This year, the RSS joined the new world of online conferences. Held from 7-10 September, the RSS International Conference 2020 attracted over 500 participants from 27 different countries and hosted a great variety of sessions for everyone with an interest in statistics and data science. As usual, the Young Statisticians Section organised a wide variety of sessions for early-career statisticians.
We organised two prize winner sessions, highlighting the work of some of our top early-career statisticians of 2020. Our first prize winner session was the 'Best of the Young Statisticians Meeting (YSM) 2020'. In this session, we learnt about the use of informative priors in a Bayesian analysis of a clinical trial from Alexander Ooms (University of Oxford), natural history models as a flexible, simpler, alternative to Markov models from Alessandro Gasparini (Karolinksa Institute) and the use of non-homogenous Poisson processes to predict gap times between recurrent events from Ivo Sousa-Ferreria (University of Lisbon).
Our second prize-winner session was the 'Statistical Excellence Award for Early Career Writing 2020', co-hosted by the YSS and Significance magazine. It opened with a fascinating and emotive talk by the winner of this year's award, Maria Ibrahim (a kidney doctor in training), based on her winning article on the role of statistics in organ transplants. There then followed an inspiring presentation from award judge and RSS Stats Ambassador Joy Leahy, sharing her tips on making statistics fun, interesting and accessible to all, and finally a panel discussion on statistics communication in general. The session was well attended, with 43 delegates joining and lively Q&A sessions following the presentations and panel discussion.
In the professional development stream, we organised two brand new sessions for the 2020 conference, both of which proved popular with attendees: 'Visualising data with dashboards' and 'Statistical Consultancy'. In the Visualising data session (attended by over 200 participants!), the invited speakers, Edward Parker (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Dr Aidan Boland (Edge by Ascential), presented some of the interactive dashboards they have created using RShiny, spoke about some useful packages and gave top tips to create visually appealing dashboards using R. They highlighted some key material on the internet useful for young statisticians who are keen to learn about dashboards and RShiny. The session concluded with many interesting questions from the audience including deployment and hosting dashboards, comparison to other software and some lessons learned that could help young statisticians.
During our popular Statistical Consultancy session, our guest chair, Rob Mastrodomenico of Global Sports Statistics, was joined by a panel of expert consultants; Dr Sophie Carr and Hollie Jones of Bays Consulting, Albert Chau of Datacision Limited, Rhian Davis of Jumping Rivers, and Marie Oldfield of Oldfield Consultancy. Our speakers shared stories of their varying experiences in consultancy, ranging from joining an existing company, to building up their own, and advising or training others to do the same. Valuable advice was offered by all, including practicalities such as getting a grip on admin, finding a good accountant, balancing work and time away, setting client expectations, and making the most of networking opportunities. The session ended with an overwhelming swell of audience questions, all of which were thoughtfully answered by our skilled panel, who succeeded in their aim of helping to demystify statistical consultancy for young statisticians.
As well as organising new sessions for this year, we brought back some of our classic professional development sessions on RSS professional pathways, advice for getting your work published, and different way to get involved with the RSS. The professional pathways session consisted of a joint presentation between our invited speakers: Ricky McGowan (RSS head of professional affairs and accreditation), John MacInnes (chair of the RSS Professional Affairs Committee) and Rob Mastrodomenico (Global Sports Statistics). The speakers discussed the latest version of the RSS professional membership and presentations where followed by a panel Q&A. Our audience were engaging, with discussion topics ranging from best practices for continuing professional development, to mentoring and volunteering.
Related to volunteering, our 'Get Involved' session highlighted different ways that statisticians have been volunteering with the RSS. We heard three fantastic talks from Amaka Nwagbara (Membership engagement manager at RSS), our YSS meetings secretary Craig Anderson (University of Glasgow) and Kamaryn Tanner (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). Amaka told us about the different sections and local groups that make up the Royal Statistical Society. Craig shared with us his experiences travelling to Ghana to teach statistics with the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Kamaryn told us about her time volunteering for Statisticians for Society, an RSS volunteer initiative that pairs statisticians with charities.
Finally, we co-organised a session on 'getting your work published' with Wiley and Significance. This session included a panel of expert speakers: Brian Tarran (Significance), Stephen Raywood (Wiley) and Aurore Delaigle and Jouni Kuhi (RSS journal editors). There was a vast scope of topics covered by the speakers, highlighting to participants that publishing their work in academic journals is not the only way to gain exposure. At the end of the session we had a discussion on how researchers could share their work with conferences being cancelled/postponed in the current COVID climate. This discussion highlighted more modern methods of presenting work such as blogs and podcasts.
Overall, we had a great time at the virtual RSS 2020. We would like to give a huge thanks to all of our fantastic speakers and attendees and we hope to see you in Manchester for RSS 2021!