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  • 6 Jun 2019 6:34 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Causal inference in epidemiology through Mendelian randomization & Mendelian Randomisation-Phenome Wide Association Studies: Opportunities and Challenges

    The two speakers for the SA Branch May meeting were Dr Beben Benyamin and Dr Ang Zhou, both from the Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia. This was a joint meeting with the South Australian Epidemiology Group. Dr Benyamin uses statistics applied to large-scale ‘omics’ data to dissect the genetic mechanisms underlying human complex traits and diseases. Dr Benyamin’s talk “Causal Inference in epidemiology through Mendelian randomization” described Mendelian Randomization (MR), a statistical method that provides a framework to mimic a randomised controlled trial, providing an estimate of the causal effect of a risk factor on disease. Mendelian randomization analyses (MR) use genetic variants as proxy markers for the risk factor of interest. This approach exploits the fact that the assignment of genotype is random with respect to confounders. MR studies have increased due to the discovery of potential genetic variants from genome wide association studies. The talk covered the origin of the method, basic principles and some applications to infer the causal effect of the risk factor on the disease.

    Dr Ang applies methodologies in genetic epidemiology to understand causal associations between modifiable lifestyle factors and health outcomes. His research also involves understanding the gene-environment interplay on health outcomes. His talk “MR-PheWAS: Opportunities and Challenges” followed on from Dr Benyamin’s talk by describing phenome-wide association studies (PheWAS), an extension to Mendelian randomization. MR-PheWAS is a hypothesis-free approach to screen for diseases/phenotypes associated with the risk factor of interest, which has the capacity to capture novel associations and provide insights into disease mechanisms. Dr Ang used the example of BMI genetic associations to highlight the opportunities and challenges of the method.

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

    Lan Kelly

  • 6 Jun 2019 2:53 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    SSA’s Committee for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has created a survey to find out how the Statistical Society can support you, your work or study and your CPD requirements. Please click here to participate in this five-minute survey and let us know what kind of workshops you’d like us to organise for you, or even what workshop you can present yourself! The deadline for this survey is Wednesday, 27 June 2019.

    Thank you in advance!

  • 6 Jun 2019 9:50 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Remember that the Statistical Society is your society. Your opinions are important to us and your colleagues, and they can help shape national policy and thinking on statistics. For example, our members’ opinions helped us lobby the government to get “statistician” added to the skilled migration list.

    There are many ways you can get involved. For example, we recently formed a committee to examine Data Science Courses, and we may soon be looking for volunteer members to write a viewpoint on the opinion polls after this year’s election.

    We also love to amplify our member’s successes, such as the recent successful bid to host the 2024 International Congress on Mathematical Education in Australia.

    If there’s a statistical issue that you are passionate about but need help with, then please get in touch. We can offer support and advice, and can put you in touch with like-minded members. We know that there’s a power in numbers, literally and figuratively, so let’s use our combined skills to give statistics the national profile it deserves. 

    Adrian Barnett, President

  • 7 May 2019 1:01 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    CEOs, Presidents and National Leaders of Australia’s major mathematical-based societies* united in a consortium through 2018 to submit (October 2018) a bid for Australia’s hosting of the 15th International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME15), 2024, at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, Australia, and then hosted the ICMI delegates’ site visit in April 2019; at the time we were one of two shortlisted locations, the other, Prague.

    ICME is run once every four years and was last hosted in Australia in 1984. I have been representing the Statistical Society of Australia in this consortium.

    As a member of the national consortium, I’m delighted to share the exceptional news that our collaborative bid for Australia (Sydney) to host the International Congress on Mathematical Education in 2024 has been successful.

    A wonderful team effort that united Australia’s leading mathematical and statistical associations* - thank you to those who supported the consortium’s bid.

    Please help spread the good news as we continue the cooperative initiative and begin preparing for 2024 and ensuring that the national Mathematical/Statistical and broader STEM agenda are further capitalised upon on the international stage.


    Peter Howley, Statistical Education Section – Chair

  • 6 May 2019 6:48 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    With the Federal Election looming, everyone’s focus is very much on Canberra at this time, but there is another reason our minds should turn tothe nation’s capital: The Young Statisticians Conference 2019 is just around the corner!

    There is so much to look forward to! For starters, we are just delighted with this year’s choice of venue: Manuka Oval. With a rich and diverse history, stunning views across the lawns and being close Canberra’s popular restaurant strip Manuka, this iconic meeting place will be sure to impress.

    As it happens, this year the conference coincides with Floriade, Canberra’s annual flower show - a colourful celebration of Spring.Click here to see what it’s all about.  Be careful though – there will be so much on that you may get too distracted from attending the conference!

    The YSC2019 Committee is doing an excellent job of getting everything ready for you and they now have four wonderful key-note speakers lined up:

    Teresa Dickinson
    Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics

    Dr Margarita Moreno-Betancur
    Senior Research Fellow, VicBiostat

    Dr Felicity Splatt
    Lead Consultant, Quantium


    Dr Alison Presmanes Hill
    Data Scientist & Professional Educator, RStudio

    Alison will arrive a day early and present a pre-conference workshop.

    Not coming to the conference? Don’t worry – you still get to participate if you want to. We are pleased to invite anyone who can’t be there in person to share their research through the YSC2019 Video Competition. This competition ran for the first time at YSC2017 and it was so successful that of course we had to organise it again!  Click here to see the winning entries from YSC2017. 

    To throw your hat in the ring, just present your research in a three-minute video and submit the link through the online registration form.

    For those of you who are planning to be there in person, why not combine your trip to the conference with a little holiday? You’ll have the chance to explore one of Australian’s most beautiful cities, and to experience Australian culture and history at superb monuments and galleries. Canberra is a city surrounded by parkland and native bush and Spring is the perfect time for a visit. If this hasn’t convinced you, Channel Nine’s “Travel Guides” might do so.

    Some key dates to keep in mind:

    Abstract submission closes -1 June 2019

    Notification of conference abstract acceptance – 1 July 2019

    Early bird registration period ends – 16 August 2019

    Three-minute video competition submissions due – 15 September 2019

    Conference registrations close – 17 September 2019

    Monday 1 July

    Saturday 1 June

    See you in Canberra in October!

    Marie-Louise Rankin
    SSA Executive Officer

  • 4 May 2019 7:05 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 30 April, the Victorian Branch hosted three short talks on Reproducibility and Open
    Science, attended by about 40 people.

    The evening began with a talk by Hannah Fraser (University of Melbourne) who presented the findings from a survey of 800 ecologists on questionable research practices. About 40% of those surveyed stated that they did add data after analysis, 28% excluded data after analysis, and 64% study more variables than what is reported (i.e. cherry picking of results). Future research Hannah is conducting involves recruiting scientists to analyse two ecology datasets to evaluate how robust the results are to different analysis techniques.

    Our second speaker was Fiona Fidler (University of Melbourne) who began with some sobering statistics on the replication crisis; across many research areas less than 50% of results are reproducible. For the psychological sciences, one in a thousand published papers are replication studies, the average statistical power of published studies is <50% and 92% of published studies have statistically significant results. For a solution to this problem, Fiona described the new approach to peer review which has now been adopted by 187 journals. Here at the design stage of a study there is a peer review by a journal of the research questions, study design and planned analysis. And if the study follows very closely the registered report that was peer reviewed than the journal has the obligation to publish the research findings when the study is complete.

    Our final speaker was Mathew Ling (Deakin University), who spoke about how individuals still engage in poor behaviours (e.g. people still smoke, scientists still present 3D pie charts). He discussed how we can’t expect researchers to simply change behaviour and practice open science. Instead we need to do more PR activities to promote people doing Open Science and come up with more incentives for researchers to embrace Open Science (e.g. funding bodies).

    There was a lively discussion at the end of all 3 excellent presentations. Fiona and Hannah promoted their new crowdsourcing project titled the repliCATS project.

    Julie Simpson

  • 1 May 2019 10:28 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    South Australia Branch Meeting, April 2019

    The speaker for the April 2019 meeting of the SA Branch was Professor Michael Sorich. He is a clinical epidemiologist, biostatistician, and pharmacist from Flinders University with a primary research interest in the use of biological, chemical, and clinical markers to guide decisions regarding the most appropriate use of medicines (precision medicine). His current research primarily focuses on evaluation and evidence development with respect to precision medicine approaches informing the use of cancer medicines. This includes analysis of pooled clinical trial data, and evaluation of patient data from routine clinical care.

    Michael’s talk “Efficient development of clinical-grade prediction models of cancer treatment outcomes” is a piece of his current research works funded by a Beat Cancer project grant. At the beginning of his talk, Michael described the precision medicine - an approach to improving the practice of medicine based on understanding the individual characteristics that are associated with, and potentially causative of, drug therapeutic and adverse effects. Using a number of example studies, Michael highlighted the significant advances achieved in precision medicine over the last decade that enable understanding of biological differences between individuals. There are many potential benefits of precision medicine including minimizing risk of drug toxicity, increasing benefit from drugs used, contributing to the sustainability of the healthcare system and facilitating drug discovery and development programs. In particular, Michael highlighted the treatment benefit in advanced cancer by showing a classical example of anti-EGFR therapy for advanced colorectal cancer.

    Clinical prediction models were mainly discussed in his talk - an option for providing more personalised estimates of prognosis, harms and potentially treatment benefit. Michael’s talk mainly covered the barriers that exist to developing prediction models that may be used to guide clinical practice and decisions, and emerging data platforms that may help overcome many of these issues. The detail of his talk and particularly prediction models of cancer treatment outcomes can be found by contacting

    A dinner was held right after the meeting at Jasmin Indian Restaurant, 31 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide.

    By Shahid Ullah

  • 29 Apr 2019 12:27 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Last week, we heard announcements from the major parties around the environment, equity in STEM and defence.

    Below we have included relevant links for new announcements and added them to our running tally on our website (accessible by logging on to our members' section). You'll also find key stories and interviews to provide some broader context for how science is being framed in each of the parties' campaigns.

    Please also help us spread the word about science, technology and their role in Australia's future - a short clip on science and art conservation is our latest feature (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). A new case study will be released each week, shared online using #SolveitwithScience

    Please find a range of relevant links below, and be in touch if we can support your work to get science on the agenda during the Federal Election.

    Kind regards,

    Kylie Walker
    Science and Technology Australia


    Current Election Commitments:



    Information resources:

    Key Stories and Interviews:

    Latest Polls:

    • Newspoll: 29th April. Coalition-49, ALP-51 (updated)
    • Galaxy Poll: 27th April. Coalition-48, ALP-52 (updated)
    • Roy Morgan: 24th April. Coalition-49, ALP-51 (updated)
    • Essential: 9th April. Coalition-48, ALP-52
    • Fairfax Ipsos: 7th April. Coalition-47, ALP-53

    STA Resources for members

  • 29 Apr 2019 11:32 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Science & Technology Australia is offering six scholarships to the 20th anniversary Science meets Parliament this year, to be held in Canberra on 13-14 August 2019.

    Science meets Parliament brings around 200 Australian scientists and technologists to Canberra for professional development, networking, and to meet face-to-face with MPs and Senators. It is a highlight of the annual parliamentary calendar and has enhanced mutual understanding between parliamentarians and scientists as well as fostering enduring partnerships and collaborations.

    Two (2) Scholarships are open to STEM practitioners in each of the following categories:

    • Indigenous STEM Scholarships for people with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage
    • STEM Pride scholarships for people who identify as LGBTQI+
    • Regional STEM scholarships for STEM practitioners who work in remote or regional Australia (>150km from a major capital city)

    Scholarships will cover full registration including the gala dinner in the Great Hall at Parliament House, as well as travel, accommodation, meals and transfers. Financial assistance for childcare is available upon application.

    Please note that to be eligible for these scholarships you must be a member of or employed by an STA member organisation (such as SSA).

    The Indigenous STEM Scholarships are proudly supported by the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS).

    Applications will close on 15 June 2019, with recipients to be contacted by 30 June 2019 and an announcement made shortly after.

    For more information, or to apply, head to

  • 27 Apr 2019 12:57 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    It is with great sadness that we communicate the death of Associate Professor Jeff Wood who passed away last month from Motor Neuron Disease. Jeff was a member of SSA since 1974, a former SSA Canberra president, Honorary Treasurer from 1989 - 1992, Circulation Manager for the Journal from 1995 – 1998, and a regular and enthusiastic meeting attendee.

    His contributions to the wider statistical community in Canberra and nationally were substantial to say the least. They were recognised with a Service Award in 1999.

    Jeff will be sorely missed. He remained active right up until his death, assisting many post-graduate students with statistical analyses as a Visiting Fellow at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society. Apart from his research contributions, Jeff will be remembered as one of life’s true gentlemen who graced us with his kindness and humour.

    A private funeral will be held in the near future.

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