On 9 October 2020 the RSS Glasgow local group hosted an event with the National Statistician, Professor Sir Ian Diamond. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the event was hosted online and the hour-long event was joined by around 70 participants.
Sir Ian was knighted in 2013 for his services to social science and higher education. He was the Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen until 2018 and chaired the Social Security Advisory Committee from 2018-2019 before taking over the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Professor Diamond started by highlighting the importance of a national statistics organisation in general and particularly during a pandemic. He explained the role of the ONS in England and also mentioned the four key strategic principles of the UK Statistics Authority.
The remainder of the talk took a tour through the various stages of the pandemic starting in March going up to September. Sir Ian highlighted various statistics illuminating the journey the country went through, including those relating to health data like excess mortality, as well as economic indicators and public perception. Most of those statistics have been produces by the ONS.
The talk very clearly brought the point across that well-produced, reliable statistics are vital at any time but particularly during a pandemic. The work the ONS and the equivalents of the devolved powers do is invaluable – a key message that cannot be missed during this presentation.
The talk was followed by a lively Q&A. Many questions were asked and an engaging discussion took place between Sir Ian and the audience.
About the author
Michael Waltenberger is a PhD student and MacLaurin scholar at the University of Glasgow working on spatial statistics.