The President has an important role as an exemplar of all that is best about the Society and the discipline of statistics. As the chair of Council, the President has a decisive influence on the policy and activities of the Society.
The Society selects fellows for presidency based on their acknowledged statistical achievements, and contribution to the progress of the discipline.
Up until the 1970s, Society Presidents were not always from the statistical community. Past Presidents have included Prime Minister William Gladstone and social reformer Sir William Beveridge, as well as experts from the field such as William Guy, a nineteeth century luminary.
Current President - Peter J Diggle
Peter Diggle is Distinguished University Professor of Statistics in the Faculty of Health and Medicine, Lancaster University and Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Liverpool. He also holds adjunct positions in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, and the Department of Biostatistics at Yale University School of Public Health.
Peter graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1972, with a BSc in Computational and Statistical Science. Inspired by Julian Besag's lectures on stochastic processes, he then spent a year as a research student in Oxford, supervised by Maurice Bartlett, working on spatial point processes. In 1974 he began his career as a Lecturer in Statistics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where he benefited enormously from the wise guidance of Robin Plackett. Robin encouraged Peter to spend a period of sabbatical leave in 1978 at the Swedish Royal College of Forestry. There, he combined office-based work with overnight camping trips to collect data on the joint spatial distribution of pine seedlings and heather bushes, an experience that gave him a life-long respect for the efforts of field-workers and a belief that an element of field-work should be part of every statistician's education.
Peter continued his own statistical education in Australia, working as a senior, then principal, then chief research scientist with CSIRO's Division of Mathematics and Statistics (DMS) in Canberra. A distinctive feature of DMS at the time was that many of its statisticians maintained two offices: one in their statistical base, the other in the scientific division where they carried out their applied work. Peter remains convinced that this arrangement, although superficially inefficient, is the best way to foster the mutually beneficial interactions between theoretical and applied work that are vital for the continuing health of the statistics discipline.
In Australia, Peter continued to work on spatial statistical methodology, together with applied work in ecology and forestry. A chance meeting with Scott Zeger in London in 1986 led to the first of many visits to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore. This first visit coincided with a growing interest in statistical methods for longitudinal data, which Peter saw as having close parallels with spatial statistical methods in that both involve the modelling of dependence between responses as functions of their (spatial or temporal) proximity.
Since 1988, Peter has lived and worked in Lancaster, where his interests have continued to gravitate towards the biomedical and health sciences. In 1995 he established a medical statistics unit within the department of mathematics and statistics. In 2007 he moved to the then-new Lancaster Medical School where he leads a research group developing statistical methods for spatial and longitudinal data analysis motivated by, and applied to, public health problems in both developed and developing country settings. Peter's joint appointment in the University of Liverpool and his adjunct appointments in the USA have led to especially rewarding research collaborations with public health agencies in Africa and South America.
The Society has been ever-present in Peter's professional life. At various times, he has chaired the North East Local Group, chaired the Research Section, edited Series B of the Journal, served on the Society’s Council and executive committee and spent six years as one of three Honorary Secretaries (precursors of today's Honorary Officers).
Away from work Peter reads, cooks, plays guitar and tenor recorder, follows Liverpool FC and St Helens RLFC and, he says, exercises less often than he should.