Royal Statistical Society President speaks about ‘Trust in Numbers’

Dr Yinghui Wei with Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter 

The President of the Royal Statistical Society, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter FRS OBE, has addressed students and academics at the University of Plymouth.

In an event jointly funded by the Royal Statistical Society and the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics, he spoke to a packed audience about how proper use of statistics in society was essential to give people ‘trust in numbers’.

He spoke of his belief that it is vital to use statistics to improve the way certain issues are discussed in society, and defended the actions of journalists and the influence they can have over public opinion.

He also said it was important to have the humility to admit uncertainty around the use of statistics, as this can actually increase confidence, and discussed efforts around the world to help school children critique what they hear in the news.

And he stressed the important role statisticians can play in helping people develop critical thinking skills and that organisations should seek to be trustworthy, rather than aiming to be trusted.

Sir David was introduced to the audience by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Judith Petts CBE, with this event being arranged by Lecturer in Statistics Dr Yinghui Wei.

His audience included members of the University, as well as teachers and students from local schools, business leaders and the public.

Dr Wei, Secretary of the Royal Statistical Society’s South West Local Group, said:

"Sir David is a leading international figure in statistics, and it was an honour to welcome him to visit the University. I hope his talk will inspire all of those present, and help them appreciate what the accurate use of statistics can contribute to society.”

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