Ivan Fellegi, Lise Manchester Award 2016
This biennial award is given by the Statistical Society of Canada in commemoration of the late Dr Lise Manchester’s abiding interest in using statistical methods to study matters of relevance to society. The award recognizes excellence in statistical research which considers problems of public interest and which is potentially useful for formation of Canadian public policy.
Dr. Ivan Fellegi, Canada’s Chief Statistician (Emeritus) is the 2016 recipient of the Lise Manchester Award.
As Chief Statistician of Canada from 1985 to 2008, Ivan Fellegi was at the head of what was ranked by The Economist as the best statistical office in the world and what was regarded in the Federal Public Service as one of the best managed departments. Ivan won several awards over his illustrious career including the Gold Medal of the Statistical Society of Canada, the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic, the Career Achievement Award of the Canadian Policy Research Initiative, la médaille de la ville de Paris and the Robert Schuman medal of the European Community. He is a member of and Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and holds honorary doctorates from several universities.
The cancellation, in 2010, of the long form census opened the eyes of many Canadian statisticians: Official Statistics was not immune to political ideology in Canada. Ivan Fellegi then became the champion of its integrity. His remarkable dedication to, and ultimately successful public campaign for the reinstatement of the long form census began. In public he vigorously defended the principles for evidence-based decisionmaking and repeatedly reminded the public that the quality of decisions are limited by the quality of the relevant information. In repeated interviews with the Canadian press, he emphasized the need to keep the long form census, the relevance to public policy of the information it contains, and the threat to data quality imposed by conversion to a voluntary survey as sample size alone does not determine data quality. He served, in this debate, as an articulate and trusted voice of the statistical community. In his interactions with the press he was able to step beyond his broad technical knowledge and make his case in a language accessible to journalists and to the public in general.
Ivan alerted us that political interventions in the conduct of the census was out of step with the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, in particular the principle that “the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations including scientific principles and professional ethics on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data”. He is now among those working for the amendment of the Statistics Act of 1918 to ensure that it abides by the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.
Through this award the Statistical Society of Canada acknowledges Ivan Fellegi’s exceptional contributions to the debate surrounding the long form census in Canada.
The citation for the award reads:
“To Ivan Fellegi, for his numerous contributions to the public debate following the cancellation of the Canadian long form census, for reiterating one of the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics stating that methodological decisions should be taken on the basis of scientific principles and professional ethics, and for proposing amendments to the Canada Statistics Act to protect Statistics Canada from political interference.”