inquiry, for which he conducted detailed analysis of mortality data in general practice and helped to develop a surveillance system to prevent future large-scale crimes of this nature, and the inquiry into deaths related to paediatric cardiac surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary.  

Since 2008, Peter Goldblatt has been working closely with Sir Michael Marmot on health inequalities, including as co-author of the 2020 ‘Health Equity in England: Marmot Review 10 Years On’ report and co-ordinating reviews of social determinants of health for the World Health Organisation and the European Commission. 

Howard Medal – Brian Francis 
Brian Francis has a distinguished record of impactful statistics research working at the interface of statistics and social science, particularly criminology, throughout his career. The quality and importance of his work can be seen by its impact on Home Office policy for retention of criminal records and DNA profiles; its use by the National Probation Agency to estimate recidivism rates; its influence on how the ONS report crime figures; and being used in an extensive campaign to reduce domestic violence during the football world cup. Most recently, he has been working on modelling trafficking of humans.  

His work has delivered methodological developments in areas such as preference models, latent class methods for longitudinal data, mixture models and categorical data problems but also significant impactful changes in the application areas specifically mentioned above.  

Brian has more than 250 publications in statistics journals such as JRSSA and JRSSC, Annals of Applied Statistics, a book on statistical modelling in R as well as application field journals such as British Journal of Criminology, and International Criminal Justice Review. 

Greenfield Industrial Medal – Philip Jonathan 
The Greenfield Industrial Medal is awarded to Professor Philip Jonathan, Chief Statistician at Shell and Chair of Environmental Statistics and Data Science at Lancaster University. His work has made fundamental and important innovations in the modelling of physical systems and application of statistics to industrial processes such as the use of extreme value theory in ocean engineering. His research has influenced the safe design of offshore structures across the world. As well as championing the value of statistics across industry and within Shell, where he has fostered a talented statistical team, he has supervised several PhD students authored numerous academic papers and given countless talks and presentations. As a colleague commented, ‘Phil has a rare ability to bring the best statistics out of anybody, but his application of statistical methods in the industrial context is simply awe-inspiring.’ 

Research Prize – Chengchun Shi 
The RSS Research Prize for 2021 is awarded to Chengchun Shi for his impressive contributions to the statistical analysis of complex data. Of particular note is his paper 'Maximin projection learning for optimal treatment decision with heterogeneous individualized treatment effects' (co-authored with Rui Song, Wenbin Lu and Bo Fu, JRSSB, 80, 681-702). 

Barnett Award – Jonathan (Jonty) Rougier 
The Barnett Award is made to Jonathan (Jonty) Rougier for his internationally recognised contributions in the field of environmental statistics, risk and uncertainty quantification. Rougier’s work is motivated by a strong philosophy of supporting the application of good statistical practice in the environmental sciences. Important methodological contributions include his influential work on multi-model ensembles, model calibration, statistical emulation and spatio-temporal inference in high-dimensional systems. His work has, in turn, had a major influence in several key areas of the environmental sciences including volcanology, flooding, global climate change, historic climate modelling and Antarctic sea ice levels. Rougier has advised several UK Government departments and agencies, including a secondment to the Cabinet Office in 2016/17 to contribute to the UK National Risk Assessment. 

To read more about our honours, visit 

(Photo shows all of the winners, in order, l-r, first then second row).

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