Sir Bernard Silverman FRS

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Sir Bernard Silverman is a statistician whose research has ranged widely across theoretical and practical aspects of statistics. He is recognised as a pioneer of computational statistics, researching the ways that computing power has changed our ability to collect, analyse, understand and utilise data.  He has published extensively in this field, covering aspects from the fundamental mathematical properties of new methods to computer packages for their implementation. He has collaborated in many fields in the physical, life and social sciences, and with various areas of industry and government.   

Following the award of a Gold Medal at the 1970 International Mathematical Olympiad, he studied Mathematics and then Statistics at Cambridge University. In parallel with his doctoral research into computational statistics, he co-designed the first pocket programmable calculator, the Sinclair Cambridge Programmable.  He went on to senior academic and leadership posts at the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Oxford. He has spent a substantial amount of time as a visitor at Stanford and various other universities in the USA and worldwide. He has a very broad record of providing statistical and consultancy advice in industry, commerce and Government as well as in financial and legal contexts.   

From 2010 to 2017 he worked full time as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Home Office. His role was to provide and facilitate scientific advice on all aspects of Home Office policy and operations to the Home Secretary, ministers and officials, to lead research and science within the Home Office, and to build relationships within and outside Government including internationally. He is now freelance, with roles including policy, consultancy, research and expert advice. 

His main recent research activity has been in modern slavery, following from his work in producing the first scientific estimate of the prevalence of modern slavery in the UK. His estimate of 10,000 to 13,000 victims played a pivotal role in the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.  He has developed and applied the methodology further, as well as addressing other aspects of this terrible problem. He has been a member of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel and the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Modern Slavery, and currently advises Childlight, a project working to understand the worldwide prevalence, nature and scale of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

He chairs the Geospatial Commission, an expert Government committee that sets the UK’s geospatial strategy and promotes the best use of geospatial data. His methodological advice to the Office of National Statistics on the 2021 census has now moved on to the question of what form (if any) future censuses will take, and how administrative data can be used in this context. One of his other interests is in security, and he was founding chair of the Technology Advisory Panel to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, a senior judge who oversees the use of investigatory powers by intelligence agencies, police forces and other public authorities. In addition, his concerns include research integrity, as a former Chair of the UK Research Integrity Office, and science and technology relevant to public policy generally, for example as a Board Member of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Professor Silverman is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Academy of Social Sciences, and is the recipient of the premier award of the American statistical societies and two Guy Medals of the Royal Statistical Society, of which he is also a former President. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of St Andrews, Lancaster, Bath and Bristol, and was knighted in 2018 for public service and services to Science.

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