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Background Note


The involvement of the International Statistical Institute in establishing a declaration on professional ethics has extended over the past quarter century. The Bureau of the Institute, in response to representations by members and a proposal by the Institute's Committee on Future Directions, initially established a Committee on a Code of Ethics for Statisticians in 1979, during the 42nd ISI Session in Manila. That Committee[1] prepared a ‘code’ that was accepted by the Institute during its Centenary Celebration in 1985, with the adoption of the following resolution by the General Assembly of the ISI on 21 August, 1985:


  • recognizing that the aim of the Declaration on Professional Ethics for Statisticians is to document shared professional values and experience as a means of providing guidance rather than regulation;
  • adopts the Declaration as an affirmation of the membership's concern with these matters and of its resolve to promote knowledge and interest in professional ethics among statisticians worldwide;
  • determines to send the Declaration to all members of the ISI and its Associations and to disseminate it, as appropriate, within the statistical profession;
  • commends the Committee responsible for developing the Declaration for its thorough, efficient and successful work during the last five years.


With the passage of time, the Institute found itself visiting the question of the need for an updating of the Declaration. In July 2006, the Executive Committee specifically invited its standing Professional Ethics Committee[2] to revisit the ISI Declaration and, “should the occasion arise, (propose) updates to the ISI Declaration”. This the Committee has now done. A revised document, prepared for a meeting held in Paris, in March 2007, and hosted by INSEE, was followed by an open meeting at the ISI international meetings in Lisbon, in August 2007, at which the results of all these efforts were presented to the participants for their comments and reactions. Although agreement was evident on many points, a number of suggestions for further examination were proposed, which are reflected in the addition of a Section on Shared Professional Values and a reordering and combining of several of the Ethical Principles that derive from these Values. This document is the result of these recent efforts.


In accordance with the spirit and letter of the original resolution, the International Statistical Institute presents this revised and updated Declaration on Professional Ethics, with the continued hope and belief that the new document will assist colleagues throughout the world in the pursuit of their professional goals and responsibilities.





[1] The Committee was chaired by Roger Jowell. Original members were W. Edwards Deming, Arno Donda, Helmut V. Muhsam and Edmund Rapaport, who subsequently were joined by Edmundo Berumen-Torres, Gilbert Motsemme and René Padieu.


[2] The current Committee is composed of David Morganstein (Chair), Margo Anderson, Edmundo Berumen, Stephen E. Fienberg, Fred Ho, Roger Jowell †, Denise Lievesley, Olav Ljones, Bill Seltzer, and Jan Robert Suesser. The Committee receives important support from an Ethics Advisory Group consisting of Jean-Louis Bodin, Oliver J.M. Chinganya, Howard Gabriels, Dan Levine, René Padieu, Hrachya Petrosyan, and Norbert Victor.



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