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2020 SSA Society Awards Announced

3 Jun 2020 12:46 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

The Statistical Society of Australia offers several awards to its members, honouring their contributions to the statistical community. Honorary Life Membership honours outstanding contribution to the profession and the Society. A Society Service Award may be awarded to a Society member in recognition of sustained and significant service to the Society.

The SSA is pleased to announce the following awards for 2020:

Honorary Life Membership:

Dr Alison Harcourt AO

Alison Harcourt, a lifelong supporter of the Statistical Society of Australia and contributor to the statistical discipline, was nominated for Honorary Life Membership in recognition of her inspiring career, remarkable achievements, and dedicated service. She was the founding secretary of the Victorian Branch of SSA in 1964 and served in that role for four years. Alison continued to support the VIC branch ever since, regularly attending branch events and contributing to discussion of important topics at our meetings.

In her career, Alison made important advances to mathematics and statistics, and their application to informing government policy. The most visible ones include her seminal paper on the “branch and bound” method, her contributions to quantifying the extent of poverty in Australia and her work that led to the introduction of the “double randomisation” method in allocating positions on ballot papers (still in use today).

Alison was working at a time when there was much less support for women. It is only in recent times that her achievements have received proper recognition. In 2018 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by the University of Melbourne, and in 2019 she was named Victoria’s Senior Australian of the Year and an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Although she formally retired in 1994, Alison continues to work as a sessional tutor at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne, where she is known as a passionate and knowledgeable teacher of statistics. Indeed, she has been a mentor to many great statisticians who have long-since retired!


Honorary Life Membership:

Professor Annette Dobson AM

Annette Dobson was the inaugural Chair of the Medical Sciences Section of the Statistical Society of Australia when it was formed in 1983. She held that position until the AGM in 1986 and actively lobbied for greater involvement of statisticians in refereeing for medical journals (eg, via the Newsletter). At the 1984 and 1986 Statistical Conferences, Annette organised a Medical Statistics session. During this time she also supported the Compstat-Medstat ’85 symposium held at Macquarie University jointly with the Statistical Computing Section.  Throughout the years Annette has been an active participant in the activities of many of the Society’s Sections, including being an invited speaker at DATA ’86 and one of two speakers at the first Statistical Education meeting held in NSW in 1987.

In 1986 Annette Dobson became the first President of the NSW Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia who was not based in Sydney. She was based at the University of Newcastle and commuted to Sydney for Branch meetings and events. Annette was on the NSW Branch Executive as President for 1986-88 and Past President until 1990.

In 1998 Annette became an Accredited Statistician, serving on the Accreditation Committee from 2000-2003. She was also a member of the Data Science Accreditation subcommittee from 2019 to 2020.

Annette Dobson has had a major influence on the standing of the statistics profession within Australia through outstanding leadership in the area of medical statistics. She is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Queensland in the Centre for Longitudinal and Life Course Research. She was the founding Director of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health and held the post from 1995 to 2013.

In 2012 Annette was awarded the Moyal Medal for her contributions to biostatistical methodology, practice and education. In 2013 she was made a Life Member of the Australasian Epidemiological Association for having contributed significantly through research or other involvement in epidemiology to the international reputation of Australasian epidemiology and the advancement of public health in Australasia.

Annette was the inaugural Chair of the Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia (BCA) that coordinates training provided by seven universities to deliver the Master of Biostatistics degree, producing the next generation of medical statisticians in Australia. This is a highly successful program that has been operating since 2000. The BCA is regularly referred to as the model for university cooperation in delivering postgraduate training and it has provided a template for other cross institutional collaboration schemes such the Australian Technology Network’s Industry Doctoral Training program. The BCA was acknowledged in the 2016 Decadal Plan for the Mathematical Sciences and was awarded the Statistical Society’s Presidential Award for leadership in statistics in 2019.


Service Award

Professor Scott Sisson

Scott was an active Chair of the Bayesian Statistics Section from 2009 to 2014, and the NSW Branch President from 2012 to 2013. He was Scientific Program Chair for the ASC/IMS joint conference in Sydney in 2014. In August 2016 Scott became the President of SSA for two years, and served as outgoing president until mid- 2019. The Presidency had been vacant for a year prior to Scott accepting the position, so he did not have the benefit of a year’s experience as Vice President before taking on the new position. Nevertheless, he did an excellent job as national President and brought great energy and vision to the role. He was passionate about increasing the membership and visibility of the SSA, and his ideas are still bearing fruit now. In particular it was Scott Sisson’s idea to create the Vice President roles in membership, media and Finance to provide the Executive with focus on key strategic issues for SSA.

Scott began the work on increasing equity and diversity in the Society which led to an updated Code of Conduct. It was also Scott Sisson’s idea to create a southern version of the Joint Statistical Meeting and this will happen in Darwin in 2022. He is an active member on the program committee for JSSM.

Scott represented the Society nationally on the National Committee for the Mathematical Sciences and on the methodology advisory committee for the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


Service Award

Professor Ian Gordon

Professor Ian Gordon of the University of Melbourne has a long history of service to the Society. After 11 years of service on the Victorian Branch Council, he stepped down in 2019. Ian led the Victorian Branch as President from 2009 to 2010, taking on the role in the wake of the 2008 conference debacle: his steady leadership helped to ensure that the Victorian Branch, and the Society as a whole, was able to recover. For example, Ian was instrumental in carrying out a survey of Victorian Branch members to canvas opinions about strategies for recovery, and he led the Branch in a resurgence of activity: increasing the number and variety of Branch activities, thereby increasing the participation of members. In 2012 the Victorian branch was incorporated; during his tenure as President, Ian oversaw the process of revision of the Constitution and application to achieve this important outcome.

Ian’s ability to gently guide new branch council presidents, vice-presidents and members, and his exhaustive knowledge of the Branch Constitution and Regulations made him an incredibly valuable member of the Council. Since stepping down from the Council, he accepted an invitation to join the newly convened Advisory Committee for the Branch, and thus he has continued to provide advice to the Council on important and strategic matters.

Further to this formal service for the Branch, Ian supported archiving the history of the Branch; for example, as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations in 2014, he accessed the archives to provide the SSA with insights from the very beginnings of the Vic Branch. He has regularly accepted invitations to present monthly branch seminars and was named the Belz Lecturer in 1995.

Ian has contributed more broadly to the Society and the statistical community as a whole. He was on the SSA’s Accreditation Committee from early 2008 to late 2013. In addition to his keen mentorship of junior statisticians, in 2018 he chaired the E. J. G. Pitman award prize committee at the Australian Statistical Conference (joint with the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics Annual Meeting) in Melbourne.

Ian is passionate about promoting the value of quality statistical science to the broader community. For example, he has played an important role in the resolution of high profile issues, including legal cases, such as the landmark class action over transvaginal mesh implants (Johnson and Johnson, and Ethicon, 2019), Hazelwood mine fire enquiry (2015), and the Haile-Michael case against Victoria Police (2013).


Congratulations to these outstanding members of the Statistical Society of Australia, who, through their tireless work, have helped to steer and shape the Society into the vibrant community that it is.

The names of all SSA Honorary Life Membership recipients are available here. A list of Society Service Award recipients can be viewed here.

Remember that any member of SSA can be nominated for an award. SSA has awards for service, contributions to statistics, and outstanding achievement in statistics.

For more information, see our Awards page on the SSA website.

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