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Connecting in an age of disruption

Natasha Bance

I have been fortunate to attend several large networking events since I joined the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in February 2021; the Methodology division’s online collaboration events, Analysis in Government month and Civil Service Live, to name a few. These events have provided an invaluable insight into the work going on within my division and the wider Civil Service. Having started during the pandemic when everyone is working from home, I have not physically met any of my colleagues.

It has also meant that meeting people from outside of my team is more challenging. Although online events are not quite the same, I have learned a lot about the work being done in Methodology, ONS and the wider Civil Service. So, I’m pleased to be part of the organising committee for this year’s Government Statistical Service Methodology Symposium (GSSM) being held online on 2 and 3 November. It is the 26th time this has been run so we have a lot to live up to!

I have explained my background to several colleagues since I started. The reaction is often one of surprise and wonder, as it’s not your average career history! I started off with an undergraduate degree in Geology and a Masters in Environmental Science before completing a PhD in volcanic risk communication – comparing how the experience of two islands in the Caribbean affected their views of volcanic risk and how they might behave in a future eruption.

Directly after my PhD, I started a post-doctoral research post where I constructed an online database of explosive volcanic eruptions spanning the last two million years. Six and a half years (and two children) later, I decided that an academic career wasn’t for me as I needed something more stable. I got another position within the university, working as Research Manager for Avon Longitudinal Study for Parents and Children (ALSPAC, aka Children of the 90’s), a longitudinal biomedical study that has been following a set of children born in the early 1990s’ and their families.

Another three and a half years down the line and I was ready for an even bigger change. I left the familiarity of university and set up my own business doing property development. Just over a year later, a change of circumstances meant I had to shelve that idea and look for another ‘regular’ job. The ONS seemed like a good fit for an ex-academic with lots of scope to explore different roles and my desire to keep challenging myself – so, here I am!

And I have certainly been involved in a variety of tasks since I started:

  • literature review on methods for combining survey and administrative data
  • developing coding skills in Python and R
  • comparing datasets on positive Covid tests to identify differences in the representativeness of each
  • soon to start on a longitudinal project using education data

Without events, collaboration and working in partnership with other hubs and expert groups, I would probably have found it difficult to settle into my new role. Starting a new job virtually has been difficult, but I believe these events have made it a lot easier.

GSSM will be another great opportunity for people to collaborate, network (virtually) and share what we have been working on, often in isolation. The theme for this year is statistical methods in an age of disruption, which is a fairly accurate description to summarise events of the last year or so! It has, however, highlighted the importance of the UK statistical system to inform on economic and social disruption, and this is an opportunity to share our achievements and learnings from these challenging events. If you are a member of the GSS, an Analyst from across Government, or anyone else with an interest in the methods used produce official statistics, we would welcome you to join us at GSSM26 in November.

The event will be held over two mornings (2 and 3 November), during which time we will have some keynote speakers, as well as presentations covering a range of topics in relation to methodological work in official statistics and wider statistical research. We are investigating the use of an exciting tool to facilitate this and to also improve interactivity at the event. Watch this space!

The call for abstracts is now open and, for the first time in GSSM history, we are also inviting submissions from those wishing to present their work in poster format.

To submit an abstract or poster please fill out the submission form (ODT 1MB) and email the completed form to, by Friday 20 August 2021.

More details about GSSM26 will be released shortly, including an agenda, registration details.

You can also email the GSSM26 team

If you would like to know more about the research methods the Methodology division are exploring, or if you are interested in working or collaborating with us, please contact: We are especially interested in research relating to administrative data, alternative data sources and official statistics.

Dr Sian Crosweller
Natasha Bance
Dr Sian Crosweller is an Assistant Methodologist in the Methodological Research Hub