News & Media releases

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  • 11 Nov 2019 6:12 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The secret to good debt

    It may seem like an oxymoron - however borrowing money may be a key strategy in building a stronger financial future.

    While living in the black means your bank accounts are never diminished with debit interest - there is a role that debt plays as we progress through our lives and careers.

    Like most Australians, you probably have the dream of one day buying your own home…. which invariably comes hand-in-hand with a mortgage. In today’s market it’s not enough to simply ensure you are able to demonstrate a regular savings commitment to reach a required deposit.

    Key to securing the best finance deal is a good credit history - which is built over time and reflects your financial behaviour in meeting bill and loan payments.

    Most recent figures show that Australians are burdened by
    more than $2 trillion in household debt - with the average household owing $250,000. However, research shows that most of this debt is categorised as “good debt.”

    What is good debt?

    Before whipping out the credit card for a shopping frenzy, first take stock of your needs versus your wants.

    The rule of thumb is that good debt is a borrowing that helps you access or leverage financial value or longer term income. For instance, a student loan finances your education which will present longer term professional and higher income opportunities.

    Given that student loan repayments are directed through the Australian taxation system, they are not reflected in your credit history. There are however other options you may consider, such as borrowing for a vehicle or for investment.

    For most Australians a car is an essential tool for you to reach your workplace destination - therefore helping you secure your income.

    What is bad debt?

    If your long term goal is to have the financial freedom to choose the life you want, smart decisions about the debt you take on are critical. Bad debt diminishes your financial position over time and is usually not attached to an asset that appreciates in value over time.

    Before collecting a deck of credit cards and buying against the full balance available be aware that it is all too easy for the interest payments to cut deeply into your weekly budget. The automation of credit transactions through subscriptions, direct debits and memberships means it’s more important than ever before to
    keep track of purchases and the outstanding balance you hold each month.

    Think carefully before taking on debt and ensure you position yourself for financial success. This all begins with
    a realistic budget you can stick with.

    Bad debt may include taking on debt to buy clothes, gadgets, entertainment, nights out and holidays. Before each purchase ask yourself how it will build your financial future. For instance there’s no sense putting the purchase of a new outfit on your credit card, if you can’t afford to pay for the night out in cash.

    Manage your debt and create wealth

    Borrowing to build wealth is a solid strategy when you plan well and use the approach to build your credit rating and access purchases that will add to your asset pool.

    In some cases - depending on your tax rate - there may be additional benefits in borrowing for property and share market investment - known as gearing. When calculating the overall implications of this strategy, consider the possible tax deductions, interest rate, income risk, fees and charges and the flexibility of the investment should you need to exit.

    ASIC nominates
    5 steps towards financial security, beginning with having a full picture of your financial starting point. When entering into the lending market, it’s not only important to borrow within your means, but towards something that will add value to your life.

    Before committing, make sure to always seek professional advice and to research your lending options - what are the market interest rates, the different terms and conditions, penalties, fees and charges?

    Most importantly, borrow to succeed in ways that meet your needs into the longer term.  

    UniBank is a division of Teachers Mutual Bank Limited ABN 30 087 650 459 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238981. Membership eligibility applies to join the Bank. Membership is open to citizens or permanent residents of Australia who are current or retired employees, students and graduates of Australian universities or family members of members of the Bank.

    This article provided by an external writer. Tracie Sanim is a former finance editor and senior journalist with News Corporation. With a communication career spanning three decades in private industry, the not for profit sector and all three tiers of government, Tracie holds qualifications across journalism, project management, business management, innovation and entrepreneurship and business research. She is the founder of the award winning agency Splash Marketing and PR - a venture that focuses on strategic communication, business innovation and market engagement.

  • 11 Nov 2019 4:24 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    South Australian Branch SSA Meeting Article October 2019

    Dr David Baird is a biometrician with 35 years’ consulting experience. David did his MSc in applied statistics at the University of Reading on the nearest neighbour analysis of field trials and a PhD in Statistics at the University of Otago on the design of experiments. David worked with AgResearch for 25 years as a statistical consultant and developed their two-colour microarray analysis suite. David was the statistical consultant on 4 biosecurity eradication programmes and has been the statistical consultant for the NZ Earthquake Commission for the last 8 years. David has been one of the main developers of the Genstat statistical package for over 25 years. So, it wasn’t surprising that David had some very interesting cases to present in a very entertaining way.

    One of the first project’s David worked on was a sheep starvation project where sheep were given different levels of food and then killed so their organs could be weighed, and growth rates measured. Such an experiment is unlikely to pass ethics standards of today. Unfortunately, the data was never kept or published. David emphasized the need to include good data management practices and store data in readable formats.

    David’s talked about his experiences with experimental designs for animal and field trials, eradication programs on introduced moths, biocontrol program for weevils, impacts of pasture endophytes on animal performance and analysis of two-colour microarrays. Like many statistician’s problems such as lack of randomization, data cleansing, inability to replicate results, differences between statisticians and scientists meant solutions were needed to provide data driven results.

    The most interesting work was on financial estimates from the Christchurch earthquakes in order to estimate the EQC Liability so that settlements for damaged houses could be expediated. An initial survey gave an NZ$2.86 billion estimate of total property damage. However, there were multiple earthquakes which meant new surveys, resulting in a final cost estimate of NZ$8 billion. An estimate of the total reimbursement to EQC from reinsurers using nearest neighbour methods was developed and another validation survey was used reach agreement between the two parties.

    For more information contact david@vsn.co.nz .

    By Paul Sutcliffe 

  • 11 Nov 2019 4:17 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Short summary: The Introductory Data Science in Schools Project is an international project aimed at promoting the teaching of and introductory data science course in schools. The project has reached a key stage, and the SSA is delighted to support the project as they move to the next stage of raising funds to develop the course materials.

    In the October issue of the SSA newsletter, Nick Fisher provided an update on IDSSP (www.idssp.org), an international project in which the SSA has been playing a leading role.   The purpose of IDSSP is to promote and support the teaching of Introductory Data Science, particularly in the final years of schooling, by developing:

    • a framework for introducing data science including topics, learning outcomes, and sample lesson plans
    • excellent modular teaching and learning resources and associated assessment rubrics
    • a moderated portal for ongoing sharing of materials and experience
    • professional development services for teachers and teacher trainers

    The project comprises two phases, the first of which has now been completed:

    Phase 1.   Develop a curriculum framework as the basis for development of resources to support teaching students a pre-calculus course on Introductory Data Science;
    and
    a corresponding framework to teach teachers how to teach students Introductory Data Science.

    Phase 2.   Develop the resources to support courses based on the curriculum frameworks, and devise and implement a course aimed at prospective teachers of Data Science.

    In a progress report to the societies supporting IDSSP, a number of options were presented about how to proceed, of which far and away the most ambitious is:

    Mount a fund-raising effort to enable the full Phase 2:

    • ·         production of high-quality course materials supporting a variety of delivery modes, including self-study;
    • ·         appropriate assessment materials; and
    • ·         a course to teach teachers, with an associated accreditation process.

    The SSA is very pleased to be the first of the societies to support this action.

    Adrian Barnett
    SSA President


  • 11 Nov 2019 3:08 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    I was fortunate enough to attend the YSC2019 in Canberra during October 1-2, 2019. I want to gratefully mention the registration scholarship from Statistical Society of Australia (QLD Branch) for supporting my registration to the conference. Also I am grateful to my PhD Supervisor and QUT for supporting my travel, stay and participation in the conference. My time in the conference was immensely enjoyable and filled with lots of knowledge sharing, networking and learning.

    This is to mention that I always enjoy presenting my research works in Conferences and also am enthusiastic to learn from others in such wonderful platforms. I have attended few conferences till now in my research career, but I must emphasize that this particular conference, in addition to ticking all the boxes by having some great keynote speakers, having various talks from different fields of Statistics, well organized and planned sessions,  it had a touch of freshness and unique elements, which made the learning more fun.

    Networking in the tea break!

    The energetic fellow young statisticians in the organizing committee were very warm and welcoming and they did a tremendous job with organizing such a wonderful event. They brought some elements of surprise to keep us all engaged and involved in the conference. The Trivia night organized on the night before the conference was a great icebreaker, when we got to know some delegates of the conference even before the conference started along with playing the trivia quiz. 

    The conference Dinner sponsored by ACEMS had some nice activities as well. Professor Adrian Barnett’s game of drawing a perfect normal curve by hand was a fun and enjoyable task to do along with a little contribution made by us to honor the women in Statistics by creating Wikipedia pages for some of them.

    We, the Bingo winners!The BINGO cards provided in conference satchels really was a fun thing to see  how we are interacting with each other, expanding our networks, enjoying talks, asking questions and many other things. There were people shouting BINGO at the middle of conference was making things lighter and fun even when we are listening to significant and important research talks all day long.

    Myself presenting my research. Now if I want to talk about my participation in the YSC2019, well, I am the only one who gave two talks (one 12 minute talk and one rapid fire talk scheduled for 5 minutes) in the conference and also had submitted a video talking about my research project briefly (within 3 minutes). Though I didn’t win any of the prestigious prizes given as Louise Ryan Best Presentation Awards or the best two video awards, I enjoyed participating in YSC2019 in every possible way. I hope I will do better next time to win something!

    I really enjoyed presenting some parts of my PhD project to a very appropriate audience, who mostly had knowledge of Statistics. Throughout the conference I felt at home to be amongst the fellow researchers or students from the same discipline as mine and sharing our research projects, knowledge and experiences seemed very valuable to me. In this conference I met many old friends from different parts of Australia and made new friends, some of them can be my future collaborators as well.

    The scientific program of the conference was very well organized and almost all of the cutting edge topics of Statistics was covered and there were presentations from people of both Academia and industry, which made the talks more interesting. As an academic person, I got to know how industry people are using statistics in their problem solving tasks in a very different environment, which made me feel more proud to be a part of the Statisticians community. The four keynotes were very well suited and informative to learn from.  Teresa Dickinson, Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics gave a nice overview of Official Statistics, different policy aspects of data and statistics, roles of ABS, the methodology used in ABS and many more. The second keynote speaker, Calvin Hung Data Scientist, QuantumBlack explained why it is a great time to be analytics using different examples and facts. The second day of the conference started with wonderful keynote speech by Alison Hill, Data Scientist & Professional Educator, Rstudio who taught us about art of literate projecting to be ready to sell our skills to future employers. She also talked about the different benefits of having our own websites.  The last keynote to end the conference was from Margarita Moreno-Betancur, Senior Research Fellow, VicBiostats, who talked about their research in causal mediation analysis.  There was also a career panel where we learnt important knowledge by hearing from successful Statisticians in different stages in their career. The panel chaired by Professor Louise Ryan also answered many specific questions from the audience and this was a very useful session for all of us, specifically for the PhD students like me, we got many valuable tips to think about our future career paths. 

    I also have learnt so many things from the presentations from the Young Statisticians, learnt about many new fields of application people are working in. Some of the presentations expanded my knowledge on different types of method development going on for solving different issues.

    Long story short, I enjoyed the conference thoroughly and I felt the organization of the conference was brilliant. A huge thanks to the organizers for their diligent efforts.

    Farzana Jahan, PhD Candidate, Queensland University of Technology

  • 7 Nov 2019 12:41 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 31st October, our 51st Belz Lecture, Statistics is the Crown Jewel of Data Science, was delivered by Antony Ugoni, Director of Global Matching and Analytics at SEEK, to large crowd of 200 people.  

    Antony Ugoni delivering the Belz Lecture Antony spoke about the value that mathematics and statistics knowledge can add to data science, how important it is to really understand the problem that you're working on, and the need for passion when teaching students about statistics.

    He described the five top statistics concepts applicable to his work: ANOVA, randomness, the Central Limit Theorem, the Bootstrap, and hypothesis testing. Although the Google search algorithm may suggest that "statistics is hard", Antony's breakdown of these five concepts was very accessible and made statistics far less intimidating.

    Listening to this very entertaining talk from an accomplished statistician/data scientist, I had no doubt in my mind that Antony is incredibly passionate about statistics and deserves his place among his heroes on the “Honour Board” of Belz Lecturers.

    Rheanna Mainzer

  • 6 Nov 2019 7:02 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    American biostatistics professor Liz Stuart, who was born in the Sydney suburb of Kogarah, drew an audience of about 60 people on 21st October 2019. After running a full-day and fully-subscribed short-course earlier that day she managed to stay on her feet all the way to the end.

    An early example in Liz's talk concerned a health insurer that may be deciding to approve a new treatment for back pain. Of interest is the "population" average of the treatment effect.

    Some of the themes of the presentation were causal inference, generalisability. For example, results from randomised trials may not generalise to the population of interest. Liz then projected a rare technical slide, concerning her work on population average treatment effect.

    Problems such as biases if participation in a trial is associated with impacts were mentioned. For example, large urban school districts in the United States are more likely to participate in education studies.

    Liz said that often one has to deal with the reality of only having a single randomised trial. Remedies based on Bayesian additive regression trees were discussed.

    Towards the end of the presentation an example concerning highly active retroviral therapy for patients with human immunodeficiency virus was discussed. A problem was the high proportion of people in the trial being older, white and male and this tended to bias the population average treatment effect. The problem of generalising beyond the study was brought up again.

    A closing quote, which summed up much of what Liz spoke about was "You can't fix by analysis what you bungled by design".

    Matt Wand
    University of Technology Sydney

  • 29 Oct 2019 12:34 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    SSA is pleased to announce the inaugural Betty Allan Travel Award. Named after CSIRO’s first statistician, this award ($3000) will support travel of one early career female Stats Society member and/or CSIRO/Data61 staff member currently working or studying in the field of statistics in Australia, to a suitable location and/or conference anywhere in the world. This award will be available once a year.

    It is jointly funded by the Statistical Society and CSIRO. Applications are now open and will close on Friday, 29 November 2019.

    For more information about Betty Allan and this award, please go to the SSA website.

  • 28 Oct 2019 7:00 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    From: Medical Journal of Australia (MJA)

    A LACK of attention to biostatistics as a core scientific discipline threatens the value of the $800 million spent annually on Australian health research investment, in terms of improved health and lives saved, according to the authors of a Perspective published online today by the Medical Journal of Australia.

    “The entire Australian medical research enterprise is at considerable risk of ‘drowning in data but starving for knowledge’,” wrote the authors, led by Associate Professor Katherine Lee and Professor John Carlin, of the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

    Biostatistics “provides the theoretical basis for extracting knowledge from data in the presence of variability and uncertainty”, they wrote.

    “It is a critical element of most empirical research in public health and clinical medicine, with the best studies incorporating biostatistical input on aspects from study design to data analysis and reporting. Biostatistical methods underpin key public health research disciplines, such as epidemiology and health services research, a role that reflects the core nature of the discipline of biostatistics.

    “Superficial understanding of statistics can easily lead to unscientific practice (recently characterised as ‘cargo-cult statistics’) and may be seen as responsible in large part for the current ‘crisis of reproducibility’ in research.

    "The emerging era of big data heightens the need for biostatistical expertise, with more decision makers and researchers aiming to extract value from complex messy data."

    In the US, the UK and continental Europe major universities have established departments of biostatistics, or have national centres in biostatistical methodology, as well as dedicated streams of funding for methodological research, they wrote.

    In Australia, however, “there has never been systematic investment in the development of biostatistics … either in universities or via national funding schemes”, Carlin and colleagues wrote.

    “None of the major universities has a department of biostatistics.”

    The authors suggested three potential solutions:

    •       universities and research institutes need to foster the development of organisational structures with a critical mass of academic biostatisticians working both in methodology and collaborating with health researchers, as well as training opportunities and career development for biostatisticians;

    •       biostatistical teaching and advanced training must keep pace with the dramatic changes in the data science landscape, to ensure that graduates have the necessary breadth of skills to support medical research in the modern era; and

    •       funding bodies need to invest in biostatistical research; for example, by the creation and support of graduate and postdoctoral methodological training programs.

    Please remember to credit The MJA. The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

  • 17 Oct 2019 6:30 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 24th September 2019 the New South Wales branch gathered on the

    campus Macquarie University in north-western Sydney. Members of

    the council with offices in the inner suburbs had their Opal cards

    and transport apps kept busy in the race to out to North Ryde for

    their pre-talk monthly meeting. The writer of this article was declared

    the winner, making it door to door in just 45 minutes.

    After some high quality hors d'oeuvres the audience sat down to

    listen to Dr Pierre Lafaye de Micheaux of the School of Mathematics

    and Statistics, University of New South Wales, deliver a presentation

    titled "A notion of depth for curve data", which uses ideas from

    Princeton statistician John Tukey from the 1970s concerning, for

    example, half-space depth for point clouds.

    Pierre's research in this area is motivated by data from the

    Older Australian Twins Study. There is strong evidence that the

    quality of brain fibres impacts quality of life and, therefore,

    high quality analyses of brain fibre data is important. The

    data are curves in three dimensions so Pierre has had to

    extend data depth ideas to this setting. The presenter made

    excellent use of three dimensional graphics to visualise

    the data and explain the depth concepts.

    Another key idea was the concept of parametrised curves

    and this involved some elegant geometry-type mathematics

    including, of course, the Frechet metric.

    After a theoretical exposition Pierre demonstrated his

    breadth as a statistician by telling everyone about his

    co-authored R package named curveDepth.

    Apart from data from the Older Australian Twins Study the

    methodology was applied to cyclone paths in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The new methodology leads to better detection of outlier cyclones

    and better confidence regarding regions at risk. For the brain

    fibre applications, an upcoming challenge is to go from data

    on 68 brains to 20,000 brains.

    Matt Wand

    University of Technology Sydney


  • 17 Oct 2019 4:24 PM | Adrian Barnett (Administrator)

    The Statistical Society of Australia now has an official statement on climate change and the urgent need for action. You can read the statement here. The statement wording was made in collaboration with our Environmental Statistics Section and other experts, with thanks to David Warton. The statement was approved by the Executive committee in October 2019.

    I am happy to discuss this any time.

    Adrian Barnett, President

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