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GSS > Events > Government Statistical Service (GSS) Conference 2019

Government Statistical Service (GSS) Conference 2019

From 1st October 2019 10:00am to 2nd October 2019 4:00pm
Sheraton Hotel, 1 Festival Square, Edinburgh, EH3 9SR

We are pleased to announce that the 2019 Government Statistical Service (GSS) Conference will be taking place at the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh on the 1 and 2 October.

The conference is titled “GSS Conference 2019: Our Statistics, Today’s Issues” with a theme of government data informing public debate and shaping policy through evidence-based decision making.

The conference will be an exciting opportunity to meet other statisticians and data scientists working across a variety of organisations and will allow you to share ideas and examples of excellence in the field of evidence-based decision making.  The first GSS Awards will also be held at this year’s conference. The awards will recognise and celebrate the excellent work being done across the GSS.


Each department’s Head of Profession (HoP) has now been informed of their ticket allocation for the Conference. If you would like to attend, please see your HoP newsletter for information about how to register your interest.


We are pleased to release a draft agenda for this year’s conference.

9:30 to 10:45                             Registration

10:45 to 10:55                           Welcome and Opening Remarks

10:55 to 11:15                            National Statistician

11:15 to 12:00                            Keynote Speaker

12:00 to 12:15                            Break

12:15 to 13:15                            Parallel Session 1a/1b

13:15 to 14:15                            Lunch

14:15 to 15:00                            Parallel Session 2

15:00 to 15:15                            Break

15:15 to 15:25                            Official Event Partner

15:25 to 16:30                            Panel Session


18:00 to 18:45                           Drinks Reception

18:45 to 19:15                            Awards

19:15 onwards                           Evening Dinner

9:30 to 10:00                              Arrive

10:00 to 10:45                            Keynote Speaker

10:45 to 11:30                            Parallel Session 3

11:30 to 11:45                             Break

11:45 to 12:45                            Parallel Session 4a/4b

12:45 to 13:45                            Lunch

13:45 to 14:30                            Parallel Session 5

14:30 to 14:45                            Break

14:45 to 15:30                            Keynote Speaker

15:30                                            Close

Keynote speakers

We are delighted to be able to confirm all three keynote speakers for this year’s conference. Joining us are: John Curtice, Gillian Docherty and Hetan Shah.

Sir John Curtice is a Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, a Senior Research Fellow at NatCen Social Research and a Senior Fellow of the ESRC’s ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’ initiative.

He has written extensively about voting behaviour in elections and referendums in the UK, as well as on British political and social attitudes more generally. He has been a co-editor of NatCen’s annual British Social Attitudes reports series for over twenty years, and is a regular contributor to British and international media coverage of politics in the UK.

Curtice is Chief Commentator at two websites, and, that provide a comprehensive collection of materials on public attitudes towards how Scotland should be governed, and the UK’s relationship with the EU. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Academy of the Social Sciences and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

John will be giving the keynote on the first day of the conference.

Hetan is the executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, a membership body that has a vision of a world with data at the heart of understanding and decision-making. He is deputy chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute, which seeks to promote data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that work for people and society.

He is a visiting professor at the Policy Institute of King’s College London and chair of the Friends Provident Foundation, a grant-making trust. He is a member of a number of advisory boards including for the Office for National Statistics Data Science Campus, the Science Media Centre and the National Lottery Community Fund. He has also been a member of the Social Metrics Commission, chaired by Baroness Philippa Stroud, which recommended new ways of measuring poverty in the UK.

Hetan will be giving the keynote speech on the second day of the conference and chairing the Q&A panel on the first day.

Gillian Docherty is the chief executive of The Data Lab, an innovation centre with a mission of maximising the value from data for Scotland. The Data Lab facilitates partnerships between industry and academia, supporting data science and AI projects as well as funding and running ground-breaking education programmes.

Gillian is passionate about the opportunities for using data to drive economic and social benefits. Formerly of IBM, she is a visiting professor at Robert Gordon University, a TED speaker and was named Digital Leader 2018 for the UK. She was named CEO of the year at the Digital Technology Awards 2017 and was also in the UK’s top ten most influential people in data according to DataIQ. She is on the Board of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of BeYonder Involve Charity and an Industry advisor to Previse.

She has a degree in Computing Science from the University of Glasgow, an honorary doctorate from Robert Gordon University and is married with a daughter.

Gillian will be presenting the keynote speech on the final afternoon of the Conference.

The first annual GSS awards

The first GSS Awards will be held on the first evening of this year’s conference. The awards will recognise and celebrate the excellent work being done across the GSS. There will be four awards presented to teams from across the GSS.

This award recognises collaboration between teams, departments and/or external organisations/researchers to deliver a statistical output or project. The judging panel will consider the following when judging nominations for this award:

  • Collaboration which improved data and methods
  • Ways of working which enabled effective collaboration
  • Collaboration which enhanced the insight and understanding of the findings
  • Collaboration with stakeholders such as other teams in your department, other government departments, organisations outside government, topic and method experts, other analytical professions, policy professionals, producers of related statistics, international organisations and researchers

This award recognises innovation in methods of data collection, statistical analysis and data science. The judging panel will consider the following when judging nominations for this award:

  • Innovative data collection, statistical analysis or data science methods used
  • Methods which led to new insight, answered complex questions, or improved efficiency
  • The strengths and limitations of the methods used were considered, and communicated effectively to users
  • Feedback from peer reviewers and experts was invited and acted upon to refine the methods

This award recognises clear and successful presentation and dissemination of statistics using commentary, visualisations, interactives, social media etc. The judging panel will consider the following when judging nominations for this award:

  • Use of innovative methods of communicating and disseminating statistics
  • Statistics presented clearly, explained meaningfully and that provide insights which serve the public good
  • The needs of different types of users and potential users were considered when determining how the statistics would be communicated
  • Statistics communicated in a way that engaged users and encouraged appropriate reuse of the statistics

This award recognises statistics which have been impactful through use, influenced decisions made by policy-makers, politicians or the public and/or have contributed to public debate. The judging panel will consider the following when judging nominations for this award:

  • A demonstrable link between the statistics and impact. For example, is there evidence to show that the statistics influenced a policy decision?
  • The nature and significance of the impact from the users’ point of view (user feedback can be provided). Actual delivered impact will be considered more effective than anticipated or future potential impact.
  • The nominated team were pro-active in ensuring the statistics have impact.
  • New statistics or analysis developed to meet an identified knowledge or information gap.

The Awards are not limited to published statistical outputs and can be awarded for other outcomes such as projects. The Awards will be judged by the following expert panel:

  • Siobhan Carey: Head of Profession for Statistics, NISRA
  • Robert Cuffe: Head of Statistics, BBC
  • Ed Humpherson: Director General for Regulation, UKSA
  • Neil McIvor: Head of Profession for Statistics, DfE
  • Julie Stanborough: Head of Best Practice & Impact Division, ONS

Nominations can be submitted by completing the nomination form. Please note that the deadline for nominations is Sunday 18 August 2019. For any queries on the Awards please email For those that are unable to complete this online survey, a paper nomination form can be used.

Call for abstracts

The call for abstracts is now closed. Thank you for your submissions. Successful talks will take place in parallel and posters will be displayed in an exhibition room at the venue.

Meet the organising committee

The organising committee is made up of volunteers from across government, find out more about them.

Francesca Parrott (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I really enjoyed being part of the 2018 GSS Conference organising committee and so I was very happy to volunteer to co-chair this year’s conference with Michael. It’s a great opportunity to do something very different to the day job and contribute to the wider GSS community. I’m very excited to work with Michael and our excellent organising committee to make this year’s conference one to remember.


Michael Cole (Valuation Office Agency)

Having been part of the 2017 and 2018 GSS conference organising committee I’m thrilled to be co-chairing the 2019 conference with Francesca. The conference is a special opportunity for the GSS community to come together, share best practice, and showcase some of the innovative work statisticians are doing across Government. We are all working hard behind the scenes to make the conference a success, having already secured this year’s venue, we’re continuing to make good progress and I’m very excited for what we have planned.

Fiona Walker (Department for Education

I volunteered to be part of the committee because I wanted the chance to work with statisticians across government, and having previously helped organise a smaller conference in the past I wanted to be involved in shaping a much larger event. The GSS conference allows us statisticians and analysts to collaborate and identify common methods and themes within our work, and also gives us the opportunity to collectively advocate for policy that is evidence-driven.


Isobel Bochel (Department for Education) 

I wanted to be part of the GSS committee to gain a greater insight into the GSS as well as to build relationships with other statisticians from across-Government. It also seemed like a valuable chance to learn about the process behind running a large event which I might otherwise have not come across in my career. I’m really looking forward to collaborating with the other committee members to create an topical and informative conference this year!

Daniel Ayoubkhani (Office for National Statistics)

Having previously presented at the GSS Conference and been drafted into the Organising Committee late in the day to offer a hand, this year I wanted to contribute to the process from start to finish. I’m looking forward to getting to know fellow committee members from across the GSS, and perhaps bumping into some familiar faces at the conference itself.


Rebecca Jones (Office for National Statistics)

Being relatively new to both the GSS and the civil service I saw joining the GSS Conference Committee as a great opportunity to meet people and get more involved in the GSS. It’s so exciting to be involved in organising such an important event and working with committee members from across government to put it together. I can’t wait to see the whole event to come to life, especially in my home city.

Connie Taylor (Office for National Statistics)

I volunteered for the GSS Committee as I wanted to grasp the opportunity to both experience and contribute to a large, informative event which pulls together individuals from across Government. As a social researcher, I believe it is important to highlight how the work of individuals from varied professions, in addition to statisticians, support the work and impact of the GSS. I look forward to being involved in the organisation of an event where relationships can be fostered across Government in a celebration of best practice and excellent statistical innovation, that is occurring in Government statistics and beyond.


Luke Pagliaro (HM Revenue and Customs)

I’m really pleased to be part of the 2019 GSS committee. It seems like a great opportunity to meet other statisticians from across government, hear about the work they’re doing, and to share and talk about new ideas. I’m really looking forward to being on the keynotes team to help find some really interesting and informative speakers for this year’s conference.

Anna Blaylock (Ministry of Justice)

Joining the GSS committee appealed to me because it gives the opportunity to be involved in an important event within the GSS. The conference allows statisticians to share ideas, meet, and gain more understanding of GSS outside of their own departments. I think joining the organising team will allow me to do this to an even greater extent. I’m really looking forward to the planning involved for this and of course the event itself!


Toni Stansfield (Ministry of Defence)

I volunteered to be on the committee as I am new to the Civil service and thought it would be a great way to gain relationships and collaborate with people from across the GSS. It will also give me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the work undertaken by the various departments that contribute to the GSS. Additionally, it will allow for some diversity in my work, giving me a change from the day to day job I currently undertake and expanding my abilities in other areas. I’m excited to be a part of organising a large scale and hopefully successful conference.


Yetunde Fakayode (Department for Education)

Working as part of the team that is organising the GSS excites me because gives me the opportunity to meet colleagues across the GSS environment and government, who I would not have otherwise met. Joining the GSS committee will also expand my understanding of the GSS and what it takes to run a very large event such as the GSS conference.

Amila Said (HM Revenue and Customs)

I look forward to being part of the committee so that I can see what goes down behind the scenes, have a chance to meet new people and be part of putting together such a huge event. I also look forward to putting my organisational skills to the test…


Pooja Ramnarain (Ministry of Defence)

The reason why I joined this year’s GSS Committee is so that I can bring my skills and knowledge gained from last year to help deliver another amazing conference.

Jessica Madison (Department for Work and Pensions)

I wanted to be a part of the GSS Committee to become more involved in the wider picture. After organising local analytical events in the North East, I decided I wanted to utilise my skills and help organise a national event that would benefit the wider analytical community. I hope that this will give me the chance to get to know other statisticians across government and share knowledge and experience. I look forward to playing a part in delivering a conference you’ll all enjoy.


Kate Shires (Department for Work and Pensions)

I volunteered to help organise the 2019 GSS Conference to gain experience of organising a large scale event, and to meet Statisticians from across government. The visits to Edinburgh to arrange everything venue-related are a bonus!


Jade Kavanagh (National Health Service)

I wanted to be part of the GSS committee to get to know other statisticians from across- Government. I thought it would open my eyes to the process of organising such a huge event. I’m looking forward to collaborating with other committee members and working with a variety of people!

Want to get in touch with us?

The conference team has set up a Slack channel #gssconference2019 on the GSS workspace. Add yourself to the channel to get updates and to ask any questions you have.

It’s easy to join – simply create a Slack account, add yourself to the GSS workspace ( with your government email address and then click ‘add a channel’. Here you’ll find the option to add us: #gssconference2019.