Are you looking to elevate your career as a statistician?

Curious about how accreditation can enhance your professional status and build trust in your expertise?

In this episode, I talk with Magnus Pettersson about the FENstatS accreditation process, an initiative by the Federation of European National Statistical Societies. Magnus shares his insights on the significance of accreditation and the rigorous yet rewarding process involved.

Join us as we explore how this accreditation helps statisticians demonstrate their expertise, uphold ethical standards, and build trust in our profession, especially in the evolving landscape of data science and artificial intelligence.

Tune in to learn how you can achieve FENstatS accreditation and take your career to the next level!

Key points:

  • Career Elevation: How accreditation enhances your professional status
  • Building Trust: Importance of accreditation in establishing expertise
  • FENstatS Accreditation: Process and significance
  • Expert Insights: Magnus Pettersson’s experience and perspective
  • Rigorous Process: Understanding the steps involved in accreditation
  • Professional Standards: Upholding ethical and communication standards
  • AI and Data Science: Relevance of accreditation in evolving fields
  • Application Process: Tips for achieving FENstatS accreditation
  • Continuous Development: Importance of ongoing professional growth
  • Leadership and Trust: Building credibility in the profession

The FENstatS accreditation offers a valuable opportunity for statisticians to elevate their careers, uphold professional standards, and build trust in their expertise, especially in the dynamic fields of data science and artificial intelligence.

By engaging in this rigorous process, you demonstrate your commitment to excellence and continuous development.

Don’t miss Magnus Pettersson’s expert insights and practical tips. Tune in to this episode of The Effective Statistician, and share it with your colleagues and friends to spread the word about the importance of accreditation in our profession.

Listen now and take the first step towards enhancing your professional journey!

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Magnus Pettersson
AEUStat, PStat

CEO at Statistikkonsulterna Väst AB

FL in biostatistics, Göteborg University

Magnus has been working as statistical consultant at Statistikkonsulterna Väst since 1999 and is now CEO. Interested in statistics, ethics and quality and is working for FENStatS running the accreditation system.


Accreditation to the Statistician – FENstatS

[00:00:00] Alexander: Welcome to another episode of the effective statistician. Today, I’m talking with Magnus Magnus Pettersson about a really important initiative that I heard about some months ago. I’m Katharina [00:00:20] Schüller, who has been on the podcast earlier. And today I’m super happy to talk with Magnus about this topic.

[00:00:30] So Magnus, before we dive into this topic, maybe you can quickly introduce yourself. 

[00:00:36] Magnus: Thank you. Thank you very, very much, Alexander. I’m very happy to be [00:00:40] here, a part of your, of your pod. I’m a statistician. I have been working as an applied statistician and consultant since 1998. So it was, in fact, my. 25th anniversary this year.

[00:00:56] Alexander: Congratulations. 

[00:00:58] Magnus: Thank you very [00:01:00] much. Time flies when you’re having fun I’ve heard. So obviously I have, I’ve had a very fun very long and amusing career as far as this is. And I’ve been working with plenty of different forms of statistics. When I started studying, I was mainly focusing on biostatistics.[00:01:20] 

[00:01:20] But afterwards, I have also been into engineering applications and also survey applications. And this led me to see the beauty and the interest of statistics as a career. Mediator between different forms of application, so I don’t want to limit myself into one field and [00:01:40] saying that I’m, I’m just a statistician.

[00:01:42] I’m a general statistician from a general point of view. And when I left the university, I started working as a consultant for a consultancy company together with 2 former colleagues. They started, they founded this company just 2 years before I started. [00:02:00] And, well, as time goes by, they have retired and left me in charge of the business.

[00:02:07] So I’m right now operating a small consultancy company in Göteborg on the Swedish west coast. And what we do is statistics, mathematics and advanced applications [00:02:20] and advanced programming in R and SAS. And that’s what we do. 

[00:02:25] Alexander: Cool. Very good. Awesome. And you’re also quite involved with fenstats. Can you talk a little bit about what that is?

[00:02:36] And you’re also quite involved into fenstats. Can you talk a little bit [00:02:40] about what that is? 

[00:02:41] Magnus: Yes. Do you mean my involvement or FENSTATS? 

[00:02:44] Alexander: Let’s start with FENSTATS. 

[00:02:46] Magnus: FENSTATS is a federation between national statistical associations in Europe. So I was first interested in the Swedish Statistical Association, which forms an [00:03:00] association for statisticians in Sweden.

[00:03:02] And the Swedish Statistical Association is a member of FENSTATS, just like many other similar organizations. FENSTATS is organizing some conferences organizing some international cooperation between statisticians within the European Union, but also [00:03:20] the European Union and some other countries around the European Union, like Switzerland and Norway are also members.

[00:03:26] And one of these fields of interest that the FENSTATS is working with is the accreditation of statistician which is something that I got into and have been working quite a lot with the last few years. 

[00:03:39] Alexander: [00:03:40] Okay. Accreditation is an interesting topic. Why did Fenstats actually introduce accreditation in the first place?

[00:03:50] Magnus: Well, the reason, the motivation for accreditation is that one or one common argument is that that you need you have a university degree, this isn’t that [00:04:00] sufficient, but I will say that there is an additional skill set that is added on to the accreditation. And in my opinion, what we add is sort of the.

[00:04:11] Sort of giving, giving, adding experience in apply, especially applied fields of statistics, showing [00:04:20] that you, you, you have not only the university degree with all these theoretical theoretical skills that you need, but you also have proven that you can also apply this. You can work in a non statistical field you can explain to people who are not statisticians and you can also understand their their questions and their problems [00:04:40] And there is no I mean, there is no, defined or protected professional naming of statisticians Basically, anyone can call themselves a statistician.

[00:04:51] I think that’s a problem 

[00:04:53] Alexander: Okay. 

[00:04:53] Magnus: Okay. And this, and I have been thinking this is a problem for many years. It was even before there was the [00:05:00] emergence of data scientists, which I think is one, one interesting competing skills that you can, that you can have. But I think it’s important that from, from, and this has to do with ethics, it has to do with quality, and it also has to do with a sort of a professional stature that you should be able to have sort of a [00:05:20] strength.

[00:05:21] When you, when you express your statistics, your statistical conclusions. 

[00:05:27] Alexander: I think it can also play a big role in terms of public understanding and working with the press or the media in general. Whenever I see someone on the media that’s [00:05:40] calls themselves an expert. Well, expert is kind of the, you know, the loose things that can mean everything into anything.

[00:05:52] But an accreditation is a much more clearly defined process. So what, [00:06:00] how does this process of accreditation actually look like? 

[00:06:04] Magnus: We have more or less taken inspiration from the American Statistical Association and Royal Statistical Society. And this accreditation is not, it’s not an education.

[00:06:14] It is not a test. It is a so called third party accreditation, which means [00:06:20] that you You gather the documentation that you, you think explains why you should be accredited and this documentation is then audited by somebody, somebody who can say that this is, this is sufficient proof for your, for your, for your accreditation status.

[00:06:38] And what you need here [00:06:40] there are, the criteria that is needed is that to begin with, you should have an education, a university degree on the master, master level at the Bologna level. And in statistics, you can, you can come around this if you have lots of statistics and some other, some other degree.

[00:06:58] doesn’t necessarily [00:07:00] need to be called statistics, but it has to include a lot of statistics and it should be on a master level. Secondly, you need to have five years work experience, and this is basically proven by, by ordinary, ordinary CVs and recommendations. And then, then comes the more difficult parts, and that is the [00:07:20] communication skills and the ongoing ongoing development of your professionality.

[00:07:26] And this is something that has been discussed. How can you prove this? And why is this important? And we, the criteria now is that you should submit at least some sort of, some sort of documentation showing that you [00:07:40] can describe statistics. statistical issues in an applied kind of sense. Teaching can be counted as communication, for example.

[00:07:49] Also you need this, what we call professional development, which is also a very complicated criteria. But what you should include is that after you have have your university degree, you [00:08:00] should, you should at least list what you have done to improve yourself and your competence as a professional worker.

[00:08:08] It doesn’t mean that you need to take it. Additional statistical courses so that you should go to classes with, I don’t know, SAS Institute or whatever. It could include many other things, like if you have [00:08:20] a project leadership if you go, for example, if you’re a Six Sigma black belt if you are mentoring new statisticians, but it could also include, for example, that you are, you know, That you’re I don’t know manage managing roles in your company or managing role if you’re, I mean, if you’re coaching your, your children’s soccer team, for example, that’s [00:08:40] also a management management role where you get the skill set that you can bring back to work.

[00:08:46] Alexander: Does that also, for example, include running cross company organizations? Like we have lots of these kinds of special interest groups, or we have, you know, other [00:09:00] forums working parties. Things like that. Absolutely. 

[00:09:06] Magnus: And the motivation for this is that all these kinds of things that you’re doing will make you a more efficient and skilled statistician in your, in your professional role.

[00:09:17] Because if you have, if you have somebody who’s [00:09:20] coming to you asking for advice and want help in, I don’t know, whatever application you’re working in. And you don’t, you miss them, you don’t have the pedagogical skills so you can explain your solution, the solution. You don’t have the pedagogical skills so you can understand the question.

[00:09:34] You don’t have the project leader skills and the, the, the [00:09:40] ability to write clearly in your language. In that case, it’s very difficult for you to be a professional statistician. And I think that this is important. And this was one of the things that especially ASI was stressing as very, very important that you needed this kind of skills.

[00:09:56] And of course, any, any kind of, any kind of any kind of [00:10:00] Cross across collaborations. Whatever could, could be counted, is counted. Mm-hmm. And there’s no, there’s no quantity. There’s no quantification of this. There’s nothing that you need to do, do a certain amount or something like that.

[00:10:14] But you need to list them. You need to show that this is something that is ongoing. And that you [00:10:20] haven’t stopped, you haven’t stopped learning yourself, 

[00:10:22] Alexander: teaching it. Yeah. So, for example, participation in conferences, active participation in conferences, especially presentations, posters, these kinds of things definitely help.

[00:10:37] Magnus: That could count as both communication and [00:10:40] work experience. since you’re preparing something, communication, of course, since you’re presenting something, and also professional, professional development, since you’re participating in some sort of cooperation with people. That’s it. That’s definitely count.

[00:10:53] Yeah, I know that the criteria that has caused the most trouble is actually the [00:11:00] education criteria, since we have noted that within the European Union, there are plenty of different forms of education systems. And they are. Actually, they’re still not that unified, even, even in spite of the Bologna process.

[00:11:15] It’s not 100 percent unified, and there are lots of people with older [00:11:20] degrees who are not have an older degree before the Bologna process, and they are, they are causing, they are causing a lot of discussions, and we think that there should be ways around, of course. 

[00:11:30] Alexander: So if I, for example, here in Germany, submit an accreditation.

[00:11:37] How do you call that an [00:11:40] application? Yeah. Who, who refuse that? 

[00:11:42] Magnus: If you, if you in Germany want to, want to apply, you have to be a member of one. There is a two, two tier system here. FENSTATS is cooperating with the National Statistical Associations. So there is one criteria that you need to be a member of one of these national associations.

[00:11:59] Mm hmm. And I [00:12:00] think that these stats, G is it’s a member, for example, and that means you submit your application at the fenstats. That’s, we have an application portal where you upload it will upload all your credentials. And then when you find when, when this is final. It will be sent to the German Statistical Association, and they [00:12:20] have a group of auditors.

[00:12:21] They will select one who will go through your application, and if, if it, everything looks okay, they will simply recommended, recommendate, recommendate. approval. If there’s something missing, they will contact you again and say that I don’t think this is sufficient or I don’t understand this, why, what, what do you mean?[00:12:40] 

[00:12:40] And you get, we don’t, we don’t directly reject. We give you a chance to, to reapply and to, to re resend and refill everything. And then once it is, there is a recommended decision, we have a working group in Fennstadt that will make the last call and approve [00:13:00] the application. And the reason, there is one interesting part here, which is a very European problem we have, we discussed it with the American Statistical Association a lot, and they have a group of, I think it is 20 or 30 auditors reading the applications.

[00:13:16] One of the things that has been important in the discussions where we [00:13:20] developed the system is that you need to be able to apply in your home language. If you, for example, have all your, all your documentation, all your work has been done in German, for example you should still be able to apply, which means that we need to have somebody who can.

[00:13:37] Both read and understand your German text [00:13:40] and also understand the context. I mean if you refer to a company in Germany, for example, or refer to a person in Germany you need to have somebody who understands the German context to understand whether this is sufficient or not. And [00:14:00] that’s one of the reasons most, most is in English anyway.

[00:14:02] But it’s we, we said that it was very clearly decided that this has to cover this multilingual lingual situation. 

[00:14:10] Alexander: Yeah. Yes. That is definitely a topic. And with also different local languages. in Europe, . [00:14:20] Yep. Very different to the UK or to us. In terms of the application process and also the requirements for the accreditation, we’ll put a link to see corresponding homepage into the show notes.

[00:14:37] So you can easily find it there. [00:14:40] It’s, it’s actually very easy fence. That’s dot EU slash accreditation, but we’ll also put it into show notes. Okay. So By the way, there’s also a little fee for the accreditation of 100 euros, which I think is completely reasonable. It’s 

[00:14:58] Magnus: still discounted to 

[00:14:59] Alexander: [00:15:00] 80 actually.

[00:15:00] Ah, okay, okay. And then that’s, that’s very, very easy. One of the things that I want to talk with you also about is workshops around doing the accreditation kind of process together. You offered that you will run [00:15:20] such a workshop at the upcoming conference of the effective statistician in November.

[00:15:26] What does that workshop actually include? What will, what are the benefits of people attending that workshop? 

[00:15:35] Magnus: We’ve had we’ve had lots, lots of discussion. There is actually very many, [00:15:40] lots of people who have started their application and haven’t finalized them. And we have been discussing And the reason for that, and we have sent out several questionnaires asking the questions.

[00:15:51] What but what is the what is the biggest threshold, which is the biggest complication? And I think that if we have such a workshop, [00:16:00] it could be both a learning process for the accreditation committee to understand the obstacles. But it could also be possible for those who think that, yes, I’m 80 percent there, I’m just lacking this and this and this, and that makes it very complicated.

[00:16:17] And we could simply sit down and discuss [00:16:20] this and see if we can find some sort of solution. I know that, for example, the recommendation letters has been causing a lot of complication. But the reason for the recommendation letter is, is, is actually twofold. One is, one is that we need somebody outside to give some sort of [00:16:40] recommendation about your profession, professionality and some sort of statement that yes, this is, this is true, what, what it says in the application, because we cannot, we cannot check everything.

[00:16:53] It doesn’t work. It won’t work. That person who’s doing this recommendation doesn’t have, doesn’t need to be a [00:17:00] statistician. It could be if you work, if you’re the only statistician working for a, let’s say, a medical device company, for example your manager or your colleague could, could, could could send, could write this recommendation.

[00:17:11] And this is something that many people have, have a lot of trouble with. And I think that the reasons for that is that they [00:17:20] sometimes think that this has to be in another statistician and can really my manager vouch for my statistical skills. Yes, he’s reading my reports and he trusts them, but does he actually know whether I’m telling the truth or not?

[00:17:38] And this is something that we have been [00:17:40] discussing, a way of making this work in the way that it was intended. And the intention is that it should be somebody who could at least vote for that most of the parts of the application, as far as you know. is correct. And this is a person who I’ve been working with, [00:18:00] communicating with, who actually have been able to tell me things from a statistical point of view that sounds trustworthy and seems reliable.

[00:18:10] And we need we, we try to avoid, we, we had discussion whether we should make a form with cross markings and please fill out this and answer this question. But we say that [00:18:20] there are so many various fields and we, we, it could be very easy to do that if we just limit this to one application and, and we don’t want that.

[00:18:30] So we have to leave this open, but I think that this is one of the questions that would be interesting to discuss in such a work. Yeah. Also, there have been this discussion that you [00:18:40] mentioned with corporate corporations there. I was myself, when I applied for professional statistician with ASI, I was asking, what kind of, what kind of professional development do you count?

[00:18:52] And they said that everything, everything that’s good that you can bring to work that makes you a better, a better statistician, a [00:19:00] better professional. And I told him that I’ve been, I’ve been on my spare time, I’ve been working quite a lot with, with with a Boy Scout group, Boys and Girls Scout group, sorry, in Sweden, and even been, been a master of our, of our local, local group.

[00:19:17] And I said that, but does, does this bring something [00:19:20] to work? And I said, yeah, it has taught me a lot of leadership skills. 

[00:19:24] Alexander: Yeah. 

[00:19:25] Magnus: Something, which is something that make you more trustworthy, more efficient, more reliable, more ethical, everything that is needed as a statistician, apart from, of course, being able to, to do the calculations.

[00:19:37] Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely fine. Again, this is something that [00:19:40] we want to stress. So, so and the reason we also have the fifth criteria, which is, which is ethical standards. And this is also something that we want to stress. Your communication standards, your ethical standards, your professional standards.

[00:19:54] These are the most important and and we trust that you can make the calculations [00:20:00] properly. 

[00:20:00] Alexander: Yeah. Yeah. I think there’s after five years of work experience, if you can document that and she should be able to do all the kinds of different things around statistics. Yeah. And especially if you have also done additional professional development and I think [00:20:20] if I look into especially our industry of pharmaceutical, medical device, kind of the whole health care industry, it’s quite regulated.

[00:20:31] And so everybody’s at works in. Any company probably has a CV with lots of, lots of [00:20:40] documentation about all the different trainings that they’ve done. And I’m not just speaking about the trainings on I’ve read the SOP on X, Y, Z, but also also trainings in terms of I did this training on communication.

[00:20:57] I did this training on negotiation. I did this [00:21:00] training in terms of learning about estimates, all these kinds of different things. Yeah people need. Usually to have that on file anyway, so taking it from there should make it very, very easy at with, with lots of these applications. 

[00:21:19] Magnus: I agree. [00:21:20] I agree. I agree. And there are a lot, but what you need is, I mean, all these rules. These standard operating procedures and regulations that that you work with. I mean, the pharmaceutical industry has lots of regulations, but I have some experience from the automotive industry, which also has a lot of regulations and you have in [00:21:40] finance, you have lots of regulations.

[00:21:42] Also in, in public official statistics, you also have lots of regulations and these regulations are sort of, I think they should be seen as the floor, the floor, which you shouldn’t be able to go under this is, this is the most important part, but, but [00:22:00] increasing the quality, increasing the. The usability and the ethical, ethical standard is something that you do above this floor, something that you do where you do these things that are maybe not covered by a standard, but it’s better.

[00:22:14] And that’s, that’s important. And another thing that I think is important that we come up [00:22:20] as often as statisticians, we have this situation where you have to choose between two, not two suboptimal solutions. And I think this is something that where you can compare our work a lot with many other professions.

[00:22:39] Some [00:22:40] people say that, I mean, statistics is basically mathematics with randomness, and mathematics is a very exact science. But it’s still, there are so many places where you have these gray zones. I compare myself sometimes to, to to economists who run, run bookkeeping for companies where you sometimes [00:23:00] say that, yes, you can do this or you can do that.

[00:23:02] There is no correct, there is no correct answer. There’s just two, two possible ways to solve this. And the same, if you go to a lawyer, Or if you go to a dentist or if you go to Carpen Carpenter or a plumber, they will, they will also say that, yeah, there is, there are two or three possible solutions here.

[00:23:19] Same. Same. And [00:23:20] we, we, yeah. And which is, which is the best? Well, I think that this is better than that one. And, and I said, yeah, your, I, I mean your hands of your professional, professional, discre. And I think that this is something that you, you need to have the same situation as a statistician that yes, it could be a Wilcoxon test or a t test.[00:23:40] 

[00:23:40] I think this is, this is somewhere in the gray zone. Okay. Thank you. I leave this to your professional discretion. And that’s, that’s something that I think is important. 

[00:23:48] Alexander: Yep. Yep. Completely agree. Completely agree. So in summary, yeah, I think it is a really, really great approach. Yeah. I said [00:24:00] if you’re not in the A, or in the UK part of RSS, that’s an opportunity for you to apply to this European accreditation.

[00:24:13] Mm-Hmm. . And by the way lots of these European associations, you can also be a member if you are not directly [00:24:20] located in Germany, France, or Spain or so, so on. The opportunities then is for you to also to the public show that you are capable of lots of lots of different things. And I think in general, it will [00:24:40] help us as statisticians to be more trustworthy in general.

[00:24:45] So I think that’s a, that’s a great initiative. And I think It will help to build trust in our profession because honestly. A little bit more trust in our kind of [00:25:00] capabilities can actually help. I, you know, you probably, as a statistician, I’ve heard about this kind of lies, damned lies and statistics and,

[00:25:11] I think it’s just speaks to this, this trust problem.

[00:25:18] And [00:25:20] it’s. You know, there’s only five, no, only six things that you need to show that you have at least an MSC in statistics or something equivalent, five years of work experience, professional development during this time, communication skills, Compliance with ethical standards and being a [00:25:40] member of one of the FANSTATS member organizations.

[00:25:43] That’s great. All of that is on the FANSTATS. eu slash accreditation homepage that we’ll link to in the show notes. And you will have at the conference, the workshop [00:26:00] where you can actually do all this accreditation process, get all your questions answered. And get them all uploaded and get them all out of your hands so that it doesn’t become a hassle and it doesn’t kind of stay on your to do list [00:26:20] forever.

[00:26:20] I know how these things are, it is you put it on your to do list and then there’s always something else that comes up and therefore kind of putting in some time for you to do that during the conference will be quite useful. Nice. Thanks so much for that help. Any final thoughts that you [00:26:40] would like to give to the listener on, on this topic?

[00:26:44] Magnus: Not more than that, if you are a statistician, I think that you should apply for the accreditation. It’s a way of enhancing, in my opinion, the professional status of statisticians. And I think that I often get many questions about [00:27:00] artificial intelligence nowadays. And in my opinion, most of artificial intelligence is based on statistics.

[00:27:06] But I think that there are lots of things where Classical statisticians are still needed because It doesn’t become, it doesn’t become more true just because you have more data and do more [00:27:20] and more efficient than I use, use more and more efficient analysis methods. Actually, I’m, I’m, I’m an AI skeptic actually.

[00:27:29] Alexander: Yeah. Yeah. Especially in the AI, data science this discussions, building more trust is definitely [00:27:40] helpful and getting some way to document your professional education and your competence. Absolutely. And competence is one of the three main pillars to build trust. Speak about this in my leadership program, actually.

[00:27:57] Okay. Thanks so much. Have a [00:28:00] great time and see you at the conference. [00:28:02] Magnus: Thank you very much. I’ll see you, Alexander.

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