Archive for Series

Research section no longer or no more?!

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , on December 3, 2009 by xi'an

Today was my last meeting of the Research Section Committee of the Royal Statistical Society, a consequence of stepping down as Series B editor. I will miss those meetings (as I will miss being editor), because their main purpose was to handle the papers submitted as Read Papers to the Society. It is one thing to process papers on one’s own with the help of an Associate Editor (about half of the time) and of referees (about 25% of the time), but analysing in a collegial manner a broader and potentially richer paper is altogether a different experience. This focus on the quality and the discutability of the submitted papers explains for the overall high quality of the Read Papers and of the resulting discussions. As mentioned earlier, the new feature of having pre-ordinary meetings organised by the Young Statistician Section of the Royal Statistical Society can only bring more breadth and diversity to the discussions. This makes in my opinion the Royal Statistical Society fairly unique among statistics societies. And this mostly explains why I am so attached to it (rather than my alleged anglophilia!) compared with, say, the French Statistical Society.

This year, the Council of the Royal Statistical Society has decided to reform the structures of the sections towards more efficiency (and lesser costs). The status of the Research Section is therefore pending towards a major change or even its abolition, and, while the “Council regards the organization of Ordinary Meetings and publication of the discussion on the papers as one of the Society’s most highly valued activities”, it may still decide to change the role of the Section, the publishing part being associated with the board of Series B. While this still is under debate, and while the Council of the Royal Statistical Society has the right and legitimacy to operate any reform it sees fit, I,  as a Royal Statistical Society member as well as a (soon) ormer editor, cannot but contend that this “rationalisation” of the way the Section currently operates would be its death. The diversity of the Research Section Committee and the time dedicated by all its members to the analysis of the long papers submitted as Read Papers cannot be replaced by the nomination of a single Read Paper editor. The quality, scope and ultimately appeal of the published discussion paper would inevitably suffer from such a move. The reorganisation of the sections within the Royal Statistical Society also calls for sections to “organise at least one income generating meeting a year”, which seems paradoxical in the case of the Research Section Committee since it organises two to four Ordinary Meetings a year, resulting in high quality discussions that make Series B attractive to (mostly paying) readers! While a positive budgetary balance is a natural aim for any organisation, learned societies should not make business models their primary goal unless they lose their overall purpose…


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