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Long-form census controversy to take over convention centre

You can count on the death of the long-form census to dominate discussion when 5,500 statisticians descend on the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The Joint Statistical Meeting, the largest annual gathering for the world’s top number-crunchers, runs July 31 to Aug. 5. Munir Sheikh, the Statistics Canada boss who quit in protest, is among the scheduled speakers.

“There's probably no time in history when statistics has been so much of a focus as it is now,” said University of Waterloo Prof. Don McLeish, president of the Statistical Society of Canada. “What's happening here in Canada is central to the integrity of statistics. It's broader than that, it's about evidence, facts and balance between privacy and an informed government and public.”

Experts from government, academia and private industry will present their findings on a variety of topics, from climate to cyber-crime. McLeish said statisticians have never been so important but there are not enough of them.

“Information and the availability of information has a doubling rate of probably every year or two,” he said. “Our profession has grown rapidly but it has nowhere near kept pace.”

Bob Mackin reports for 24 Hours.

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