SSA April 2020 eNews

Greetings from Life in Lockdown.

I hope you had a good Easter weekend, even if you had to spend it at home.

If you’re anything like me, you plan every night not to dedicate as much time to COVID-19 the next day and just get on with your day-to-day life, unfolding generally at home these days. That’s certainly what is going through my head as I get ready for bed. Yet each morning I wake up and reach for my phone, eager to hear the latest figures and find out what has been happening overnight. I am making slow progress with the book I have been meaning to read for weeks, because every time my phone utters a sound I get distracted by another COVID-19 joke or snippet of news. Being German I follow closely what is happening in my former home country AND what goes on in Australia, so is it any wonder that I don’t get anything meaningful done at the moment? I hope you fare better than I do!

There is so much fascinating information out there and it’s hard to decide how much is too much. A great example is this article by Robert Cuffe & Christine Jeavans: “Coronavirus: When will we know if the UK lockdown is working?” on the BBC News page. Who wouldn’t want to know the answer to that? This Thursday we are running a webinar with Nick Fisher and Dennis Trewin :”Learning about Covid-19 Known Unknowns: the essential role of statisticians” which will be of great interest to many of you as well.

If you are enduring hardship and struggle to pay your annual  SSA membership fees as a result of COVID-19, please contact me. A lot of you are fighting battles at the moment, but this is one we can actually help you with.

Let me finish with the following quote:

We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.”  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Stay safe,

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer, SSA


Whilst enjoying a Corona, Jake Olivier hands over the N.S.W. branch presidency to Thomas Fung in the branch's first ever Zoom A.G.M.

History was made at the New South Wales branch on Thursday 26th March, when our annual general meeting was held using Zoom technology, in accordance with pandemic social distancing rules. About 30 members joined the Zoom hook-up, with the meeting chaired from the dining room table of outgoing president Jake Olivier.

Jake went through the new council make-up and roles. It was pleasing to see that the council has more female members than last year. However, there was both enormous gratitude and sadness at the stepping down of branch secretary, Emi Tanaka, who has taken a job at Monash University. Alex Xu has taken this role for 2020.

After some motions on rule changes were carried unanimously the meeting heard from Professor William Dunsmuir - concerning the recent loss of Professor Susan (Sue) Ruth Wilson. Sue grew up in Sydney and was partially affiliated with the University of New South Wales in recent years. Most of Sue's career was spent at the Australian National University. William talked about her legacy as one of Australia's leading biostatisticians.

The end of this even-numbered year annual general meeting meant that the presidency changed hands. After a short trip to the fridge into the outgoing president's kitchen, Jake cracked open a bottle of Corona to mark the end of his term. Thomas Fung was then acclaimed as the new N.S.W. branch president.

Matt Wand
University of Technology Sydney

Vic Branch AGM and Public Lecture by Dennis Trewin (March 2020)

On the 31st of March we held our Annual General Meeting and Public Lecture by the Former Australian Statistician, Dennis Trewin AO FASSA. Due to the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, both events were held online via Zoom, where both sessions were conducted successfully without technical hitches.

Read more here

South Australian SSA Branch Meeting and AGM March 2020

The SA Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia held its branch meeting and AGM on March 25, 2020. Outgoing President Shahid Ullah presented the annual report and the results of an online survey regarding the branch’s past and future activities. Murthy Mittinty was elected as President for the new council.

Lan Kelly

Click here to read more

Obituary Sue Wilson

SSA Canberra is greatly saddened to advise that Professor Susan Wilson passed away on Monday 16 March 2020. Sue was a strong supporter of the SSA Canberra for her entire professional career, and attended meetings until very recently. In 1997 she presented the Knibbs lecture entitled “Who counts and why? A perspective of the history of women and men in statistics”. She was later a discussant for Oliver Mayo’s Knibbs lecture in 2002, when the topic was “To what extent has Fisher’s research programme been fulfilled In Australia?”

Sue also presented named lectures for the SSA on multiple occasions. She gave the first Moran lecture at the Australian Statistical Conference in Canberra in 2016. Her topic was “The ongoing influence of genetics/omics on advances in statistical science”. Outside of the SSA, Sue was an elected member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI), elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA) and elected Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS, 1995). She was the President of the International Biometric Society (IBS, 1998-1999). 

Sue provided excellent support to female statisticians in a generally male-dominated profession and also to early career statisticians, encouraging them to attend national conferences as well as local meetings such as Canberra Branch meetings. We will all miss her wisdom and humour.

She is survived by her son Jonathan.


Alice Richardson, Conrad Burden, Alan Welsh, Francis Hui 

Harvey Goldstein passes away at 80

We are sad to advise that Professor Harvey Goldstein passed away on 9 April 2020. Professor Goldstein was a British statistician known for his contributions to multilevel modelling methodology and software, and for applying this to educational assessment and league tables. He was professor of social statistics in the Centre for Multilevel Modelling at the University of Bristol. 

Harvey Goldstein visited Australia at least once and helped us celebrate International Statistics Day. He was generous with his time and was an inspirational speaker.

Read the tribute published by the RSS

Australia’s Chief Scientist in global talks for COVID 19 response

On 27 March 2020 Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, released this statement about Australia’s involvement in a dialogue of international science leaders on the COVID-19 worldwide crisis. The full statement is available on the Chief Scientist’s website

On 6 April 2020 he gave his weekly update on developments in global and national scientific collaboration in response to the pandemic.

Science dividend arrives with crisis

By James Riley, Editorial Director, Innovation AUS

The upside of long-term and sustained public investment in scientific research becomes a lot more obvious during times of crisis. A national resource of deep knowledge experts is suddenly more visible.

In a year like this one, where challenges from bushfires and air quality to the current COVID -19 crisis, the public focus on our national scientific resources has had a sharpness of clarity we have not seen before. Newly appointed Science and Technology Australia chief executive Misha Schubert said the ongoing response to the challenges of 2020 had put the value of science to both industry and Governments into stark relief.

“All of these events have focused the public’s mind to a greater extent on the value of the deep expertise that is available to us in moments of challenge or crisis,” Ms Schubert said.

“Seeing those frontline expert deploying so magnificently – particularly with public health advice to slow the spread of the coronavirus and in the race for a vaccine – is a real and terrific proof-point about the wisdom of having long-running investments in [science and research],” she said. 

Read the full article here.

A statistician’s guide to coronavirus numbers

From the Royal Statisticial Society:

"Our Statistical Ambassadors have collated an essential guide for understanding statistics about COVID-19. Here, they list definitions, things to look out for, and what you should do about the numbers you are seeing.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, you will hear or read about many different numbers. The Royal Statistical Society exists to help the public better understand statistics. We have prepared this short guide to help you at this difficult and uncertain time."

Continue reading

Learning about Covid-19 Known Unknowns: the essential role of statisticians

Join us for this free webinar with Nicholas Fisher and Dennis Trewin, held on
Thursday, 16 Apr 2020 at 12:00 PM AEST.
For more information and to register please click here.

Free Webinar Series for Family Businesses

Family Business Australia (FBA) are offering a COVID-19 Webinar Series for Family Businesses. For any of you who might have a family business we encourage you to take a look at this series. FBA has kindly extended these webinars as complimentary. To access this series please contact SSA’s Executive Officer for the free access code. Alternatively log into the members only page on the SSA website. 

The COVID-19 Webinar Series for Family Business covers topics such as stimulus packages, uncertainty and cashflow, minimising the impact from a legal perspective and employer response. For more information and to register please click here.

Statistics in the Capital...on making decisions in individualised treatments

The next SSA Canberra e-meeting, will take place on Tuesday 28th April, where Prof Howard Bondell from the University of Melbourne will discuss his recent research on variable selection for decision-making in individualised treatments. Many variable selection techniques focus on selecting variables that are important for prediction, and this is not necessarily the same as selection variables important for treatment assignment. Prof Bondell will discuss a general framework to test for, and identify, the important variables specifically for the goal of treatment decision-making.

Prof Bondell is a Professor of Statistical Data Science, Co-Director of the Melbourne Centre for Data Science, and Deputy Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne, where he has been since 2018. His research interests include model selection, robust estimation, regularisation, Bayesian methods, and all aspects of modelling and handling uncertainty in statistical and machine learning approaches.

As always, details will be available in due course on the Canberra branch meeting website

Francis Hui, Warren Muller, Tom Lawrence

On behalf of SSA Canberra

News from the Bayesian Section

Congratulations to David Frazier and Sama Low-Choy, who have been appointed as the new co-chairs of the Bayesian section of SSA. Welcome also to new committee members, Matias Quiroz and Leah South. Sincere thanks to our previous chairs, Chris Drovandi and Scott Sisson, for all of your efforts.

The Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) World Seminar series was launched online at the beginning of April, with a talk by Dennis Prangle. See this link for the list of upcoming talks and to register. These talks are intended as a replacement for ABC in Grenoble, which has now been cancelled. Pierre Jacob has collected a list of other online seminars at this link.

The ISBA World Meeting has been postponed by one year. It will now be held at the same location in Kunming, China, during the week of June 28-July 2, 2021, with short courses on June 27, 2021. The next in the series of “ABC in…” international workshops has been scheduled for April 2021 in Svalbard, Norway. The 5th workshop on Sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) methods has also been postponed.

Matt Moores

Special issue of Teaching Statistics: new submission date

The new deadline for submissions to the special issue is 25th July, 2020. Submissions to be made online to Teaching Statistics via ScholarOne.

Because of the effects, personally and professionally, of COVID-19, the timeline is being altered for the special issue of Teaching Statistics, “Teaching Data Science and Statistics: senior school or introductory tertiary”, announced in January in a range of outlets as well as Teaching Statistics issue 1 of 2020 (See the Teaching Statistics website Many involved in teaching statistics are heavily committed to making alternative teaching arrangements. 

Thoughts and best wishes are extended to everyone in the global statistics teaching community – authors, reviewers, readers and all our colleagues and students.

Communities and sharing play essential and vital roles always, but especially during periods involving increased isolation. Teaching Statistics encourages everyone to continue sharing and building our community of practice, expertise, experience and scholarship.

Helen MacGillivray, Editor

Special edition Significance: Florence Nightingale- 

Florence Nightingale was a celebrity in her own lifetime, inspiring medical professionals and statisticians alike. The May edition of “Significance” is entirely dedicated to the first female fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in celebration of her bicentenary. What’s more, the online edition is available to all our members until the end of May!

Click here for access.

Become a Perpetual Member!

The Statistical Society of Australia is pleased to offer the new membership option of Perpetual Member. If you are 50 years or older you can pay a one-off fee of 15 times the current full membership (currently 15 × $250 = $3,750) and then never have to pay again.

For the next 12 months, members over 55 years old who have been a member for at least 10 years can pay a one-off reduced membership of 10 × $250 = $2,500 for those aged 55 to 60 years, and 5 × $250 = $1,250 for those aged 60 years or over.

Find out more


Looking to stay up to date on developments in health care technology around the world?

The American Statistical Association is sponsoring “The Pod of Asclepius”, a new podcast where data scientists, statisticians, engineers, and regulatory experts discuss the technical challenges in their healthcare domain.

We have over 20 episodes published and available on YouTube, Podbean, iTunes, Stitcher, Podchaser, TuneInRadio, and GooglePlay.

You can catch up on all episodes on our YouTube playlists for Season 0 and Season 1.

The easiest way to catch new episodes is to subscribe via our channels….

YoutubePodbean or see the website.   

Glen Wright Colopy
ASA Section on Statistical Learning and Data Science

Read the full media release here

Did you know

Members of SSA receive a $20 discount on the job posting fee when placing an ad in the SSA Career Centre. Simply enter the voucher code on the payment page. To find the current voucher code please go the SSA Members Only page or contact the Executive Officer.

Have you seen the ANZSTAT list hosted by the Statistical Society of Australia?

SSA’s ANZSTAT discussion forum offers many benefits, such as:

  • The option to receive e-mail updates immediately, daily or weekly by changing your forum preferences in your profile
  • The ability to sign up to just specific areas, such as job vacancies/scholarships, events and general topics
  • Being able to view posts without having to sign in
  • A facility to upload attachments with your post
  • Mobile friendly access

With the old ANZSTAT mailing list closing in due course, we would like to urge our members and non-members to make use of this new facility. 

Check it out now


Don't forget: SSA Members get 30% discount on Oxford University Press statistics titles!

With origins dating back to 1478, Oxford University Press is the world's largest university press with the widest global presence.  Click here to see all your membership perks and how to access them.

Did you miss any of our webinars?

More webinars have been added to our website:

Do we die of only one cause? Unlocking the full potential of multiple-cause mortality data - with James Eynstone-Hinkins, Lauren Moran, Margarita Moreno-Betancur

Statistical Machine Learning for Spatio-Temporal Forecasting with Andrew Zammit-Mangion

You will need to log in before you can view the page. 

Access Webinar Library

Need to catch up on missed Branch Meetings?

Check out our ever growing video library and catch up on branch talks you may have missed. New videos are added each month and here are the latest ones:

Tales of an Applied Statistician – Marijke Welvaert

Statistics is the Crown Jewel of Data Science – Antoni Ugoni

Detecting botnet activity using machine learning – Jill Slay

Access Video Library

SSA events you can look forward to:


5-9 July 2021, Gold Coast

27 June - 1 July 2022, Darwin

See more events listed here.

Save the Date!

The Australian and New Zealand Statistical Conference has been rescheduled to 5-9 July 2021. Calls for abstracts will re-open in Nov 2020.

Watch President Adrian Barnett's invitation to attend the conference here.

We look forward to seeing you at the Gold Coast in 2021!

Statistical Society of Australia |  PO Box 213 Belconnen ACT 2616 Australia 

02 6251 3647 |