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Royal Statistical Society
Edinburgh Local Group


Welcome to the webpages of the Edinburgh local group of the Royal Statistical Society. We arrange an annual programme of talks and workshops intended to appeal to anyone with an interest in statistics. All of our events are free, and are open both to members of the RSS and to non-members. We typically organise 6-8 events per year, which are usually held on a Tuesday evening. Refreshments are available beforehand, and events are usually followed by a trip to either a pub or a restaurant.


Forthcoming Events

Tuesday 28 Nov 2017, Nov Icelandic and Chilean Volcanoes – anticipating future eruptions

Venue: ICMS
Address: 15 South College Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AA
Date: Tue 28 Nov
Time: AGM (Tea & coffee) 17:30; talk from 18:00 to 19:00

Speaker: Dr Dave McGarvie
Affiliation: Senior Lecturer in Volcanology, The Open University in Scotland

Abstract: Since the extensive ice sheets in Iceland and Chile melted around 10-15 thousand years ago, eruptions from individual volcanoes have either spread ash across the landscape or produced lavas – both of which are valuable time markers. Ash layers are particularly useful, as they are widespread and they cover old land formed before the eruption and underlie new land created afterwards. As carbon dating yields accurate ages, we can build a stratigraphy/timeline of how dynamic volcanic landscapes evolve. However, in the period prior to this, when ice sheets covered the land, it is simply not possible to establish such a good stratigraphy/timeline. Any ash deposited on the ice is simply removed when the ice melts. So, we are left with a huge information gap.

To fill this gap, I undertake fieldwork on young volcanic rocks that show unequivocal evidence of erupting into ice, some of which give clear indications of minimum ice thickness. Remarkably, these provide the only physical evidence of the thickness of vanished ice sheets: they are unique. When we then use expensive and difficult techniques to get ages for these eruptions, we can say that at location X at time Y the ice sheet thickness was Z. This provides the hard evidence that is lacking from statistical models of ice sheet growth and decay.

Another aspect of my work is exploring poorly-known volcanoes and their eruptions, as a further means of anticipating what might happen in the future. With this in mind I have been working on an unstudied volcano in southern Chile (Quetrupillán – the 'headless spirit'), Tindfjallajökull in Iceland (near neighbour of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull), and the 1362 AD eruption of Öraefajökull, that produced Iceland's largest explosive eruption since Iceland was settled c.1100 years ago.

Though it will be a challenge, in my talk I will try and cover all of these aspects of my ongoing research.


Tuesday 7 Nov 2017, Monitoring the World - the sustainable development goals and what they mean to statisticians.

Venue: ICMS
Address: 15 South College Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AA
Date: Tue 7 Nov
Time: Tea & coffee 17:30; talk between 18:00-19:00

Speaker: Phil Crook
Affiliation: The secretary of the RSS International Development Section and a consultant development statistician

Abstract: In September 2015 the United Nations General Assembly adopted seventeen aspirational "Global Goals”, stretching from “No Poverty” and “Zero Hunger” through “Gender Equality” and “Decent work” to “Climate Action” and “Peace, Justice and Strong institutions”.
The goals are associated with 169 targets and 241 global indicators and the annual report on progress towards the targets will cover every country, developed as well as developing. Data disaggregation to ensure that no-one is left behind will be a key feature of reporting. Experience in the UK and globally shows that targets and indicators such as these can have profound effects.
The talk will cover the process and politics leading up to global goals, the experience with the Millennium Development Goals which preceded the SDGs, and then the SDGs themselves and the statistical challenges and opportunities they are throwing up.


Presentations from Recent Events

Event in 2017:

"New Mobility Perspectives in the era of Wearable Sensors" Tuesday 3 Oct 2017

Dr. Katarzyna Sila-Nowicka (University of Glasgow) (.pdf file)\


"Modelling Exposure to Air Pollution at Population scale - challenges in accounting for spatio-temporal variability" Tuesday 16 May 2017

Dr. Stefan Reis (NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) (.pdf file)


"The 2021 Census: what is happening north and south of the border?" Tuesday 28 March 2017

Amy Wilson (Census Director, Scotland Census 2021) and Garnett Compton (Head of Census Statistical Design and Outputs, Census 2021) (.pdf file)


"Statistics and Commercial Housing" Tuesday 14 Feb 2017

Dr. Raffaella Calabrese (University of Edinburgh Business School) "A mortgage scoring model with spatial contagion" (.pdf file)
Vijay Krishnaswamy (True North Partners LLP) "True North Partners LLP, a specialist consulting boutique" (.pptx file)


Event in 2016:

"Protecting confidentiality while making data available for research and policy analysis: current trends" Tuesday 15 Nov. 2016

Dr Christine O'Keefe (CSIRO) (.pdf file)


"Britain's Misleading Benefit Sanctions Statistics" Tuesday 11 Oct. 2016

Dr David Webster (Honorary Senior Research Fellow) (.pptx file)


"Dragon-Kings: extreme risk events, prediction and control" Thursday 22 September 2016

Prof. Didier Sornette (ETH Zurich, Department of Management, Technology, and Economics) (.pdf file)


"The 2013 Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS)" on Tuesday 12 April 2016

Sandra Robb (Information Services NHS National Services Scotland) (.pdf file)


"Using 'big data' to understand and predict ageing" on Tuesday 16th February 2016

Dr. Riccardo E. Marioni & Stuart J. Ritchie (Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, The University of Edinburgh) (.pdf file)

Event in 2015:

"A World Statistics Day --Sustainable Development Goals: the challenges facing the statistics community" on Tuesday 20 October 2015

Glenn Everett (Director of the Measuring National Well-being Programme at the ONS). (.pptx file)

Neil Jackson (Chief Statistician at the Department for International Development (DFID). (.pptx file)

Jenny Church (Chair of the RSS' International Development Working Group). (.pptx file)

"Statistical Issues in the Calculation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions" on Tuesday 29 September 2015

Martin McFie (Senior Assistant Statistician, Scottish Government). "An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Scotland." (.pptx file)

Prof. Ute Skiba (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology). "Improving the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory for the UK, Focussing on Soil Nitrous Oxide Emissions." (.pptx file)

Vera Eory (Scotland's Rural College). "That's the Assumption we've Made." (.pptx file)

"Looking to the Future of the Past: a New Era in the Analysis of Historical Census Data?" on Monday 1 June 2015

Dr. Eilidh Garrett - Department of History, University of Essex (.pptx file)

"What is driving changes in crime in Scotland?" on Tuesday 12 May 2015

Professor Susan McVie - School of Law, University of Edinburgh (.pdf file)

"Quantitative Approaches to Financial Risks" on Thursday 29 January 2015

Juthamon Sithipolvanichgul - Scoring Method of Enterprise Risk Management.
Dr Douglas McLean - Challenges in Asset and Liability Proxy Modelling in Insurance.

Event in 2014:

"Big Data from Two Perspectives" on Thursday 16 October 2014

Prof Mark Keane - (Big) Data Analytics: From Word Counts to Population Opinions. (.pdf file)
Prof Marian Scott - Are there New Challenges in Environmetrics Arising from "Big Data?"

"Perceptions of the Weight of Statistical Evidence among Scientists" on Monday 19 May 2014

Richard D. Morey (From personal website)

"The Early History of Bayesian Statistics" on Tuesday 15 April 2014

Tom Leonard (slides) (.pptx file)

"Scotland's Referendum: Statistical Perspectives" on Wednesday 26th March 2014

Jim Cuthbert (statistician) & Margaret Cuthbert (economist) - The medium is (very much) the message (.ppt file)
David Walsh (GCPH, Glasgow) - Scotland: health, its determinants, and the potential implications of independence (.pdf file)
Roger Halliday (Chief Statistician) - The production of official statistics (.pptx file)
John Curtice (Strathclyde University) - The performance of the polls (.pptx file)

"Census 2011: Results so far and innovative ways to access data " on Tuesday 25 February 2014

Sandy Taylor - Scotland's Census 2011 (.pdf file)
Justin Hayes - New and easier ways of working with aggregate data and geographies from UK censuses (.ppt file)


Event in 2013:

"Freeing the power of administrative data" on Tuesday 12 November 2013

Dr Stephen Pavis (slides) (.pptx file)

"Bayesian computing with INLA" on Thursday 19 Sept 2013

Dr Andrew Lawson (slides) (.pdf file)
Dr Janine Illian (slides) (.pdf file)

"Stories and Statistics: what can the Sally Clark case tell us about the psychology of evidential reasoning?" on Tuesday 11 June 2013

Slides (.ppt file)

"The mysterious case of the disappearing crime in Scotland" on Tuesday 30 April 2013

Prof Susan McVie: slides (.pdf file)

"Using statistics to study wildlife" on Monday 18 February 2013

Dr Ruth King: slides (.pdf file)
Dr Kate Searle: slides (.pptx file)


Event in 2012:

"Alcohol in Scotland: from evidence to action" on Tuesday 13 November 2012

Slides (.ppt file)

"Matching of administrative data to validate the 2011 Census in England and Wales" on Wednesday 31 October 2012

Slides (.pptx file)

Royal Statistical Society Interdisciplinary Debate on Tuesday 12 June 2012:
Randomized controlled trials in medical research - gold standard or unhealthy fixation?

Professor Nancy Cartwright: slides (.pptx file)
Professor Nancy Cartwright: talk (.docx file)
Professor Gillian Raab: talk (.docx file)
Professor Gillian Raab: notes (.docx file)

How much does statistical illiteracy cost? GetStats event on Tuesday 27th March 2012

David Walker: slides (.pptx file)


Local Group Committee

Committee for 2016 session


Past Meetings

Details of past meetings are available here:


Further information

If you would like to receive email notifications of events that are organised by the group then please contact Jiayi Liu and ask to be added to the mailing list. Announcements of meetings are also posted to the ALLSTAT mailing list two weeks prior to the meeting.  


This page is maintained by Jiayi Liu. Last updated April 2017.