United Nations Statistical Commission 2021 Side Event

IAOS ISI

Misuse of Statistics: Time to Speak Out

Webinar – 22nd February 2021 from 9.00 – 11.00 EST 

You can watch the recording of this event.

Introduction

The United Nations Statistical Commission is meeting during an unprecedented time for official statistics. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown into sharp focus the need for trustworthy information to guide decision making and enable citizens to understand issues that affect their health and livelihoods. The impact of misuse of statistics or false statistics has also been apparent.

This event is a call to action at the national, regional and global level: where there is misuse of statistics it is time to speak out. The event will build on the webinar hosted by the International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS) on 6 October 2020. 

The aim is to examine the issues raised from diverse perspectives and propose solutions to an issue that matters greatly to all members of the Statistical Commission and is relevant to many of the items on the agenda for the 52nd meeting. A number of papers on this topic will also be published in the March issue of the Statistical Journal of the IAOS (SJIAOS).

The webinar will take place on 22nd February 2021 from 9.00 – 11.00 EST. A series of speakers will introduce the topic and there will be an opportunity for questions and comments from participants. An open debate will also be live from the day of the event on the SJIAOS discussion platform on www.officialstatistics.com.

Background

The Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics are a pillar of the Global Statistical System and guide the work of the United Nations Statistical Commission. The current pandemic, occurring alongside the decade for action on the Sustainable Development Goals, has brought into sharp focus the critical importance of trustworthy official statistics that meet the requirements of the Fundamental Principles. Official statistics are needed to guide action, help save lives and chart our progress towards a future in which no one is left behind.

A particular feature of the current climate is the danger of false statistics. These may be the result of an inadequate design, implementation or communication or a deliberate attempt to deceive in order to serve a vested interest. The result is poorer decisions and therefore lost lives, weaker economies, less just societies and a future for our children that is not as sustainable as it could have been. Fundamental Principle 4 states that the statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics. In recent year this Principle has resulted in a variety of actions and, as the data landscape has evolved, so too has the response.

The event will hear from leading figures from around the world with diverse perspectives on the issues related to misuse of statistics. There will an opportunity for open discussion and a focus of exploring potential future actions by the Statistical Commission and others. The event is being organised by the International Association for Official Statistics in conjunction with the International Statistical Institute.

Speakers

Chair:

  • John Pullinger, President of the International Association for Official Statistics

 Contributors

  • Jennifer Saul, Waterloo Chair in Social and Political Philosophy of Language
  • Dr. Pronab Sen, Country Director, International Growth Centre's India Programme, and Editor, Indian Journal of National Income & Wealth.
  • Kate Wilkinson, the deputy chief editor at Africa Check
  • Regina Ammicht Quinn, professor of ethics with the International Center of Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tuebingen and the executive director of the Centre

 With interventions from

  • Hernán Muñoz, the former National Director of Planning, Institutional and International Relations of the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC) of Argentina
  • Andreas V Georgiou, Visiting Lecturer and Visiting Scholar at Amherst College, USA, where he teaches courses on statistical ethics and institutions and on macroeconomic programming
  • Pali Lehohla, the former Statistician-General of South Africa, a position he held from 2000 up to 2017.
  • Vincent F. Hendricks, Professor of Formal Philosophy at The University of Copenhagen
  • Ed Humpherson, head of the UK Office for Statistics Regulation
  • Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician and Director of Statistics and Data until end 2019

Registration

You can watch the recording of this event.

You can read the papers:

Biographies of Speakers

Chair

John Pullinger

John Pullinger is President of the International Association for Official Statistics, member of the Board of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, trustee of the Nuffield Foundation and Visiting Professor at Imperial College He was previously UK National Statistician, President of the Royal Statistical Society, Chair of the United Nations Statistical Commission and Librarian and Director General for Information Services at the UK House of Commons. He is a graduate of the University of Exeter and of Harvard Business School. He has been awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Exeter, Essex and the West of England and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Contributions

Jennifer Saul

Jennifer Saul is Waterloo Chair in Social and Political Philosophy of Language. Before this, she was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, where she also served as Head of Department 2012–2016. She was President of the Mind Association (2019-2020) and Director of the Society for Women in Philosophy UK (2009-2019), and in 2011 was named Distinguished Woman Philosopher by the American Philosophical Association. She is author of several books with Oxford University Press, including Lying, Misleading and What Is Said (2012). Her current research concerns deceptive and manipulative political speech.

 

Dr. Pronab Sen

Dr. Pronab Sen is Country Director, International Growth Centre's India Programme, and is Editor, Indian Journal of National Income & Wealth.  He is also a member of the High-level Expert Group on Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (OECD) and the Technical Advisory Group of the International Comparison Project (World Bank). Previously he was Chairman of the National Statistical Commission, the first Principal Economic Adviser at India's Planning Commission, the first Chief Statistician of India, and Secretary, Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation. He was the principal author and coordinator of three Five Year Plans and Mid-term Appraisals. He has chaired a number of government Committees, most notably on Economic Statistics, Ecological Fragility, Control of Prices of Essential Drugs, and Slums. Dr. Sen received his B.A. (Hons) in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi (1972); M.B.A. (1974) and M.A. in Economics (1975) from the George Washington University; and Ph.D. in Economics (1982) from the Johns Hopkins University.

 

Kate Wilkinson

Kate Wilkinson is the deputy chief editor at Africa Check, the continent's leading fact-checking organisation. She leads the organisation's work on artificial intelligence and WhatsApp-based fact-checking. Kate is the co-host of "What's Crap on WhatsApp?", an award-winning WhatsApp-based fact-checking podcast. Her work involves training African journalists on verification and research techniques. In 2018, she discovered an error in the South African police service’s annual crime statistics, which led to an official revision. Her main research areas include education, migration, crime and viral social media hoaxes. Find her on Twitter: @kateomega

 

Regina Ammicht Quinn

Regina Ammicht Quinn is professor of ethics with the International Center of Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tuebingen and the executive director of the Centre. She also is director of the Centre for Gender- and Diversity Research, also at the University of Tuebingen. She is member of the steering committee of “Lernende Systeme – Germany’s Platform for Artificial Intelligence“ (Ministry of Education and Research), the ministry’s consultant for research in issues of security and member of the steering committee for the cluster of excellence “Machine Learning – New Perspectives for Science“. Her studies included theology and literature, she is interested in cultural and technological change and a strong proponent for interdisciplinary research and mindsets.

 

With interventions from:

Hernán Muñoz

Hernán Muñoz is the former National Director of Planning, Institutional and International Relations of the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC) of Argentina. He was part of the management team, led by Jorge Todesca, which rebuilt and reformed the Argentine Statistical System as of 2015, an internationally recognized experience presented at past IAOS Congresses. During his time at INDEC, he had an active participation in the statistical community, as part of the Friends of the Chair Group on the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics of the UNSC and member of the UN HLG-PCCB for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He is an economist and currently collaborates with the Centro de Pensamiento Estratégico Internacional (Cepei), a global south think tank that advocates for statistical capacity building.

Andreas V Georgiou

Andreas V Georgiou is a Visiting Lecturer and Visiting Scholar at Amherst College, USA, where he teaches courses on statistical ethics and institutions and on macroeconomic programming. From 1989 until 2010 he worked at the International Monetary Fund, holding positions in various departments. In 2010, he returned to Greece to head the newly established Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) – the recast National Statistics Office of Greece – and align it fully with European law and international statistical principles. He was President of ELSTAT for five years. He is currently serving as an elected member of the Council of the International Statistical Institute and a member of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the American Statistical Association. He has a BA from Amherst College and a PhD in Economics from the University of Michigan. He has written on institutional and legal frameworks for national and supranational statistical systems, on financial crises and on macroeconomic programming.

Pali Lehohla

Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa, a position he held from 2000 up to 2017. He has served as co-chair of PARIS21 and the Chair of the United Nations Statistics Commission. He was the founding chair of the Statistics Commission of Africa (StatCom Africa) and chairs the African Symposium for Statistical Development (ASSD). He was the Vice President of the International Statistics Institute (ISI), and sponsors the Young African Statistician (YAS) movement. He served as one of on the twenty five member panel on Data Revolution appointed by the UN Secretary General, and was a member of the Independent Accountability Panel for the health of women, children and adolescents. Dr Lehohla has been a forceful advocate for improving the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics systems in Africa. He consulted extensively in the in conflict, out of conflict and fragile states on matters statistics. And this saw him cover Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Cambodia to make some mention. He is the Founder of the Pan African Institute for Evidence (PIE).

Vincent F. Hendricks

Vincent F. Hendricks is Professor of Formal Philosophy at The University of Copenhagen. He is Founder and Director of the Center for Information and Bubble Studies (CIBS) sponsored by the Carlsberg Foundation and was awarded the Elite Research Prize by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Roskilde Festival Elite Research Prize both in 2008. He was Editor-in-Chief of Synthese: An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science between 2005-2015. His recent book Reality Lost: Markets of Attention, Misinfomation and Manipulation about the advent of fake news is available for free with Springer Nature Open Access. Go here for free download.

Ed Humpherson

Ed Humpherson was appointed as Director General for Regulation in October 2013 and took up post in January 2014. He is head of the Office for Statistics Regulation which provides independent regulation of all official statistics in the UK. The aim of OSR is to enhance public confidence in the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics produced by government. Prior to joining the Authority, Ed was a Board Member and Executive Leader for Economic Affairs at the National Audit Office, a post he held since July 2009. This role included responsibility for the overall strategic direction of NAO’s work on economic affairs. Ed Humpherson was educated at the University of Edinburgh. Ed is a Chartered Accountant and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Martine Durand 

Martine Durand was the OECD Chief Statistician and Director of Statistics and Data until 31st December 2019. In this capacity, she was responsible for providing strategic orientation for the Organisation's statistical policy and statistical activities. She was the leader of the OECD Better Life Initiative launched in 2011 and was responsible for the Organisation’s work on the measurement of people’s well-being and societal progress, promoting the use of wellbeing and sustainability indicators for policy-making. She also initiated the OECD Smart Data Strategy. Prior to that, she was Deputy-Director in the Employment and Social Affairs Directorate and held the position of Deputy-Head of the OECD Secretary-General's Private Office. Ms. Durand also worked for many years as a senior economist in the OECD Economics Department. Ms. Durand is a member of several statistics and economics advisory bodies. She graduated in mathematics, statistics and economics from the Paris VI University, the Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Administration Economique (ENSAE) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

President's message November 2020

President’s message November 2020

 

Dear IAOS members

In this latest newsletter, we cover upcoming deadlines for IAOS activities, highlights of the recent IAOS webinars, key decisions made in the recent IAOS Executive committee meeting, and an update on the SJIAOS.

Upcoming deadlines

Nominations for the 2021-2023 IAOS Executive – close 20 November

The Nominations Committee chaired by Mario Palma is still seeking nominations for the 2021-2023 Executive, which will be led by President Elect Misha Belkindas.  Submissions should contain the CV and contact details of the proposed candidates and be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  by 20 November.

2021 World Statistical Congress –Invited Paper Session Proposals close 30 November 2020

The 63rd ISI World Statistical Congress 2021 will be a virtual event, to be held from 11 - 16 July 2021.  Proposals close on 30 November 2020, through the submission system - see https://www.isi2021.org/.  Contact Jan Robert Suesser, IAOS representative on the Programme Committee for more information too (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

YSP 2021

Reminder that submissions close on 12 February 2021. See http://www.iaos-isi.org/index.php/statistics-prize  Remember too that mentoring younger colleagues can also be a great way to help contribute.

Recent IAOS Webinars

Since early October, IAOS has coordinated a range of webinars, which despite the busy international webinar agenda have enjoyed active support.  These have included:

IAOS and IASS Joint webinar to celebrate World Statistics Day: On the importance to Society of High Quality Public Statistics - 5 November 2020

Eurostat and SCORUS: Regional and local statistics for more informed policy making - 26 - 27 October 2020

New World Order and Official Statistics in Nigeria - 22 October 2020

Misuse of Statistics: Time to Speak Out - 6 October 2020

Our thanks again to speakers and attendees.  Presentations and links to the Video Recordings are at  http://www.iaos-isi.org/index.php/webinars

Proposals welcome for future webinars

Do you have an idea for a webinar related to current issues in official statistics?  IAOS, with the support of the ISI Head Office are looking for ideas for webinars in early 2021. Please send suggestions, including possible speakers to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Key decisions made by the Executive Committee

Zambia 2020 Conference

The Executive confirmed the importance of holding the Zambia 2020 conference, as soon as practical.  The Executive, in conjunction with the ISI and the Zambia Statistics office, expect to make a decision in early 2021.

Follow up on Misuse of statistics webinar

The Executive is actively looking at ways to progress many of the fundamental issues discussed in the Misuse of statistics webinar. This will include articles in the March 2021 issue of the SJIAOS, as well as another webinar.  If you want to contribute, or have ideas on how the IAOS can progress this work, contact John Pullinger at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Possible contributions to the SJIAOS on this topic should be sent to the SJIAOS editor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Membership – and outstanding Membership fees

The Executive reviewed the latest report from the ISI Head Office on membership.  While membership numbers are up slightly since the previous year although a number of people have not yet paid their membership fees for 2020.  If this applies to you, renew asap.  Remember our membership fees are key to many of our activities including the YSP, running of webinars, planning and preparation for conferences.

Upcoming SJIAOS issues

December 2020, Volume 36, Issue 4

The issue includes articles on Covid-19, in particular the impact on official statistics production.  In parallel there is a discussion on this item on the Official Statistics discussion platform (www.officialstatistics.com)  Other articles in the December issue include a section with 13 papers from younger official statisticians from the Asia-Pacific Statistics week,  a section  on ’Governing by the numbers (Data4Policy) ’, along with three of the winning manuscripts from the 2020 YSP.  Beyond these, some 15 more articles deal with a variety of topics. This issue also includes an article closing the first discussion ("You say you want a [data] Revolution”) of the Official Statistics discussion platform.

Supplement to Volume 36: Extra issue in 2020 ‘‘Official statistics in Africa’ 

While the 2020 Zambia conference has been delayed, it was decided to go ahead with an extra issue of the Journal to not lose the momentum of the extra attention on statistics in Africa. This extra issue contains around 15 manuscripts from the African region. These will be pre-published (on-line) on the Journal’s website and it is expected that the paper issue of the supplement of the Vol 36 of the Journal will also be available at the end of the 4th quarter of 2020.

Call for Papers for future SJIAOS issues

The SJIAOS welcomes papers for future issues. If you have a possible paper, or even an idea for a paper, contact Pieter Everaers, the SJIAOS editor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SJIAOS Website Discussion Platform  -www.officialstatistics.com.

Remember that the Discussion platform is the ideal venue to discuss and debate many of the current issues in official statistics.  Discussions are based on statements from key papers in the SJIAOS.  In June a discussion on ‘Pre-release access to official statistics is not consistent with professional ethics’ was launched.  This was followed in September by two discussions - Crises, politics and statistics: Official statistics in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and a discussion on The Future of economic statistics

The December issue of the SJIAOS will also launch a discussion on Successes and challenges of regional cooperation and capacity building in Statistics: the example of the Asia-Pacific region 

 

John Pullinger

IAOS President

ISI World Statistics Conference 2021 - Invited sessions proposal is now open

Invitation to Propose Invited Sessions for WSC 2021

Proposals due: 15 November 2020

The 63rd ISI WSC 2021 will be held 11-16 July as a virtual conference. The WSC theme “Statistics and Data Science for a Better World” highlights the developments and contributions of statistics and data science in various domains of application that impact all aspects of life.

The Chair of the Scientific Programme Committee (SPC), Nalini Ravishanker, invites the statistical community to submit proposals for Invited Paper Sessions (IPS). Please use the Submission System.

The 63rd ISI WSC 2021 will host talks and presentations on a wide variety of topics, with the overall goal of presenting a balanced programme that provides a sense of the current state and future direction of statistics, data science and their applications. The programme will span sectors of practice including academia, business, industry, government and official statistics along with the breadth of ISI and Associations affiliated with ISI. Topics include but are not limited to official statistics, survey statistics, environmental statistics, business and industrial applications of statistics, mathematical statistics, probability, statistics and data science education, statistical literacy and statistical computing and data visualization.

Accepted Invited Sessions will be held either live-streamed or pre-recorded, details will be given later. The pre-recorded sessions will have a time to have live interactions with attendees. The SPC will determine which IPS will be offered in which modality, but all submissions should be willing to do either.

Joint IAOS-IASS webinar Thursday 5 November 12:00 pm CET

To celebrate World Statistics Day: On the importance to society of high quality public statistics.

Denise Britz do Nascimento Silva, IASS President, and John Pullinger, IAOS President, will introduce the Webinar and say a few words about the recent World Statistics Day.

Dr. Walter J. Radermacher, former Director General of Eurostat and Chief Statistician of the European Union from 2008 to 2016 will talk about the importance of official/public statistics for society.

Eric Rancourt has worked at Statistics Canada for 30 years and has occupied the role of Director General will talk about how such statistics are supported by innovations in survey methods.

Register to join the webinar here.

 

Promoting Statistical Literacy across the World

International Statistical Literacy Project (ISLP) 

 

The International Statistical Literacy Project (ISLP) is a project initiated by the International Association for Statistical Education(IASE), the education section of the ISI.  The main objective of the ISLP is to contribute to promoting statistical literacy across the world, among young and adults in all walks of life.

The project is currently led by Reija Helenius, a member of both IAOS and IASE.  Reija is also a candidate in the 2021-2025 ISI Council elections.

 

The ISLP is looking for new Country coordinators to promote statistical literacy all around the world, through organising different activities.   For more information, please see   https://iase-web.org/islp/Activities.php?p=Call_for_Country_Coordinators  

 

The ISLP International Poster Competition 2020-2021 is currently underway.  The competition invites school and university students from around the world to design a statistical poster. The topic is environment, biology or sustainable development.  For more details, see : https://iase-web.org/islp/Poster_Competition_2020-2021.php   Please share information about the competition with your colleagues and networks.

 

Finally, the ISLP publishes a Newsletter, and welcomes articles regarding the promotion of statistical literacy.  Previous newsletters are at https://iase-web.org/islp/Publications.php?p=Newsletters.  The deadline for articles for the upcoming newsletter is 15 October 2020.