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  • 9 Nov 2022 9:48 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    SSA NSW Branch – October Meeting

    On the evening of 26th October, Professor Brian Cullis from the University of Wollongong presented a talk titled “Optimal Design of Comparative Experiments and the ODW R Package”. 

    Brian’s talk was divided into two main parts. In the first part, he gave an overview of optimal designs for multiphase experiments, particularly model-based designs using the linear mixed model with correlated treatment effects. The optimality of the designs are based on some criteria, such as D-, G-, and A-optimality. Since these designs typically involve many components, finding an optimal design is usually done through an intensive search process of the design space. As such, having computer software that can generate optimal designs given a set of requirements is desirable, which is a primary aim of the ODW R package that Brian and his collaborators are pursuing. 

    In the second part, he introduced core functions of the ODW R package and demonstrated flexible uses of the package to search for optimal designs of various types. 

    Finally, Brian gave several examples of when the package was used to obtain designs for an experiment regarding genotypes of desi chickpea. The seminar concluded with questions from the audience about both the technical details and applications of the ODW package.

    Linh Nghiem
    NSW Branch Newsletter Correspondent 

  • 4 Nov 2022 12:38 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)



    At a time of intense pressure on public finances, last week’s federal Budget included some modest but important new investments in science and technology. Science & Technology Australia welcomed the Government’s recognition that science is one of the smartest strategic investments we can make in the country’s economic future. Science Minister Ed Husic posted this helpful explainer of Budget initiatives in his key portfolios. 

    As always, Science & Technology Australia held a Post-Budget Briefing to share extra detail with our members on the Budget outlook for STEM, the research sector (including universities and Australia’s major research granting agencies) and industry sectors. STA’s Policy Director Dr Sarah Tynan - with quality input from across the STA staff team, our Policy Chair Sharath Sriram and President Mark Hutchinson - shared our analysis of key measures and consultation opportunities. Our members can access our policy brief in the members-only section of the STA website.

    On Friday, we also convened the powerful grassroots STEM leadership network of Science & Technology Australia at our annual Leadership Dialogue. This event ensures valuable insights from the membership on issues affecting the science and technology sector inform our advocacy in the year ahead. This gives STA a uniquely powerful ability to speak on behalf of the nation’s scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

    The 2022 Leadership Dialogue started to gather crucial insights to feed into the Government’s plan to revitalise Australia’s Science Priorities

    The review’s terms of reference propose expressly elevating and investing in First Nations science. At our Leadership Dialogue, Science & Technology Australia’s 111-strong member organisation network and the thousands of scientists they represent unanimously backed this proposal. It was a powerful endorsement from Australia’s science community for Australia to elevate the vast STEM knowledge and deep expertise of First Nations people, communities and organisations in Australia’s national science and research priorities.

    Next week will see an historic first in-person gathering for the National Indigenous STEM Professionals Network (NISTEMP) on Gadigal Country in Sydney. NISTEMP draws together champions and leaders in First Nations STEM to mentor the next generations into STEM studies and careers, and deepen the exchange of First Nations STEM knowledges. STA has been honoured to support the formation of the network since 2020, and STA President Professor Mark Hutchinson and I are delighted to attend the inaugural event at UTS.

    We are delighted this fortnight to welcome four new STA member organisations: Australian Science Communicators, Beaker Street, The Centre of Resource Excellence Learning Foundation, and the Australian National Phenome Centre. Australian Science Communicators  is the peak body for science communicators and science journalists in Australia. Beaker Street is a brilliant Tasmania-based not-for-profit making science accessible to all and connecting the public with science and scientists. The Centre of Resource Excellence Learning Foundation works to broaden the opportunities for students to succeed in STEM careers that are aligned with the needs of industries and economies of the future by turbo-charging how we teach STEM in schools. And the Australian National Phenome Centre is a bioscience powerhouse that is solving some of the world’s most challenging problems in food, health and the environment.

    We are thrilled to welcome them all as members, and add their voice and expertise to our advocacy for the sector.

    Want to work with your local Parliamentarian, represent the science community and get your expertise to decision-makers? Apply now for STA’s prestigious STEM Ambassadors program. We have 25 MPs and Senators from around the country eager to forge a relationship with a STEM professional. But be quick, applications for this sought-after program close on Monday.

    Finally, congratulations to our amazing STA Superstar of STEM Dr Zoe Doubleday, who won an ATSE Award for her groundbreaking work to develop new tracing technologies to prevent seafood fraud, and Dr Marissa Betts, whose beautiful film Rola: Stone took out the Geoscience Professionals Award at the Earth Futures Festival. You can watch that stunning short film here. Congratulations also to Professor Saeid Nahavandi from our member organisation The Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation at Deakin University. Professor Nahavandi won the ATSE Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his incredible work on intelligent systems and simulation technologies, including haptics.   

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 


  • 3 Nov 2022 2:51 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    For the SA Branch September 2022 meeting, Prof Adrian Barnett (QUT) gave a presentation over zoom from Queensland; his talk a damning exposition on Bad Statistics in Medical Research. 

    We began with an example of a Covid 19 study published in The Lancet, where 75% of subjects were excluded because they were still hospitalised or not confirmed as infected. Despite this major statistical flaw, the paper has been cited over 25,000 times. During the pandemic there has been pressure to publish research about Covid-19 quickly, however, it is plain to see the danger in scientists lowering the standard of their research, when the requirement for trust in science has never been so high. 

    Adrian presented a number of examples of the misunderstandings of stats common in medical research, some baffling and even humorous. These included the assumption that continuous raw data must be normally distributed in order for statistical analysis to be valid; excluding outliers (when they can be the most interesting part of the data!); and an over-reliance on p-values to provide all the information about the analysis. The interpretation of p-values can also be faulty, but faulty interpretations are often accepted with the attitude of: “It's okay, since everyone else treats them this way too”. 

    Next, we considered the distribution of z-values extracted from confidence intervals in a medical journal and noted that this had the shape of a normal distribution with a chunk missing in the middle - indicating that studies with a negative result (non-significant results) are often excluded from publication. Adrian went as far as to call this research misconduct. 

    Adrian's suggestions for fixing the problem include:

    • Abandoning p-values and statistical significance in reporting;
    • Stop funding projects to make prediction models - unless a statistician is a principle investigator.

    We also considered the introduction of a statistical audit, where a random selection of 100 papers per year are selected for audit by a statistician, to check the research and also whether they can reproduce the results. 

    A statistical robot might also be put to use: an algorithm that can flag potential statistical problems in a paper and possibly detect fraudulent results. 

    The presentation also included a number of lamentable figures from real publications, such as pie charts that distort the data, and a 3D bar chart that resembled pieces of fudge. 

    The presentation ended with a lively discussion, with many weighing in on the problem of bad stats and how we might fix it. In response to the question, if we don't rely on p-values, then what do we use? Adrian conceded that sometimes results are complicated, but ultimately science is hard - and we should celebrate that.

    By Annie Conway

  • 3 Nov 2022 8:05 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Nominations are now being accepted for the 2022 Tjanpi Award, the annual student prize for best student paper in environmental statistics, sponsored by the SSA Environmental Statistics Section.  To be eligible a student must be:

    • An author of a paper that has been accepted in the previous 12 months, having made a substantial contribution to the work
    •  A student as of June 30 2022
    • A current member of the SSA and the Environmental Statistics Section

    The winner will receive $500 and will be asked to present in an invited session on environmental statistics at the next annual stats conference (in Wollongong, 2023).

    Please submit your nominations to eo@statsoc.org.au, with Tjanpi Award submission in the header, by 5 PM AEDT, Thursday 8 December 2022, including:

    - Full name, institution

    - Paper, as one pdf file.

    - Letter of support from supervisor or other academic at the institution, confirming student status of applicant and describing the student's role in the paper.


    Image: Central Australian landscape dominated by Tjanpi, photo by Sara Winter 

    Tjanpi is the Pitjantjatjara word for Triodia, a spiny tussock-forming grass that dominates the vegetation across more than 20% of Australia’s land mass.  It is a long-lived plant that makes deep roots and can withstand the hardiest of conditions.  It can grow over decades into characteristic ring formations three metres in diameter.  As a source of food and shelter, Tjanpi is fundamental to life in some of Australia’s most extreme conditions, being central to highly diverse ecosystems dominated by termites and ants, as well as reptiles, birds and small mammals.  It has also been traditionally used by Indigenous people for a range of purposes, including building shelters, making an adhesive resin, basket weaving, fishing and using its seeds as a food source. 

    Tjanpi is an analogy for the Environmental Statistics student award – because the development and application of appropriate statistical techniques is fundamental to good environmental research, and our hope is that the recipient of this award will grow over the coming decades to become central to a diverse range of interesting research endeavours!

     

  • 25 Oct 2022 7:54 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Would you like to become a committee member for the SSA Mentoring Program?

    The SSA mentoring committee has begun planning the third year of its successful mentoring program. The program provides an opportunity for emerging statisticians to develop personal and professional skills, as well as providing connections between statisticians from across the nation.

    This wonderful initiative is developed and managed by the SSA Mentoring Committee (pictured below). We are a team of statisticians eager to increase the support available to our community for success in the workplace. The committee is dedicated to delivering a program that meets the needs of its diverse range of mentees. To do this, the committee is seeking expertise, experience and perspectives to ensure diverse representation of the statistics community. Do you have the fresh new voice we’re looking for? Please get in touch!

    To express your interest in joining the SSA Mentoring Committee, or for more information, please email us via ssa.mentoring@gmail.com with a couple of paragraphs about yourself and why you are keen to get involved.


  • 14 Oct 2022 2:17 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    In September, the NSW Branch hosted four industry speakers and approximately 50 students at the Courtyard Cafe at the University of Sydney. Despite some drizzles on the day, the event was well-attended and had a vibrant atmosphere. This event was partially sponsored by the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA). 

    The event began with an acknowledgement of the country by our Young Statistician Representative, Yidi Yan. The President of SUPRA, Yuning Zhang, and the Vice President of NSW Branch Dr Thomas Fung, introduced the audience to their respective organisations and encouraged the students to stay in touch with some upcoming events which will offer great benefits to the students. I had the pleasure of introducing each of our four great panellists. 

    The first panellist was Rachel Ragell from Lion. Rachel presented two case studies in her talk, one on greenhouse gas emission reduction and the other on beer demand forecast in the post-COVID recovery. These case studies allowed the audience to get a glimpse into how statistics can be applied to widely different industry projects. Rachel ended her talk with some valuable career interview tips for the students. 

    The second panellist was Dr Stanislaus (Stani) Stadlmann from QBE Insurance. Stani presented his career journey which began in Gottingen, Germany but ultimately brought him to Australia. Through his own experience, Stani shared with us how he planned his career in statistics and data science and reminded us of the importance of finding our own passions and empathy for others. 

    The third panellist was Dr Nancy Briggs from UNSW Stats Central consulting unit. Even though UNSW is an academic institution, Nancy had previously worked in various industries and loved talking to people about their statistical challenges. Statisticians often have the luxury of working on many different projects and Nancy is certainly one of them! She has done work on projects in psychology, image object detection and cancer therapies. These projects highlight the importance of statistics as a powerful tool in scientific discoveries.

    Our last panellist was Dr Earo Wang from Canva. She connected with the audience immediately because the company is well-known in the student community as the go-to tool for visual design. Earo introduced her role at Canva as a data analyst working on website utilisation forecaster. Such a role seemed perfect for Earo as her doctoral training was in the area of time series forecasting. 

    After each of our panellists have introduced themselves, the event proceeded with a networking session so the eager students can have the opportunity to chat with our panellists. The session is well-supported by a catering of pizzas and beers and as far as I can tell, everyone at the event had a great time and got important career-related questions answered. 


    Kevin Wang
    Councillor of the SSA NSW Branch

  • 12 Oct 2022 5:09 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Science and Technology Australia (STA) will hold “Science meets Parliament” (SmP) again next year. This event provides the opportunity for scientists and technologists to interact with the Government's key decision makers. SmP 2023 comes at a time when science, technology, engineering and mathematics are high on the political agenda. SmP 2023 will build on the strong tradition of fostering relationships and understanding between scientists and technologists, MPs and Senators.

    As a member of STA, the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) is invited to be represented at SmP. This is a unique development opportunity which SSA would like to give to one of its "Early Career or Student Statisticians”. Our definition of an "Early Career or Student Statistician” (ECSS) is a person enrolled for a degree who is studying either full-time or part-time without age limit, OR a person who graduated with a Bachelor's degree within the past five years, OR a person awarded a postgraduate degree within the past year. The Society will pay the registration fee and reasonable travel expenses for our representative at SmP.

    Next year's event consists of two parts: SmP will start with the opportunity for high quality professional development, delivered on a virtual platform across three days from 7-9 March 2023 during business hours. Sessions will also be recorded and available for two weeks after the event.

    Part II will take place in person either on 15 March or 22 March 2023, depending on next year’s Parliamentary Sitting Calendar. The day on the “Hill” will feature:

    • Meetings between SMP Delegates and Members of Parliament (meetings for STEM professionals only)

    • Additional training and personal development sessions

    • Attendance at Question Time

    • National Press Club Address

    • National Gala Dinner in the Great Hall at Parliament House

    In 2022, SmP organised 64 meetings with scientists and Parliamentarians. It was attended by 528 delegates and featured 68 speakers. Attendees of previous SmPs described the event as “an awesome primer”, “a very useful opportunity to engage with important political stakeholders” and “an excellent experience to develop skills and network at the highest levels”.

    If you are a Society member who meets the ECSS criteria and would like to attend SmP, please email your informal application with your CV to the Executive Officer (eo@statsoc.org.au) before Thursday, 3 November 2022. Your application email should include a little bit about yourself, why you would like to attend SmP, how attendance could potentially enhance your career, and what you as a representative of SSA can contribute to SmP.

    The successful applicant is expected to provide a report about their SmP experience by Thursday, 6 April 2023. This report will be published in the SSA newsletter and on the SSA website.

    More information about SmP is available here.

  • 23 Sep 2022 3:29 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Australia’s National Science and Technology Council met last week for the first time with Science Minister Ed Husic in the chair. The Council brings together outstanding scientific leaders and experts - including former Science & Technology Australia President Associate Professor Jeremy Brownlie - to give scientific advice on government priorities.

    The Minister’s keynote to the AIIA Tech & Sustainability Conference later that day emphasised the importance of technology to help Australia to reach its net zero emissions goal. It also telegraphed vast opportunities for our country by tapping into Australia’s world-class scientists and technologists.

    A new National Quantum Advisory Committee will draw together eminent science and business leaders to guide Australia’s development of these transformative technologies. Chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley, its 15 members include Defence Chief Scientist Professor Tanya Monro and STA’s Treasurer and FAR committee chair Mark Stickells in his role as Executive Director of the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre.

    Sleeptite CEO Cameron Van Den Dungen, STA Policy Chair Professor Sharath Sriram and STA member Women in STEMM co-chair Professor Madhu Bhaskaran also hosted a Ministerial visit to showcase how their world-first flexible lightweight sensors were created - an Australian innovation to help revolutionise patient safety and well-being in aged care. Shadow Science Minister Paul Fletcher has also been out and about visiting leading science teams and facilities across the country and highlighting their inspiring work.

    This week, Australia’s annual STEM Equity Monitor was published. It confirms crucial progress is being made by the array of programs and initiatives to boost the participation of women in STEM. But there is still a long way to go - especially in enabling women into senior leadership in STEM. Just 23 percent of senior managers and only 8 percent of CEOs in STEM-qualified industries are women. Here's our media release.  

    STA STEM Ambassador Meg Panozzo was profiled in an Australian Financial Review story on this topic. Meg is an engineer working as an Infrastructure Advisory Consultant at RPS and she’s spent her career driving significant cultural change for women in engineering.

    Meanwhile, the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) is powerfully transforming our country’s manufacturing future. We are delighted to welcome them this week as our newest STA member. ANFF plays a crucial role in the Australian research community. It delivers world class expertise and access to micro and nanofabrication equipment to the country’s science sector. We are thrilled to add their voice to the 105 member organisations we represent. Together we are a powerful voice for the sector.

    It was terrific to see Professor Lesley Hughes, Sam Mostyn and Dr Virginia Marshall appointed to the board of the Climate Change Authority last week. They are three hugely experienced and highly influential experts. Wiradjuri-Nyemba woman Dr Marshall - a legal scholar with deep expertise in water - will bring a powerful First Nations perspective to the board’s work.

    Education Minister Jason Clare has opened applications for the 2022-23 round of the STEM mentoring program for Year 9 and 10 girls, Curious Minds. This inspiring program is run by STA member Australian Science Innovations. Applications are open until 30 September.  

    What a moving obituary for trailblazing Australian global speech scientist Professor Anne Cutler from STA members at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development at Western Sydney University. She championed the cause of women in academia, advocating for quotas to address gender imbalance and inspiring new generations of female researchers.

    Finally, STA has launched a newsletter on LinkedIn, sharing science and technology policy and advocacy news with an even wider community of opinion shapers. It will be published every second Monday following our Member Update. Please subscribe and share if you know others who would find this resource valuable.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 


  • 9 Sep 2022 6:20 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)



    As the world mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II, STA honours her vast commitment to public service, and her lifelong passion for the transformative power of science and technology. Last year, the Queen joined school students in a video chat to mark British Science Week, sharing insights on meeting the first astronaut to head into space, Yuri Gugarin.  

    How superb that Science & Technology Australia President Professor Mark Hutchinson is one of three eminent leaders appointed by Education Minister Jason Clare to review the Australian Research Council’s role and functions.  

    His appointment ensures an active researcher – and one with an impressive record across his career in both discovery and translational research – is among those shaping the future of the granting agency at a pivotal moment in its history.

    The Minister also issued a new Statement of Expectations to the ARC - which says the National Interest Test should be clearer, simpler and more easily understood for researchers.

    The Jobs and Skills Summit last week brought together many national decision-makers. The key outcomes are here. They included launching a review to drive stronger gains on diversity in the sector and its workforce.

    STA welcomed the review. We are pleased it will look at structural and cultural barriers to the participation of women and other under-represented groups – and help identify the most effective programs at driving diversity gains in the sector so they can be scaled up to propel faster progress.

    Yesterday the major business group CEDA released its report ‘Harnessing science x technology to drive Australian innovation and growth’. Many of STA’s ideas and proposals on how to support science commercialisation are reflected in the report – and several STA members participated in the roundtables that shaped it.

    And in his speech to the CEDA conference, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Government would support the work of the science community by:

    1. Signalling a respect for science, evidence and research.
    2. Valuing foundational work - as well as commercial applications.
    3. Creating a sense of certainty and support for long-term projects, so researchers and scientists can do their work without looking over their shoulder, or spending their time re-applying for funding.”

    In an historic moment for the country, yesterday the Government’s Climate Change Bill has now passed the Senate. STA’s submission and policy suggestions were quoted in the committee’s report. The amended bill will now return to the House of Representatives.
     
    Also over the past fortnight, STA ran a series of networking events with our inspiring Superstars of STEM. The gatherings followed their final in-person media training, where Superstars were put through their paces in newsrooms to hone their broadcast interview skills. A huge thank you to the many journalists who contributed their time, expertise and skill.

    We will soon send a ‘save the date’ for next year’s Science meets Parliament. The STA team is putting together a stellar program of speakers to make it our best yet. In the meantime, sponsorship opportunities are open if your organisation wants to associate itself with this world-leading event.

    Finally, a huge congratulations to the Co-Chair of STA’s EDI Committee Professor Sumeet Walia for his Emerging Leader Eureka award, and to our Superstar of STEM Dr Kirsten Ellis for her STEM Inclusion Eureka Award. It’s great to see this richly-deserved recognition.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 


  • 7 Sep 2022 4:16 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    STA WELCOMES REVIEW TO DRIVE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SECTOR DIVERSITY

    TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2022

    Australia’s leading voice for scientists and technologists welcomes the Australian Government’s announcement of a review to drive stronger gains on diversity in the sector and its workforce. 

    Science & Technology Australia is a champion for equity, diversity and inclusion in the science, technology, engineering and maths sector.

    Science & Technology Australia CEO Misha Schubert welcomed Science Minister Ed Husic’s announcement of a review which “would help Australia to reach further into the full breadth of our diverse talent pool in this country”.

    The review will look at structural and cultural barriers to the participation of women and other under-represented groups to recommend change – and help identify the most effective programs at driving diversity gains in the sector so they can be scaled up to propel faster progress.

    “To truly prosper, Australia’s economy urgently needs to attract and retain more women, First Nations people, regional Australians, culturally and linguistically diverse people, people with a disability and Australians from low socio-economic backgrounds into science and technology careers,” Ms Schubert said.

    “To make major strides to address chronic gender inequity in sectors where that under-representation is most acute, you need consistent strong leadership, long-term investments at scale, strong buy-in, and a powerful resolve to drive cultural change.”

    “STA has a strong commitment to publish detailed evaluations on our programs to share insights on what is working – and help speed broader equity gains in the science and technology sector for women and the breadth of Australia’s diverse communities.” 

    “We’re pleased the review will also look at cultural and structural barriers that limit participation and retention of women and other under-represented groups in STEM professions.”

    “To create the “future powered by science” envisaged by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, we need to be able to draw on Australia’s full talent pool. Clear action to eliminate barriers to participation for women and under-represented groups are key to that goal.”

    STA runs the acclaimed Superstars of STEM program – backed by Australian Government – which builds the profile and confidence of diverse women role models to appear regularly as prominent science and technology experts in the media and speak in schools, inspiring our next generations of diverse young Australians into STEM.

    The program has started to stratospherically elevate the profiles of stellar women in science. In the year to June 2021 alone, our Superstars of STEM did 4000 media appearances, reached an audience of 83 million people, and inspired 21,000 students in school visits.

    About Science & Technology Australia
    Science & Technology Australia is the nation’s peak body representing more than 90,000 scientists and technologists. We’re the leading policy voice on science and technology. Our  flagship programs include Science meets Parliament, Superstars of STEM, and STA STEM Ambassadors
     

    Media contact: Martyn Pearce, STA: 0432 606 828


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