Statistics Matters in the Time of COVID

The inaugural Sally Hollis Memorial Lecture

Presented by Prof. Peter Diggle | Lancaster University

About the talk

One of the few good things to come out of the current epidemic is a wider appreciation of the critically important contributions that statistical thinking can play in improving the health of the public, from fundamental research through to public health policy. Welcome though this is it also presents a challenge to statisticians to engage in constructive criticism of badly presented statistics or muddled explanations of statistical findings that reach a much wider audience than would have been the case two years ago.

In this talk, Peter offers some personal reflections on my experience of becoming involved in a range of Covid-related projects. Amongst other things, he discusses: the uses and abuses of mass testing; the importance of time and space; the challenge of synthesising information from multiple data-sources; the balance between individual privacy and public good.

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About the Annual Sally Hollis Memorial Lecture

The Sally Hollis Lecture was established in 2021 in memory of Professor Sally Hollis, a much-loved and highly respected member of the PHASTAR team. Sally was a highly talented leader whose contribution was recognised as outstanding by all who worked with her.

Each year a Sally Hollis Lecturer is chosen in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of medical statistics. The Lecturer alternates each year between academia and industry to represent the substantial cross-discipline impact that Sally had.

Professor Sally Hollis started her career at Hope Hospital in Salford, where she established long-term research partnerships resulting in many co-authored papers and contributed to the setup of a national audit of the quality of diabetes care. In 1995 Sally joined Lancaster University as one of three founder members of the Medical Statistics Unit within the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, progressing to the position of Senior Lecturer.

Image of Professor Sally Hollis

Sally's knowledge of the NHS and wide-ranging experience of clinical research projects were critical to the unit’s collaborative work at the academic/non-academic interface. Sally played a major role in setting up the MSc in Medical Statistics at Lancaster University, which was the first of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics’ set of master’s programmes. During her 9 years at Lancaster University, Sally was also instrumental in the formation of a North West NHS research support unit, taking responsibility for all training and consultancy services in Lancashire and Cumbria, and she established and directed a North West programme of training for healthcare professionals in critical appraisal of research evidence. She was also statistical editor of the Cochrane Skin Group, Annals of Clinical Biochemistry and Diabetic Medicine. Sally left Lancaster in 2004 when she was head-hunted to a post in the pharmaceutical industry, at AstraZeneca’s Alderley Edge site. At AstraZeneca, Sally held numerous statistical leadership roles in drug development, across phase II and III, and lifecycle management.

In 2014, Sally was appointed Honorary Professor of Clinical Trials at the University of Manchester. She also joined PHASTAR in 2016 as the Head of Statistical Consulting, where her responsibilities included providing technical leadership to PHASTAR’s statistical consultants, co-ordinating knowledge sharing, and leading statistical research efforts, in addition to providing consultancy to clients.

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