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My ECSSC2021 Experience

19 Aug 2021 2:50 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

The Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference (ECSSC) 2021 was held online over 26th July-1st August. As an early career quantitative researcher at Monash Rural Health, Bendigo, I was excited to hear about ECSSC 2021 and to receive funding from SSA Vic to attend. This conference provided me with opportunities to share my pharmacoepidemiological research, refine my presentation skills, meet and interact with fellow ECSSs, and learn about multifarious topics from inspiring keynote speakers and ECSSs. Topics of particular interest to me included causal inference, multicentre trials, psychometrics, spatial modelling, social media analytics, consulting, communication, and the sociology of statistical expertise.

From my perspective, while I enjoyed and learned from the relatively specialised, technical topics covered at ECSSC 2021, I feel that I personally derived greater benefit from the more human-centred presentations. This includes presentations emphasising qualitative approaches and the personal narratives of statisticians, as exemplified by:

  • Atousa Ghahramani’s poster presentation ‘Use of social media analytics for raising awareness of cardiovascular diseases risk factors in the female population of Australia’ (a mixed methods study)
  • Taya Collyer’s oral presentation ‘What is statistical expertise?’ (a qualitative study)
  • Cameron Patrick’s oral presentation ‘Tales from the trenches of statistical consulting: five tips for early career statistical consultants’
  • Sharm Thuraisingam’s oral presentation ‘Surviving a PhD with a toddler during a pandemic’.

It was also helpful to hear the personal experiences and insights conveyed through panels and information sessions, including the experiences shared by my fellow Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia (BCA) alumni during the BCA information session. I agree with this sentiment expressed by one of the delegates: all statisticians are statistical consultants, be it informally or formally. I found it refreshing to attend a statistics conference with such a strong emphasis on the human side of the profession. The human side of statistical practice is rarely formally taught in statistics courses yet, in my experience and opinion, is of paramount importance to us statisticians and our collaborators.

I thought that technology was employed to great effect by the ECSSC 2021 Committee. The use of a solitary Zoom link for all presentations, panels, information sessions, and social events simplified attendance from an end-user perspective. Breakout rooms were well utilised during social sessions to encourage interaction and networking among delegates. The Zoom sessions were complemented by the conference’s Slack workspace—a dedicated online communication platform for conference updates, reminders, Q&As, comments, and conversations. As a first-time Slack user, I was impressed by the user-friendliness and effectiveness of this software solution. Slack facilitated many fruitful conversations about varied topics while providing a place for delegates to share helpful resources and information, such as statistics-related videos and the Twitter handles of statisticians who regularly tweet (including advanced R users). Furthermore, thanks to the sharing of recorded presentations through the ‘post-conference’ Slack channel and electronic posters through an online exhibition, my fellow delegates and I have been able to revisit particular presentations or view any that we may have missed. The ECSSC 2021 YouTube video competition was a terrific accompaniment to ECSSC 2021, further exemplifying the conference’s effective use of technology.

Overall, I found attending ECSSC 2021 to be an informative, interesting, and inspiring experience. I offer my congratulations and thanks to the ECSSC 2021 Committee as well as all conference presenters and attendees. In a contemporary world full of so much uncertainty, I feel confident about the bright future of statistics—and statistics conferences—in Australia.

Dr Michael Leach
Senior Lecturer (Education and Research)
Rural Health, Monash University

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