President's message August 2020



This has been a year when everyone has been talking about statistics. Alongside the fear and tragedy of the global COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking to statistics for guidance on the things that matter to them. How safe is it for me go out? What are my future prospects for employment? What are the impacts on different communities? How will we pay back the debts our governments are running up?

Issues that have always been central to the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics are now being debated in locked down virtual forums across the world. How can we mobilise the power of data to help make better decisions? How do we judge which data is trustworthy and which is being produced to hoodwink us into accepting a false picture, deflect our attention or make us believe in the world view of some vested interest?

The IAOS has been active in airing these issues in recent months and has highlighted many examples, good and bad, from which we can learn. The June issue of our Journal has some excellent papers on COVID-19, on pre-release access and other questions related to trust in statistics and much more. The Journal provides a great platform for sharing and learning. The current issue has seen record levels of interest from readers. The Editor is always on the look out for good material. If you have something you wish to submit, I encourage you to do so.

In the meetings I have been part of, ranging from Asia-Pacific Statistics Week conference to MIT’s Computational Social Science for Impact the mood has been the same: how can statistics make a difference and help us navigate towards a better future? In my presentations I have drawn inspiration from the past: from Florence Nightingale and W Edwards Deming in particular.

At the same time, we must be on the look out for situations when the cause of good statistics has been frustrated by the proliferation of bad information or by roadblocks placed in the way of getting good information. Recent developments with the United States Census, as highlighted by the American Statistical Association , need to be seen for what they are. Undermining an accurate census undermines democracy and people’s right to good information about the society in which they live. The theme developing from the COVID-19 pandemic that trustworthy statistics are a human right is striking a chord amongst people with widely different political views. Without trustworthy data how can different perspectives be demonstrated and judged? Trusted statistics help us make better decisions and live better lives .

From the evidence I have seen from around the world these last few months, I remain optimistic. There are political leaders who appreciate the value of good statistical evidence to help their countries make better decisions. There is a community of official statisticians ready to step up, step forward and step on the gas to rise to the challenge. With statistically savvy politicians and politically savvy statisticians, we will be able to chart a course for better lives, whatever COVID-19 and all the other complexities of the world today throw up.

The IAOS General Assembly is next week. At the General Assembly, we will give an update on the 2020 IAOS conference, and also officially launch the 2021 Young Statistician Prize.  Both of these activities are key ways of building the community of official statisticians.   Please join us to have your say on the work of our Association.


John Pullinger.

Announcement of the IAOS 2020 General Assembly in virtual format





The 2020 IAOS General Assembly will be held on Thursday 20th August at 12.00 - 13:00 (CEST) in virtual format.

If you wish to attend please email Jo Green ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) who will send you a link to join the meeting.

The agenda for the meeting will be:

  1. Minutes of 2019 General Assembly: for agreement
  2. IAOS Annual Report: for agreement
  3. Amendment to the statutes of the IAOS: for agreement (see note below)
  4. Nominations for the IAOS Executive Committee: for consideration
  5. Future topics for SJIAOS: for consideration
  6. Other business


John Pullinger



Note on amendment to the statutes for the IAOS

The statutes of the IAOS are in line with Dutch law and the statutes of the ISI.

The statutes do not permit the General Assembly to be held in virtual format. Accordingly, the IAOS Executive Committee had intended to find an opportunity to hold a meeting in physical format during 2020. At a meeting of the Executive Committee on 7th August the Executive Committee concluded that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic this would not be possible.

The Dutch authorities have recognised the COVID-19 pandemic currently makes it difficult for organisations to hold General Assemblies in physical format and has made provision for General Assemblies to be held in virtual format so long as this is done before 1st September 2020. This does not allow us the usual 2 months notice period for General Assemblies.

In order to avoid this situation recurring the General Assembly will be invited to agree a change to the IAOS statutes as follows. To insert the words:

The General Assembly meeting may be held virtually. In the case of a virtual meeting, members are given the opportunity to participate online and vote.



An opportunity to join virtual Town Hall discussions

A series of open town hall discussion opportunities


American Statistical Association (ASA), International Statistical Institute (ISI) and the National institute for Statistical Sciences (NISS) will host a series of open town hall discussions starting Friday 17 July.



The purpose of these discussions is to understand the breadth of the statistics community involvement at their local, state or national level in Covid-19 public health efforts. The first town hall will focus on sampling and registries


You can find further details and registration instructions here -

Southampton Conference, July 2021, Call for Abstracts

Conference and Special Issue of Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A in memory of Fred Smith and Chris Skinner, Southampton, UK, 8‐10 July 2021

Abstract submissions are invited for presentation at a conference in memory of Fred (TMF) Smith and Chris Skinner, who both passed away during winter 2019/20. The conference will be based around the themes that interested Fred and Chris during their research careers, including (but not limited to)
 analysis and modelling of complex survey data
 time series methods in the analysis of survey data
 statistical disclosure control
 official statistics

Call for Abstracts - submission deadline: 1 October 2020 to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Further details can be found here.

Kenza Sallier present her winning YSP paper to an ONS audience

Congratulations to Ms Kenza Sallier from Statistics Canada for winning first place with her paper “Toward More User-Centric Data Access Solutions: Producing Synthetic Data of High Analytical Value by Data Synthesis”. Kenza presented her paper to the UK Office of National Statistics in June 2020.
Read more.