John Aston

Years Participated: 
University of Cambridge
Professional Title: 
Professor of Statistics

John Aston is the Harding Professor of Statistics in Public Life at the University of Cambridge. He worked as a NISS Postdoc in 2002-2004 in Suitland, Maryland, where he performed time series research for the U.S. Census Bureau.

John studied at University of Cambridge for his undergraduate degree, then spent half his time at Imperial College, London and half at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec for his Ph.D. in statistics. John joined NISS shortly after obtaining his Ph.D.. As a British citizen, NISS was really useful for John to be able to take his next career step of looking at time series in macroeconomic settings at the premier institution for such research, the U.S. Census Bureau. Working with NISS also allowed him to simultaneously continuing work on his PhD topic of statistical imaging.

John really enjoyed working on time series. "It was a completely different environment than I had worked in the past. It gave me a very different perspective on academic and governmental research." Little was John to know that this was to be a precursor of things to come.

After working with NISS, John and his wife moved first to Taiwan and then back to England in 2008, to take up a position at the University of Warwick, and from 2014 he has been in Cambridge. He’s been lucky enough to be able to work on many interesting areas of application and has contributed to numerous statistical fields including imaging, neuroimaging, economics and linguistics, which has resulting in his being elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.

In 2017, he was again able to bridge the arena between academia and government, when he was appointed the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Home Office, the UK equivalent to a mixture of the Dept of Homeland Security and Dept of Justice. He served in this role for three and a half years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is now also a Non-Executive Director of the UK Statistics Authority, the UK body somewhat akin to the Census Bureau. In 2021, he was knighted by the Queen for his services to Statistics and Public Policymaking.

A side benefit to working at NISS was that John met his wife, Karri, while he was based in the Washington DC area. They are proud parents of three children.

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