Social Security Advisory Committee chair Sir Ian Diamond named national statistician

Written by Beckie Smith on 6 August 2019 in News
News

Former University of Aberdeen vice-chancellor to take up role after first recruitment process comes up empty

Diamond, then at the University of Aberdeen, caps Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall as she receives an honorary degree. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA

Sir Ian Diamond, the chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee, has been appointed as the UK’s next national statistician.

Diamond succeeds John Pullinger, who retired at the end of June. Since then deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow has been in the role on an interim basis, after the initial recruitment process failed to fill the £160,000-a-year position.

Diamond, who is also a former vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, will take up his role as national statistician and permanent secretary at the Office for National Statistics on 22 October. He will also become head of the Government Statistical Service.


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He will relinquish his position at the SSAC, an independent body that advises the Department for Work and Pensions, which he took up last August. Liz Sayce, the committee’s vice-chair and the former chief executive of the charity Disability Rights UK, will take over as interim chair on 1 September.

Diamond was knighted in 2011 for his services to academia and social science. Before leading the SSAC he spend eight years as principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, and before that was chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, which directs government funding to research at universities and other institutions.

He previously served as a board member of the UKSA and is on the board of the funding body UK Research and Innovation. He chairs several other bodies including the Council for Mathematical Sciences and the Department for International Development Research Advisory Group.

In 2016 he led a review into university funding in Wales, which was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government.

He has a PhD in statistics from the University of St Andrews, having studied economics and statistics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Figures released in response to an FOI request by CSW show the first round of recruitment for Pullinger’s replacement, which closed in January, attracted 16 applicants.

Nine were considered qualified and four who “matched strongly the role requirements and person specification” were invited to interview, but none were appointed.

Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, said Diamond was a “great catch” for the national statistician role. “Alongside being a top-class statistician, he is a visionary about the potential for data,” he said.

“He has unlimited stamina, which he will need to deliver the upcoming census. Most important of all he has political nous, and will know how to navigate Whitehall at a time of political flux.” 

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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