SSA September 2019 eNews

Welcome to the September edition of the SSA newsletter

If you read this newsletter, chances are pretty high that you are a member of the Statistical Society of Australia. When I meet our members in person I love to hear from them why they may have chosen to take out membership and the reasons are many. Some of them simply wish to take advantage of the discounts for particular events and publications. Others appreciate the many networking opportunities. It is true – your membership with SSA gives you the opportunity to engage with the most successful people in statistics.

In 2008 the William E Smith Institute of Association Research undertook a study into the relationship between association membership, member salaries, and member job satisfaction. The institute found that in general people who are members of their association enjoy higher incomes, like their jobs more, and are happier people than those who do not join associations. The statistician in you will already have figured this out: it wasn’t a matter of their membership having this effect. Instead the relationship is the reverse – successful people are more likely to join their association.

So if you want to continue to network with the most successful people in your profession, you are in the right place.

Marie-Louise Rankin, 
Executive Officer, SSA


WA Branch August Meeting

In a break with tradition representatives of the WA region of the IBS AR meet jointly with the WA Branch of the SSA in their August meeting.  This has been an annual event arranged by former president of the IBS-AR Mario D’Antuono to highlight the work in biometrics in the region. The first such meeting was in 2013.  The speaker this year Dr Suman Rakshit talked on the latest developments in crop science.

For more details see a write up of the talk here.


NSW Branch August Meeting

The August Meeting of the NSW Branch had the pleasure of A/Prof Yanan Fan who talked to us about her recent media-catching article on "Gender and cultural bias in student evaluations of teaching".

Yanan Fan's article already caught media attention as it made the rounds in a number of media outlets. This was where I heard it first before getting to hear it all live from the corresponding author herself.

The study was extensive with teaching evaluation data over 7 year period across 5 faculties at the University of New South Wales. A generalised linear mixed model was employed to conduct the analysis including a number of effects such as gender and culture. Gender and culture effects were statistically significant although the effect size varied based on faculty.

This study pointed out what a lot of female instructors probably already know - women have to do more to get similar rating as men and doing the same as men do not work for women - now there is data and thorough statistical analysis to back this up.

Dr Emi Tanaka 


Vic Branch August Meeting

Detecting botnet activity using machine learning

Professor Jill Slay AM presented her work on improving cyber security using machine learning techniques on 27 Aug at La Trobe University. It was fascinating to hear about the many difficulties of working in this area, including the fact that getting real data is almost impossible due to security and privacy reasons. Her contributions, especially in developing ways to simulate realistic data, were instrumental to allowing researchers all over the world to be able to make progress on this type of research.

Damjan Vukcevic


South Australian Branch SSA August

Young Statisticians Careers Event 2019

Helping Students finding their feet
in the World of Statistics

To give students a head start in their job seeking, the SA Branch hosted a Young Statisticians Career Event in the first week of second term (early August 2019) which linked students with SA Organisations which employ Statisticians. Around 15 students from SA’s three universities were able to enjoy beer and pizza while they were introduced to employers before taking the opportunity to speak further in small groups.

Students were able to get an insight into the type of statistical jobs available in Adelaide by talking with representatives from:

·        Australian Bureau of Statistics,
·        Flinders Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Flinders University,
·        School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Adelaide
·        The Biometry Hub at Waite, University of Adelaide.
·        Quality Use of Medicine and Pharmacy Research Centre, University of SA, and
·        National Centre for Vocational Education Research

As organisers, we are pleased to assist students start their journey in the job market for statisticians and data analysts. A special thanks to our Young Statisticians representative Wendy Li and the rest of the Branch Council for putting on the event.

By Shahid Ullah


Statistical significance strikes again

Should we laugh or cry when the ABC Health Report takes on statistical significance?

Norman Swan on the ABC Health  Report decided to take on statistical significance and became the latest in a long line to totally muddle the definition of a p-value (full transcript here). Next in line was Norman’s guest, Professor Andrew Davidson director of the Clinical Trials Committee for the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health, who also got the definition wrong. The irony was that the show was about the problems with statistical significance, but rather than clear up the problems, the show has just cemented the misunderstandings.

P-values trip up so many because people badly want a number that will tell them the probability that the treatment (or whatever is being studied) has a real effect. Misunderstandings about p-values are widespread and have appeared in journal articles, text books, lectures, court cases and (now) national radio shows.

A few of us have pointed out the error to Norman, and he responded by saying:

“If I’d have defined it to make statisticians happy, 200,000 radios would have switched off. […] The actual definition is eye watering.”

In other words, it’s too hard to report accurately. Perhaps then don’t report it at all, or interview a statistician and come up with definition that works on radio and in fact. And there are lots of statisticians to choose from, as any statistician working in health and medicine gets regular practice at simplifying complex statistical concepts.

The word “awful” used to be a good thing, as in something that filled you with awe (e.g., that radio show was awful). Its use changed over time and it now means the total opposite. But the same can’t happen with statistical concepts, no matter how much people want them to. Altogether now(you too Norman), a p-value will always be about the probability of the data given the hypothesis, never about the probability of the hypothesis given the data.

Adrian Barnett, SSA President


The problem with polls

Three months on from the Federal Election, Data Analysis Australia took a look at the surprise victory from the Liberal Party and how the polls got it completely wrong.  Have a look here.


SSA Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Section

Call to Bioinformaticians

The Biostatistics Section of the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) was recently rebranded to the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Section. To help develop ideas to engage with interested bioinformaticians around the country, our section is looking for enthusiastic bioinformaticians who are interested in becoming active members of the committee steering the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Section. As a committee member, you will have the opportunity to contribute to shaping the direction of this Section and organising events such as at the upcoming ANZSC 2020 . Membership involves participating in one teleconference approximately every 6 weeks and a few hours between meetings to assist in tasks including organising events, social media engagement and developing quarterly newsletters. Please click here for more information.

Sabine Braat
Co-Chair, SSA Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Section


Have abortion rates increased in Victoria since the decriminalisation abortion?

The SSA was contacted last month by a journalist with RMIT Fact Check, Ellen McCutchon. Ellen was  looking into the number of post 20-week abortions in Victoria since decriminalisation in 2008.  The claim she was checking was from an opinion article in the Sydney Morning Herald. The authors wrote: “Since abortion was decriminalised in Victoria in 2008, post 20-week abortions have increased by 39 per cent”. With the help of SSA members Susanna Cramb and Sabine Braat Ellen was able to set the record straight. Read Ellen's article here.

If you would like to be considered for future fact checks please email our Executive Officer at


Canberra Branch Pre-Conference Trivia Night

How are those trivia skills of yours? It's time to brush up on them, because the Canberra Branch is hosting a fabulous Trivia Night on the eve of the Young Statisticians Conference and attendance is free for attendees of YSC2019!

Join us for some yummy food and delightful company and show us what you know. The cost is $10 for members of SSA not attending the conference and $30 for non-members, but for catering purposes everyone has to register, even those attending at no cost. Click here for more information and to register.


Question of the month:

Who pays for your SSA membership? Is it you or your employer?

Let us know here.



The Young Statisticians Conference is nearly upon us and next time you read about YSC2019 in our newsletter it will be a conference report! This is your last chance to register to ensure that you are part of the Young Statisticians Network's signature event.

We are delighted to have attracted a last minute Silver Sponsor: Oritain is now on board with YSC2019. Read more about Oritain further below.

We still have about twenty places left as this newsletter goes out. Register here to secure
                                                                     your spot!


   YSC2019 Silver Sponsor

Social responsibility is more than just a buzzword... what does it really mean?

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!

Know more.


Two days of learning, sharing and networking on statistics and Stata

Society members recently participated in the Oceania Stata Conference. Professor Bob Breunig and Dr Con Menictas ran workshops on Day 1, followed by user presentations on Day 2. The highlight was Chuck Huber of StataCorp, speaking on Causal Inference with Complex Observational Data. User presentations included topics covering: modelling of happiness, student engagement and leading practices in data visualisation. Winning the poster competition was Patience Onuogu, of the University of Melbourne with her analysis of antenatal care in Nigeria. To see the presentations please visit the Oceania Stata User Group website at

David White


A new "Members Only" benefit for all members of SSA

With origins dating back to 1478, Oxford University Press is the world's largest university press with the widest global presence. They are now offering members of the Statistical Society of Australia a 30% discount on all statistics titles  Please log in to the SSA Members Only page to get your discount code.


Have you seen our videos?

Missed a branch meeting? Not to worry! Many of our events are recorded and you can “attend” them in your own time, watch them on your PC or device, perhaps even with a cup of tea or something stronger!

Click here to see what is available and don’t forget to check back from time to time to find out what has been added. The latest videos available are Dr Susanna Cramb's presentation on "Cancer Maps" and a recording of "Time Series - A conference honouring Professor William Dunsmuir". A couple of videos from 2018 can be found here, but you need to be logged in to have access.


Canberra Branch:

Statistics in the Capital...Deep Learning and Healthcare

SSA Canberra is proud to host a joint meeting with Canberra Data Scientists later this month, where we will have Dr. Guodong Long speak about challenges, advances, and solutions in deep learning techniques applied to the healthcare industry and healthcare research. Dr. Guodong Long is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and IT at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and a core member of the UTS Centre for Artificial Intelligence.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 27 September. Details will be available in due course on the Canberra branch meeting website

Francis Hui, Warren Muller, Daniel Fearnley, Phil Tennant
On behalf of SSA Canberra


SSA would like to welcome Oritain as a new partner of YSC2019. Oritain just joined YSC2019 as
a Silver Sponsor. 

Oritain Global Ltd is a scientific traceability company that verifies origin of food, fibre and pharma by combining statistics with trace element and isotope forensic chemistry. We interrogate the chemical data using multivariate statistical models to form an Origin Fingerprint. We partner with some of the major fashion and food producers and retailers to help protect their product from being counterfeited, and to help ensure customers that the origin claims on the products they buy are true.  By testing the product itself, Oritain provides a point of difference from traditional traceability - packaging, certificates, serialisation - itself susceptible to fraud.


SSA events you can look forward to:

Advanced R Skills: Introduction to Shiny and Building R Packages
23 -24 September 2019, Sydney

Mediation Analysis Using Potential Outcome Framework
30 September 2019, Adelaide

Communicating with R Markdown - with Alison Hill
30 September 2019, Canberra

Maximising the Use of Australian Bureau of Statistics Data Products and Analysis Tools
30 September 2019, Canberra

1-2 October 2019, Canberra

Propensity Score Methods for Estimating Causal Effects in Non-experimental Studies: The Why, What, and How- booked out
21 October 2019, Sydney 

B&B networking event
21 October 2019, Sydney

Network meta-analysis and population adjustment for decision-making
4 November 2019, Sydney

Bayes on the Beach 2019
25-26 November 2019,  Surfers Paradise

6-10 July 2020, Gold Coast

See more events listed here.

Missed some of our newsletters?

Catch them all here.

The environmental stats section is now on Twitter. Their twitter handle is @EnviroStatsSSA

Are you AStat accredited? Is your accreditation up to date? Find out all about SSA's accreditation program here.


See our events listing to see what's coming up!