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  • 3 Oct 2019 3:35 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    This month’s event was a showcase of talks presented by three young statisticians from the Vic Branch.  

    The first presentation was by PhD student Jiadong Mao on methods for analysing streaming data. Streaming data are collected sequentially over a potentially infinite time period requiring real-time data estimation. Jiadong is developing nonparametric estimation approaches for streaming data that are computationally fast (easy to update) and adaptive to nonstationarity. He demonstrated an application of kernel density estimation to satellite data.

    Next up was PhD student Rushani Wijesuriya who performed a comprehensive simulation study to compare different multiple imputation methods for handling missing data in three-level data structures (e.g. Naplan data where there are repeated waves of data collection from students clustered within schools). Rushani found that approaches which impute the missing data using a multilevel model performed better than simpler methods that impute data at a single level using a wide format.

    Our final presentation was by PhD student Ravindi Nanayakkara who introduced us to cosmic microwave background data, which capture leftover radiation from the Big Bang. The data are complex requiring models to represent random fields on a sphere. Ravindi evaluated model fits using real and simulated data.

    Julie Simpson

  • 24 Sep 2019 5:38 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    16 years ago, SSA included in its initial (2003 – 2007) Strategic Plan something called Strategic Objective 8: 

    Promote the development and adoption of a [national] statistics course for Years 11 and 12 at school, based on the best teaching practices that can be utilised, together with appropriate training programs for teachers.

    16 years later, some basis has been provided for this. 

    The International Data Science in Schools Project (IDSSP, is a cross-disciplinary project involving an international team of computer scientists and statisticians from the leading professional organizations for both disciplines. Its purpose 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:

    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;
    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.

    The online report, Curriculum Frameworks for Introductory Data Science, sets out the frameworks developed under Phase 1.

    The impetus for this project was a high-profile workshop, STEMS2016, held in response to the critical shortage of data scientists entering the workforce. It was initiated by the Statistical Society of Australia and involved academia, government and industry.  As a consequence, the SSA collaborated with the NZSA to scope an activity targeting school students and their teachers.  At first it was confined to Statistics education, but it rapidly became apparent that the great Data Science tidal wave was about to overwhelm everything, hence the broadened scope, and the strong representation of computer scientists, not to mention the strong support of the ACM, the world’s leading Computer Science society.

    It is envisaged the Frameworks developed to date will be used not just in schools, but also as a valuable source of information for data science courses in community colleges and universities and for private study.

    The supporting societies are now pondering how to build on this work.  The most ambitious option is to seek the funding to support a major international project to complete Phase 2.

    For further information please send email to, or visit

    Nicholas Fisher

  • 11 Sep 2019 5:58 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    As we begin to understand the impact we’re having, more and more of us are striving to be responsible custodians of the planet we call home. Even simple things like recycling, riding to work instead of driving, or rejecting single-use plastic can go a long way to helping us live a more sustainable life. 

    But what about those things outside our immediate control? Can we hold the businesses and organisations we support to the same high standards? Great news – there is a local organisation who is doing just that! 

    The Responsible Investment Association Australasia^

    In the world of banking and finance, the Responsible Investment Association Australasia^(RIAA) is the peak body representing responsible and ethical investors across Australia and New Zealand. 

    With an active network of over 240 members, managing more than $9 trillion in assets globally, the RIAA promotes and supports approaches to responsible investment, helping to achieve a more sustainable society, environment and economy. 

    Know more about the RIAA and their processes. 

    What to ask your Bank

    With strong scientific evidence that the production and use of fossil fuels contributes to climate change, more and more of us are welcoming the shift to renewable energy. But does your bank share this public sentiment? 

    Here are some questions you can ask to make sure your bank is acting responsibly:

    • Are they involved in any activity that contributes to large-scale greenhouse pollution from the production of fossil fuels?
    • Does your bank lend funds to any business or organisation that participates in the manufacture or distribution of harmful goods such as alcohol, armaments, pornography, uranium or tobacco?
    • Are they involved in the financing of military activities, deforestation, correctional facilities, cryptocurrency, slavery or any kind of gross environmental damage?
    • Does your bank sponsor contentious activities such as gambling, or donate money, gifts or employee time to support political candidates or organisations?

    If the answer is "yes" to any of these, you can send a strong message that you don’t approve by shifting your accounts to a financial institution that acts in a more responsible manner. But it’s not only the potential damage your bank’s investments can do. Are they active in the community? What percentage of profits does your bank invest in social and environmental programs?

    Know more about UniBank’s approach to responsible banking 

    Socially responsible investments

    As a member of UniBank, you can expect your investments to be handled ethically and responsibly. You don’t want your hard-earned money to fund businesses who don’t have our world’s best interests at heart. 

    All retail mortgages and deposit accounts opened by UniBank are Certified as Responsible Investment. They have been independently Certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia^ (RIAA). 

    Know more about UniBank’s certification by the RIAA.

    By Phillip Middleton, UniBank

    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.

    ^RIAA. Retail mortgages and deposits have been certified by RIAA according to the strict operational and disclosure practices required under the Responsible Investment Certification Program. The Responsible Investment Certification Program does not constitute financial product advice. Neither the Certification Symbol nor RIAA recommends to any person that any financial product is a suitable investment or that returns are guaranteed. Appropriate professional advice should be sought prior to making an investment decision. RIAA does not hold an Australian Financial Services Licence. Teachers Mutual Bank Limited's $1 billion Debt Issuance Programme has been certified by RIAA according to the strict operational and disclosure practices required under the Responsible Investment Certification Program.   

  • 25 Aug 2019 1:09 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The August meeting of the WA Branch has been held as a joint meeting of the Statistical Society of Australia, WA Branch and the International Biometric Society, Australasian Region since 2013. The occasion is used to invite a statistician whose work focuses on biometrics to deliver a presentation. The speaker this year was Dr Suman Rakshit from Statistics for the Australian Grains Industry (SAGI) West who works as a biometrician at Curtin University. Dr Rakshit has a background in research in spatial statistics and the analysis of point patterns. His current research primarily focuses on developing methods for the design and analysis of large-scale agricultural field trials.

    Suman’s talk was titled ‘Statistical Inference for on-farm experiments with a focus on large strip trials’. He began by explaining the historical context of field trials in agricultural research, where the questions of interest traditionally involved testing differences in mean yields from applying qualitative or quantitative treatments, such as different cultivars or differing levels or timing of nitrogen application. Field trials of this kind were implemented on small plots on relatively uniform land, and the designs incorporated randomisation, replication and blocking. Much of the early theory of trial design and analysis was developed for this type of application.

    The photo shows Dr Suman Rakshit (centre) with the president of the WA Branch of the SSA Dr Brenton Clarke (left) and the former President of the IBS-AR Mario D’Antuono (right) who helped arrange the joint meeting. (Photo Courtesy of Dean Diepeveen using Mario’s Camera)New technology has brought new opportunities for agricultural research. In particular, motivated growers can now conduct experiments cost-effectively in their own paddocks by utilising variable rate application technology to vary inputs, and real-time sensors fitted to harvesters to collect vast amounts of data. In these situations, the question of interest changes from a comparison of treatments to working out how to best manage inputs to maximise profit. Rather than trying to answer a question that can be extrapolated to other growers and other farms, inference is local: the questions being answered relate only to the actual paddock on which the trial is implemented. With no knowledge of trial design theory, trials are often implemented systematically and in ways that make life easier, such as in long-strip plots with lengths greater than 200 metres. Statistical methods developed for small plot trials are not appropriate in this context.

    Suman discussed an adaptation of geographically weighted regression for use in grower-initiated on-farm experimentation in order to analyse geo-referenced yield monitor data to obtain spatially-varying estimates of treatment effects, and demonstrated his proposed approach on a publically available dataset of corn-field fertilizer trial from Argentina. He concluded his talk by presenting derived maps of spatially varying relationships which could be used to guide grower decisions in paddock management.

    Following the talk, further discussions were held at a nearby restaurant. Special thanks to SSAI WA Branch and IBS-AR for the pre-dinner drinks and post-dinner dessert/coffee, respectively.

    Dr Karyn Reeves

  • 15 Aug 2019 10:08 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Not long now until YSC2019 and we are so excited to welcome you to Canberra! To date we have received close to 70 registrations, which means we are able to deliver a solid program, offering fascinating talks on many different topics. Sessions include “Population and economics”, “Applied biostatistics and biostatistics in practice”, “Computer science” and much more.  And don’t forget the Career Session at the end of the first day! Hear from first class statisticians how they turned their passion for statistics into successful careers they love.
    A tentative program is now available on the conference website.

    Our international keynote speaker is Alison Hill. She is busy putting the material together for her keynote address and her workshop “Communicating with R Markdown”. Keep in mind that the workshop, held at Manuka Oval, is available to everyone, not just conference delegates. Alison will demystify how R Markdown works “under the hood”. Participants will learn practical tools and workflows to increase their efficiency and productivity using R Markdown (including RStudio IDE features and templates), while learning how to use some extension packages along the way. You don’t need to be an advanced R Markdown user to be able to take advantage of this workshop.

    Another course held in conjunction with YSC2019 is our workshop “Maximising the use of Australian Bureau of Statistics Data Products and Analysis Tools” and we are grateful to the Australian Bureau of Statistics for generously sponsoring this event.The one-day workshop will have two components. First, it will provide an overview of the wide variety of data sources from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that are available for analysts. Secondly, part it will focus on how Table Builder can produce data-cubes for a standard analysis in R.

    One of the conference highlights, no doubt, will be the Trivia Night, kindly organised by the Canberra Branch. Again, this event is open to everyone keen to show off their trivia skills, not just YSC2019 delegates and it would be great to see lots of members of the Canberra Branch there as well. Being held at Manuka Oval you’ll be in for a real treat, as Manuka Oval will be supplying the refreshments.

    If you need another incentive to travel to Canberra to YSC2019 (though why would you?), there is an amazing Dreamworks Animation exhibitionstarting at the National Museum of Australia in September. This Exhibitionexplores the essential ingredients— character, story and world— of the studio’s most popular films. Through interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, original concept art, maquettes, digital interactive displays and more, visitors can follow the creative path from sketch to screen.So if you are a fan of all things animated, or Shrek, Hiccup, or the gang from “Madagascar”, you won’t be disappointed.

    Perhaps, though, you are into film-making yourself? Then you should enter this year’s Video-Competition.  At this stage we haven’t received many entries so it doesn’t take a statistician to conclude that you’re in with a real chance of taking home the prize! Not only that, if you win, we’ll be tweeting about you, mentioning you on social media and featuring your video at the next YSC in 2021, trying very hard to make you as famous as Shrek in no time! So throw your hat in the ring and be part of this year’s conference, even if you can’t make it to our conference in person.

    One thing we are still fine-tuning is the conference dinnerat the Kingston Hotel. We received some really good ideas from our YSC2019 committee members, ensuring that it will be a fun night and not “just” a dinner. Details will be revealed in due course. The registration fee for the dinner is only $20 for conference delegates, but the meal alone will be worth more than that – let alone the entertainment and the drinks- and you can’t put a price on the fantastic company! Please join us for a great night out!

    See you in Canberra!

    Marie-Louise Rankin
    SSA Executive Officer









  • 15 Aug 2019 8:59 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The job of an Association Executive Officer is not without its perks. As we are all counting down the last days of winter, I was lucky enough to escape the chilly temperatures last week, having been invited to “Meet Darwin”, a familiarisation tour of Darwin and surrounds, compliments of the Northern Territory Business Bureau and Darwin Convention Centre.  Over four fabulous days I experienced the superb hospitality of the Northern Territory. It didn’t take me long to decide: Darwin would make a fantastic conference destination.

    With average temperature highs of about 30C and no humidity at this time of year, all the delegates, including myself, relished in the opportunity to shed a few layers and walk around in short-sleeved shirts and summer sandals. This was the perfect clothing for the excursions planned for us, such as a trip out to Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours area, watching a mesmerising sunset from the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets (of course!) before heading for an unforgettable dinner at Pee Wees at the Point, a visit to the National Critical Care Trauma and Response Centre, a harbour cruise and a scenic helicopter flight -truly a highlight of my visit.

    On one of the mornings we were invited to a business session at the Darwin Convention Centre, where we heard inspiring talks about this exciting conference destination. The Darwin Convention Centre itself was impressive. It offers everything we have come to expect these days from a modern conference centre, but on a smaller scale, perfect for an event such as our Australian Statistical Conference. We were treated to the most amazing dinner there, enjoying a “Seven Seasons” dinner, a culinary journey inspired by the “Gulumoerrgin” seasons, the seasons followed by the Larrakia people. The Larrakia people are the traditional owners of the Darwin region. However, the food was fantastic wherever we went in Darwin. An abundance of first class restaurants provided stunning backdrops for what could be a very memorable conference dinner.

    For me, having immigrated to Australia in my early thirties, Darwin and its surrounds symbolises quintessential Australia the way people from outside Australia imagine it: a country of akubras, crocodiles, didgeridoos and - of course- tropical sunshine. I found Darwin to be a vibrant town, offering so many delightful cultural experiences and stunning venues to stay at, have a drink or a quality meal.

    If you are wondering where I am going with this review of a trip to Darwin, in a statistical newsletter, don’t wonder anymore. This trip raised the important question: Could we hold a conference there? It would certainly be an event to remember, one that would not only be a perfect break from winter weather, but a fantastic opportunity to bring your family along and extend it into a holiday. We might even draw a small crowd from South East Asia? What do our members think? Before you decide, watch this video – it may sway you.

    I would love to hear your thoughts – don’t hold back! (

    Marie-Louise Rankin
    Executive Officer, SSA

  • 14 Aug 2019 2:17 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Prof. Murray Aitkin (U. Melb.) was awarded an honourary fellowship at the International Workshop on Statistical Modelling (IWSM 2019) in Guimarães, Portugal.

    Dr Anthony Lee (U. Bristol) recently visited Australia, sponsored by the SSA and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS).  Anthony visited QUT, UNSW, University of Adelaide and Monash University.  He gave an invited talk at the International Conference on Monte Carlo methods in Sydney on likelihood approximations for latent variable models.  Anthony presented an SSA/ACEMS sponsored tutorial on sequential Monte Carlo methods at QUT and Monash, both well attended.   These talks provided excellent learning opportunities for Australian statisticians. 

    Anthony had productive discussions with several academics from all visited institutions.  This included discussions on sequential Monte Carlo methods, computational Bayesian algorithms and applications.  It is very likely that new international collaborations for several Australian Bayesian statisticians will arise from these discussions.  Anthony had a very positive impression of the state of Bayesian statistics in Australia: 

    “Overall, I was most struck by the interplay between methodology and applications in Australia. There is a wide variety of applications that are being tackled with complex models using Monte Carlo methods as the key computational tool. I think that this diversity is critical for driving important algorithmic innovations and pushing the boundary of classes of model and data we can robustly handle.”

    Abstracts for contributed talks or posters at Bayes on the Beach are due by August 16. Early bird registration for Bayes Comp closes on August 14. Abstracts for contributed posters will still be accepted up until December 15. Proposals for Member Invited Sessions at the ISBA World Meeting close August 22.

    Executive Committee of the Bayes Section of SSA (Chris Drovandi, Clara Grazian, Sophie Zaloumis, David Frazier, Sama Low-Choy & Matt Moores) with additional contributions from Rob Salamone

  • 12 Aug 2019 1:32 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 24th July 2019 The South Australian branch was pleased to have Dr Murthy Mittinty present at the monthly branch meeting. Dr Mittinty is a senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at The University of Adelaide and interested in both methodological development and applications of statistical methods. He gave a talk on Quantitative Bias Analysis.

    Dr. Mittinty talked about systematic and random errors in both observational or experimental data and how to handle them in observational studies.  The systematic error includes aspects such as selection bias, measurement error, confounding bias and unmeasured confounding. In a perfect randomized control trial, one can attempt to remove the biases such as measured and unmeasured confounding. Unfortunately, this is not the case with observational data , hence it is important to describe how these errors are handled. He talked about how these errors should be handled so one can predict better estimates or place more confidence in estimates. He further included three important question to answer before conducting a quantitative bias analysis: (1) when we should conduct one; (2) how we select which bias to address; and (3) how we select a method to model bias. Another question is how we interpret and present these results. He aimed to answer these questions with examples in his presentation. He talked about how to select a method to model biases and how to assign values to parameters of the bias model as well as software that can be used for conducting quantitative bias analysis. There were quite few discussions after the talk.

    A dinner was held after the meeting at Jasmine Restaurant, 31 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide.

    Aarti Gulyani, SA Branch
    University of South Australia

  • 8 Jul 2019 3:08 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 25 June, our members gathered for breakfast.  This was an event to connect young and old, share ideas about where statistics can take you, and also provide advice and career guidance.  Breaking with tradition for our branch, attendance was members-only and the event was held in the morning.  How did it go? 

    We invited eight statisticians / data scientists from diverse backgrounds to be our mentors for the day.

    Our invited mentors.  Top row, L to R: Kohleth Chia, Sandy Clarke-Errey, Harry Gielewski, Andy Kitchen.  Bottom row, L to R: Stephen Leslie, Margarita Moreno-Betancur, Dennis Trewin, James Wilson

    After a brief icebreaker, we formed into small groups around each mentor.  The intimate and relaxed setting allowed members to get to know each other and hear about our mentors' experiences first-hand.

    We had excellent feedback from those who attended.  They particularly liked:

           The diversity of mentors' backgrounds, a good mix of academic and non-academic.

           The morning scheduling, which suited many members with family responsibilities, who find our evening events harder to attend.

           The delicious food, provided by ASRC Catering.

    The discussion could have easily gone for longer, if only it weren't a workday...

    We are grateful to our sponsors for the event, Eliiza and Bunnings.

    Damjan Vukcevic

  • 8 Jul 2019 2:58 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The SSA Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section co-hosted their ‘Getting started in biostatistical consultancy’ workshop with the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne on Thursday 4th July. This long-awaited event attracted a great amount of interest, reaching capacity shortly after the early-bird registration date; perhaps not surprising given the fantastic speakers we managed to attract to speak at this event! Sadly, the morning fog in Sydney caused some issues for our interstate participants planning to attend, although some valiantly made their way on later flights to catch up on the proceedings.

    Associate Professor Susan Donath, Senior Biostatistician and Deputy Director of the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at MCRI, kicked off the morning session with an overview of statistical consultancy from start to finish. Susan stressed the importance of being curious and asking many, many questions with “what is your research question?” being the most critical and often taking the longest to answer! Susan also highlighted the importance of having a network of biostatisticians to discuss problems with.

    Next up was Dr Emily Karahalios, Senior Research Fellow at both Monash and Melbourne University, who discussed how to plan, organise and monitor projects. Emily stressed the importance of having face-to-face meetings at the beginning of consultancy projects to avoid confusion that can occur from emails. Emily also provided some fantastic resources for helping project planning and monitoring, noting the need to take time to plan your work and to be realistic with yourself (and others) about what can be achieved within a given timeframe.

    After lunch, Professor Julie Simpson, Head of the Biostatistics Unit at Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and leader of the Biostatistics node of the Melbourne Clinical and Translational Science platform at Melbourne University, delivered a presentation on how to reach clients. As well as discussing finance models and modes of operation, Julie talked about how to build a team and work effectively with one another. She led a lively interactive session in which participants talked about the characteristics they bring to a team and what their strengths are.

    Our final presenter of the day was Dr Emi Tanaka from the University of Sydney who discussed interacting with different (and difficult!) clients. Emi discussed the emotional impact that difficult clients can have on us and our work as biostatistical consultants and how we can overcome that. She noted that it is important to keep a communication trail so that all have a record of any agreements that were made.

    The workshop ended with a lively panel discussion with many questions from our very engaged audience. We thought the workshop was a great success and hope the participants enjoyed it too!

    Karen Lamb, Jaimi Greenslade and Sabine Braat on behalf of the Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section

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