Since then, there have been 19 issues, an average of three a year, growing from 4 to 8 to 12 to 16 and then briefly to 20 pages. Tribute must be paid to the three Editors over this period – Andrew Pepper (issues 1-4) who got it off the ground and took it to a 12-page issue; John Aczel (issues 5- 13) who took it to 16 pages; and Ulric Spencer the current Editor and has developed it further (to an occasional 20 pages), although constrained by financial considerations. (If it is not too immodest to say so, I should add that I have been the Publisher for all 19 issues.)
BSUG NEWS has been a success. It has spoken out ‘without fear or favour’ on statistical issues, and particularly the Green Paper, the White Paper and the Statistical Commission (and its performance). It is widely respected for this, and the proof lies in the fact that its circulation – at about 1,000 copies – has been much wider than BSUG membership which has been only about 100, or less. It is probably fair to say that it has been quite influential in what it has said and has given BSUG a higher profile than its numerical membership would normally justify.
The average issue has been 12 pages, but has hit 16 pages seven times and 20 pages once. The only constraint on size has been cost – more pages mean proportionately more cost – and this has been very relevant in the context of membership of BSUG declining from 120 in 1996 to the current 62, with a broadly proportionate decrease in income. Recognition must be given to the generous sponsorship of BSUG NEWS by The Stationery Office whose support has effectively ‘postponed the evil day’ for some time. But the evil day has finally arrived. Last year, financial constraints reduced publication to two issues. But all is not lost – courtesy of Modern Technology – and a solution (we hope) has been found.
The conflict between income and expenditure – familiarly known as the Micawber Syndrome – has been with BSUG’s Hon. Treasurer for some years. The conflict has been compounded by the fact that the Treasurer and the Publisher has been the same person since the beginning; and this has led to a degree of schizophrenia where the Treasurer desires/demands financial constraint and the Publisher requests/justifies increased expenditure. (The Treasurer/Publisher reassures readers that he is still sane and the conflict is not life-threatening.)
The solution lies with the Internet. BSUG has been more than aware of website/ Internet opportunities and has had a modest website for over two years (http:/home.btclick.com/bsug). But it has not developed or exploited this.
BSUG NEWS has been a mixture of about 25% prospective news (announcements/ editorial/comment on prospective issues) and about 75% retrospective news (reports on meetings held, articles on how statistics are used, etc.) It seemed, with the conflict of circulation v. cost, to the BSUG Committee that the two could be separated, with prospective news needing a continuing hard-copy presence in only a 4 page issue 3-4 times a year (as well as a presence on the website) and the retrospective news being relegated to only a website presence (but with the added advantage that the website could contain all previous retrospective reports from Nos.1-19, as an archive reference.) This would save considerable publication costs and make the continuation of BSUG NEWS viable, with priorities allocated between the prospective and the retrospective.
it is recognised that this change cannot be achieved volte-face, but needs a phased changeover. So while wishing to achieve the change as quickly as is sensible, so it is also recognised that the two alternative systems need to ‘march in parallel’ for as long as is necessary to effect a smooth transfer.
The change-over will need to be monitored carefully and members/readers can be assured that it will be. Obviously, there is an element of uncertainty in the change-over which may require unexpected action, but members/readers are invited to trust the Committee in their judgement.
What we do expect is that in about a year’s time: