SSA May 2020 eNews

Welcome to the May newsletter.

I hope you are in good health and coping well with the current restrictions due to COVID-19. For me, life seems almost normal again after I waved off our son on his way to school this morning. He is in year 12 and amongst the few cohorts who were allowed to go back from yesterday.

Last month we had our first virtual coffee morning. About 24 members joined me for this casual get-together via Zoom. I had held no expectations for this meeting other than wanting to offer our members who work from home a bit of social interaction, but amazingly the meeting resulted in some great member initiatives that we are now looking to implement. One of the ideas was to give members of SSA access to resources, such as an online library, which would be of particular benefit to those currently not linked with an academic institution. Watch this space – or rather – if you have connections to any institution that could help with this, please let me know!

Our branches have adapted very quickly to the social distancing requirements and moved to online meetings. The benefit is, of course, that members from other branches can join these meetings as well. This is just one of the many examples of how some amazing things can grow out of a dire situation. I hope that you enjoy this increased choice of online meetings, which can offer some welcome distraction from COVID-19.

While you are making the most of this smorgasbord of events, please stay healthy, productive, and focused. We will get through this together!

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer, SSA

Celebrating Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday with an article in “The Conversation”, SSA members Alice Richardson, Jessica Kasza and Karen Lamb co-authored a fascinating article about

The healing power of data: Florence Nightingale’s true legacy

When you’re in a medical emergency, you don’t typically think of calling a statistician. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has shown just how necessary a clear understanding of data and modelling is to help prevent the spread of disease.

One person understood this a long time ago. Were she alive today, Florence Nightingale would understand the importance of data in dealing with a public health emergency.

Nightingale is renowned for her career in nursing, but less well known for her pioneering work in medical statistics. But it was actually her statistical skills that led to Nightingale saving many more lives.

Read the article

Join the International Statistical Community online tonight, on 12 May:
Watch Various Talks about Florence Nightingale, The International Statistical Institute &
Find out more about the ISI World Statistics Congress 2021

The ISI will start its celebration of the International Year of Women in Statistics and Data Science on 12 May at 13:00 (Central European Summer Time – CEST) to learn more about Florence Nightingale and the International Statistical Institute (ISI) from distinguished speakers.

Videos of the presentations will be available after 1:00PM CEST by clicking on the titles of the presentations. They will remain on the ISI website to watch later.

Go to the ISI Website

SA Branch April Meeting 

Targeted maximum likelihood estimation for causal inference in observational studies

Murthy Mittinty, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics at the University of Adelaide, spoke at our April meeting on his work about targeted maximum likelihood estimation for causal inference in observational studies. This is the topic of his current research, following on from many years of work on causal inference. Murthy’s talk highlighted the improvement of correct model specification by allowing for flexible estimation using (nonparametric) machine learning methods; super learner by using targeted maximum likelihood estimation, a semiparametric doubly robust method.

Read the full article here


The Statistical Society organised an online meeting of statisticians and epidemiologists to discuss the statistical issues concerning how Australia is battling COVID-19. Five recommendations resulted from the meeting.

Read the five recommendations here

A message from the International Mathematical Union (IMU): 

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected modern society globally. Tragically, many thousands have died, many more have lost their jobs, and it has changed the working conditions of billions of people. 

In response to the situation, we have launched the website

containing links to some resources pertaining to the pandemic. We focus on three aspects: 

   – general websites with information on the COVID-19 pandemic

   – online seminars for a global audience

   – websites which concentrate on mathematical research on the pandemic 

For this website to be useful, we depend on active feedback from the community.  Please send links to be included to” 

Supporting the NSW response to the COVID-19 pandemic

The NSW Government understands the critical work of our research organisations in helping us to combat COVID-19 and we need your further support.

The newly launched $25 million COVID-19 Research Grant Program will support public health research, rapid diagnostics, clinical trials and trialling new vaccines. It will also support social, behavioural and mental health research and health systems responsiveness. The Office for Health and Medical Research is now accepting applications, but please note the application period is very short, 6 – 20 May 2020.

Information on the Program is available here

Announcing the Statistical Consulting Network

The SSA has established a new body – the SSA Consulting Network.  The goal of the network is to provide a forum to support and advocate for statistical consultants, and to provide training and professional support opportunities.

You can join our mailing list from the SSA website; just edit your membership profile and check the box. To see the box, please make sure you scroll all the way down in your profile, not in "Email Preferences". Your username is the email address where you received this newsletter. If you would like to join the committee, please contact either of the Co-chairs. 

Our first activity will be a Q&A panel on remote consulting – tips on how to consult effectively under the physical distancing and work-from-home constraints we have all been negotiating of late.  We have all learnt a lot about how to do this over the last couple of months, so this will be an opportunity for practice-sharing.  This event will be held within the next month, stay tuned for an SSA announcement.

What would you like the Consulting Network to do?  Please tell us your thoughts using this short formThis will help shape priorities in network activities

We look forward to hearing from you.

David Warton and Sue Finch
Co-chairs, Statistical Consulting Network

Why you should join the YSC21 Committee

The Young Statisticians Network wants you to join the Young Statisticians Conference Committee 2021. We offer several rewarding roles and when the conference has concluded you’ll wish you could do it all over again (like our Chair)! Want to join right away? Click here for a full list of roles and for the application (~5 minutes to complete).

Need more convincing? Read the full article and be hypnotised into joining the committee.

Read the full article here.

News from the Environmental Statistics Section

The big event in environmental statistics for the year is coming up June 22-26 – the virtual International Statistical Ecology Conference (vISEC2020), an exciting (and affordable) opportunity to catch up on the latest innovations in statistical ecology, and to explore the virtual conference format.  The SSA Environmental Statistics section has also started a seminar series, inviting excellent environmental statisticians worldwide to present virtually to our members.


virtual International Statistical Ecology Conference (vISEC2020) - register now!

Registration now open! (and it’s only $50!)

The International Statistical Ecology Conference is a biennial meeting of researchers at the interface between ecology and statistics.  At vISEC2020 we have planned an exciting list of keynote speakers that bridge these two disciplines, as well as training opportunities for attendees, a forum for interdisciplinary collaboration, and a healthy dose of fun - all online!

Read more here

News from the Biostatistics Section - Save the Date!

Webinar: Getting to know our “cell mates”: A practical approach to microbiome analysis through a biostatistician’s lens with presenter Dr Elasma Milanzi on 19 June 2020 from 12:00-1:30pm.

Statistics at a crossroads

An interesting report from the USA titled “Statistics at a crossroads” is available here. The report is written by researchers and educators working in statistics and was supported by the US National Science Foundation. It makes a strong case for the relevance of statistics in the modern world and discusses how our field could flourish if we tackle the big issues currently facing societies around the world.

2020 Professional Scientist Employment and Remuneration Survey

Professionals Australia and Science & Technology Australia invite you to participate in the annual Professional Scientist Employment and Remuneration Survey.

Through this survey, you will contribute to the most comprehensive benchmark report of scientist remuneration and employment conditions in Australia. The survey will also provide important insights into the unprecedented impact that COVID19 has had on Australia’s scientific workforce.

Your responses will provide an important glimpse into Australia’s science sector which, in turn, will help us advocate with and for this sector to Government, policymakers and the Australian public. The more scientists who participate, the more comprehensive and meaningful these results will be.

What do you need to know?

·         The survey takes 10-15 minutes to complete.

·         It is entirely anonymous.

·         It is open to all science professionals in Australia.

·         All survey participants can enter the draw to win one of two $500 JB HiFi vouchers.

·         The survey closes on 24 May 2020.

Take the Survey

Research Project: University of Melbourne

Development and validation of a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis based value function to determine value retrospectively of clinical trials in the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre trials portfolio

We would like to invite anyone either currently or previously involved in clinical trials to participate in research being conducted at The University of Melbourne. We are developing a method to measure clinical trial value and we would value the input of SSA members.

Being able to measure and represent clinical trial value numerically, will help us to develop decision support tools for hospitals, universities and other institutions. This will allow us to improve how they choose the clinical trials they run. Improving the system will lead to better outcomes for patients and more efficient use of healthcare resources.

The survey is completely anonymous, and you are free to stop participating at any time. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete.

The survey can be found at the link here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in contact with Piers Gillet.

Statistics Across Campuses (SAC)

Dear SSA members and all those interested,
A group of us from different institutions (Boris Beranger - UNSW; Hassan Doosti - MQ; Thomas Fung - MQ & SSA NSW; Munir Hiabu - USyd; Francis Hui - ANU & SSA Canberra; Pauline O’Shaughnessy - UoW; Jake Olivier - UNSW & SSA NSW; Matias Quiroz - UTS) have gotten together to launch an initiative called Statistics Across Campuses (SAC).

SAC is an across campus initiative designed to provide a weekly dose of new and interesting statistic research from domestic and international researchers. Put simply, we are pulling our resources together to offer (departmental-seminar-like) seminars for the wider statistics and data science community. This includes SSA members, who are more than welcome to attend these seminars. 

A list of past and upcoming seminars can be found at, with details about the talks and how to access them. You can also subscribe to the blog in order to be kept in the loop for new posts/seminars. We will do our best to provide slides and video recordings for those who cannot make it (or for those who wish to watch it again!). The blog also offers the possibility to submit speaker suggestions.

Please feel free to email, or indeed any of those listed above, if you have any questions or want to be involved, including if your statistics department is interested in contributing/being a part of SAC.

Kind regards,
SAC Crew

Meet Terry Neeman - SSA's first Perpetual Member!

Last month we welcomed our first perpetual member to the Statistical Society of Australia. The first person to take up this recently introduced membership type was Dr Terry Neeman, BA (Harvard), MA PhD (Virginia), Biostatistician at the Biological Data Science Institute, ANU College of Science, ANU College of Health & Medicine.

Terry has been an active and engaged member of SSA since 1999, acquiring AStat Accreditation in 2004. Her principal role at BDSI is to collaborate with biologists, bioinformaticians, and medical and clinical researchers at ANU and in the Canberra research community. She divides her time between offering her statistical expertise on experimental design, data organisation and data analysis; and keeping abreast of new methodologies in the analysis and integration of complex high-dimensional biological data. Terry also strives to be a role model for young statisticians who may have an interest in the novel statistical challenges in modern biology research. She was recently featured in a research story to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

SSA’s perpetual membership was well received and 4 members have changed to this membership type since it was launched.

To find out how you can become a Perpetual Member too, please click below.

Find out more

Slack upgrades during Covid-19

Slack, a well-known virtual collaboration tool, is offering three months of paid service due to COVID-19. If you're not already using Slack, this is a excellent time to get onboard! Click below to apply and take advantage of this great opportunity.

Get 3 Months of Slack for Free Now

Check out these online events organised by the Vic Branch of SSA:

 JSM 2020 Is Going Virtual

After considering the options available for holding the Joint Statistical Meetings this year and given that so little is known about what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like in August, the ASA has determined the best decision is to hold JSM virtually. The organisers are still considering the registration arrangements, but back in January the fee was US$610 for a full week’s attendance with membership fees to ASA included. More information about this will be available in the coming weeks.

This is a great opportunity for anyone who would not have been able to afford  travel to the US anyway to participate in this year’s JSM!

What is JSM? JSM is one of the largest statistical events in the world with

More than 6,500 attendees from 52 countries
600+ sessions, including invited, topic-contributed, contributed, and poster
More than 1,000 student attendees
75+ employers hiring for more than 200 positions
100+ exhibitors
More than 40 Professional Development short courses and workshops

It is also one of the broadest, with topics ranging from statistical applications to methodology and theory to the expanding boundaries of statistics, such as analytics and data science.

JSM also offers a unique opportunity for statisticians in academia, industry, and government to exchange ideas and explore opportunities for collaboration. Beginning statisticians (including students) can learn from and interact with senior members of the profession

For more information click here

Did you miss any of our webinars?

More webinars have been added to our website:

Tales of an Applied Statistician – with Marijke Welvaert 

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:

Variable Selection for Decision-Making in Individualised Treatments - Howard Bondell

COVID-19 Modelling and Public Health Policy - Allen Chang and Freya Shearer

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 |