John Aston

Harding Professor of Statistics in Public Life

This professorship, formerly known as the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, was generously endowed by The David and Claudia Harding Foundation to undertake research into the use of quantitative evidence in public policy making, and develop new ways to use data in public life and debate. This involves three main aims:

  • developing cutting edge statistical techniques of relevance to public policy
  • working with those in public life to ensure the best quantitative methods are used
  • improving the use of statistics and other quantitiative evidence in public policy debates

This research is joint with a number of collaborators not least the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication.

I am co-Director of the Cambridge Mathematics of Information in Healthcare Hub and on the management board of the Cantab Capital Institute for the Mathematics of Information.

I am also a non-Executive Director of the UK Statistics Authority

If you are interested in more general articles, podcasts etc about my work, please see here

Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser and Director-General STARS

From 2017-2020, I was on secondment as Chief Scientific Adviser and Director-General for Science, Technology, Analysis, Research and Strategy (STARS) at the Home Office. This involved working with the Home Secretary, Ministers and Officials on all aspects of science (very broadly definied, including physical, technological, biological and social sciences), both in terms of advice and the overseeing and commissioning of research. I also led approximately 1000 colleagues in STARS, made up of analysts (economists, statisticians, operational researchers and social researchers), scientists, stategy and private office members of the Home Office. The Home Office is one of the great Departments of State, and I was fortunate to be part of some of the pivotal moments in the history of the UK over the last few years.

Statistical Research Interests and Publications

My interests include all areas of Applied Statistics but particularly Official and Public Policy Statistics, Statistical Neuroimaging and Statistical Linguistics. I'm also very pleased to be involved in some of Cambridge's AI and COVID-19 work through AIX-COVNET.

I have methodological interests amongst other things in Functional and Manifold Data Analysis, Time Series Analysis, Image Analysis, Changepoint Analysis, Spatial-Temporal Statistics, as well as applications of sequential Monte Carlo techniques. I am also very interested in the links between statistics and other areas of pure and applied mathematics.

Fuller information on Journal Publications can be found at the link and additional information can be found at my Google Scholar profile.

Postdoctoral Researchers and Students

I have been fortunate to work with a number of excellent postdoctoral research fellows and associates, as well as some really talented PhD students. Further details about past and present PhD Students and PDRAs can be found at the link.

Some Previous Projects and Positions

My previous EPSRC Fellowship Project Functional Object Data Analysis and its Applications

From 2015-2017, I was a trustee and member of the board of directors of the Alan Turing Institute.

Prior to being at Cambridge, I held academic positions at the University of Warwick and at Academia Sinica and was a NISS Junior Fellow at the United States Census Bureau.

I was secretary of the Royal Statistical Society Research Section during 2013-2014

Research Support

My research has been generously supported by:

The David and Claudia Harding Foundation
Marie Curie

Contact Details

John Aston
Statistical Laboratory
University of Cambridge
Wilberforce Road
Cambridge CB3 0WB


Last updated June 2021.