15 July 2021

Dear {Contact_First_Name}, 

I am pleased to let you know that the program for our Early Career and Student Conference (ECSSC2021) is now available here. I would like to encourage you to take a look at this smorgasbord of talks and presentations. The line-up of keynote speakers is impressive, with the talks like "Modelling the Bitcoin blockchain" (Peter Taylor), "Metrics in the wild!" (Paola Oliva-Altamirano), "Commercial machine learning at scale - the joys and the pitfalls" (Kendra Vant) and many, many more!

For those looking for social interaction as well there is the virtual pub and a games night, not to be missed on Thursday, 29 July 2021. See you there!

On another note, the virtual AGMs of SSA and ASPAI will be held on Tuesday, 17 August. Every member is welcome! The AGMs will start at 5:30pm AEST and will be followed by Pitman Medal winner Rob Hyndman’s presentation "Uncertain Futures: What Can We Forecast and When Should We Give Up?". The registration link is available here.

Before I close, let me say that my heart goes out to our members in NSW. I hope you are doing well, despite being in lock-down. If you get bored, perhaps check our webpage with recorded webinars  or the one with recorded branch meetings. If anyone is interested in a virtual chat with colleagues, please let me know and I'll arrange a virtual catch-up.

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer, SSA

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ANZSC – Victorian Face-to-face Hub

Last week was the long awaited ANZSC 2021! The conference was held online, but SSA Vic organised a face-to-face hub at the University of Melbourne for the first three days of the conference. It was great to meet up in-person with other statisticians and to meet new people. The food and view from the conference centre (on the 10th floor of the Melbourne Law School) were excellent. On the Tuesday evening, SSA Vic also hosted a viewing (via Zoom) of the Foreman Lecture, during which Professor Li Chun Zhang provided a fascinating introduction to graph sampling theory. The talk was followed by a dinner at University House which afforded another opportunity to meet new people and catch up. The conference itself provided interesting talks from a dizzying range of statistical areas; from consulting to gravitational waves! While it would have been preferable to be all together on the Gold Coast, the virtual format worked well and the Victorian hub provided an excellent mini in-person experience. Thanks to Lizzie Korevaar and the rest of the Victorian Branch for their work in organizing the hub, Foreman Lecture and dinner.

Jeffrey Pullin

‘Overnight’ shift in world’s medical research to ‘COVID’ reflected in medical journal titles

COVID was the most common acronym in the titles of medical and health journal articles published in 2020, even beating 'DNA which had held the top spot for decades, according to a QUT analysis which found more than 50,000 articles on COVID-19 in fewer than 12 months.

  • Shift to COVID research is unprecedented and surpasses all other research shifts
  • Findings indicate how swiftly the world’s scientists switched their research to the deadly pandemic
  • 50,000 medical journal articles on COVID in less than 12 months.

QUT statistician Professor Adrian Barnett, from the QUT Centre for Health Transformation said “COVID” is the world’s most renowned acronym and had dramatically changed health and medical research.

“The current global pandemic had had an enormous impact on the world with many scientists switching their research to fight the pandemic virtually overnight,” Professor Barnett said.

“First known to the public as ‘coronavirus’, researchers quickly adopted COVID, the acronym for corona virus disease which was more than five times more frequently used than ‘DNA’ in 2020.

“In just one year, COVID has become the sixth most popular acronym of all time surpassing “AIDS” (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), “PCR” (a method used to amplify DNA) and “MRI” (magnetic resonance imaging).

“These findings show that the increase in research on COVID-19 is unprecedented and surpasses all previous shifts in research.”

Read the full article here (QUT website)

Statisticians develop new way to model how the brain learns language

A cross-disciplinary team including University of Texas at Austin statisticians Giorgio Paulon and Abhra Sarkar received the Mitchell Prize for their study modeling what happens in the brains of nonnative English speakers learning another language's tonal differences.

The statistical method the team developed could have applications in other areas of neuroscience research or in clinical practice. Beyond helping people learn new languages, Sarkar said their statistical model might assist clinicians in understanding why an individual has a speech or hearing disorder. It could also help neuroscientists studying other kinds of decision making, such as how we make sense of the visual world.

The Mitchell Prize is awarded by the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA) in recognition of an outstanding paper that describes how a Bayesian analysis has solved an important applied problem. The prize includes a check for $1000 and a plaque. This is the second Mitchell Prize for Abhra Sarkar, who in 2018 developed a new statistical model to analyse animal vocalisation through Bayesian analysis, a method which answers research questions using probability.

Read the full article here

Statistical Computing and Graphics Section – Are you in?

The SSA has been approached about the creation of Statistical Computing and Graphics Section. Are you interested? This is your chance to join the Statistical Computing and Graphics Section Committee and help shape this new section. We are currently seeking expressions of interest from members wanting to get involved. Please fill in this EOI form if this is you. 

You are invited: SSA and ASPAI AGMs - 17 August 2021

The 2021 Annual General Meetings of the Statistical Society of Australia, Incorporated and the Australian Statistical Publishing Association Inc will be held on Tuesday, 17 August 2021 from 5:30 pm to 6:15 pm via Zoom.

The SSA and ASPAI AGMs are available to members of SSA only. Please use registration link below if you would like to attend. You do not need to register separately for the talk following the AGMs.

This year’s AGMs will be followed by a presentation from Pitman Prize awardee Professor Rob J. Hyndman, Head of the Department of Econometrics & Business Statistics, Monash University.

Rob's talk is titled: " Uncertain Futures: What Can We Forecast and When Should We Give Up?".

Find out more and register here for the AGMs

Two Short Courses Offered leading up to the ECSSC2021

Convex Optimization for Statistical and Machine Learning with CVXR

24 Jul 2021, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM AEST

Optimization plays an important role in fitting many statistical models.

We will begin with a gentle introduction to convex optimization using examples from ordinary least squares and penalized regression. This will be followed by a high-level description of CVXR, how it differs from other packages, and a discussion of the domain specific language that CVXR implements. We will show how CVXR works on different classes of problems, such as linear programs, quadratic programs, and semidefinite programs, and demonstrate its usage with a variety of examples. Finally, we will have a segment for potential developers in which we go over the nuts and bolts of adding new functions to CVXR’s library.

For more information or to register, click here.

Statistical Shape Analysis via Topological Data Analysis

25 Jul 2021, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM AEST

As modern data applications become complex in size and structure, identifying the underlying shape and structure has become of fundamental importance. The classical approaches such as dimension reduction are challenging for handling these applications. Topological data analysis (TDA) is a rapidly developing collection of methods that focuses on the “shape” of data. TDA can uncover the underlying low-dimensional geometric and topological structures from high-dimensional datasets. TDA has been successfully applied to various areas, including biology, network data, material science, and geology, in recent years. The goal of the lecture is to introduce novel TDA methods that can capture geometric or topological information of data and make statistical inferences. This lecture aims to familiarize these new methods along with their applications to various types of data.

To register click here.

mikemacmarketing, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Can artificial intelligence answer important medical questions?

A collaboration between a biostatistician and a data scientist.

$2,000 scholarships available for two successful applicants!

The Australian Pharmaceutical Biostatistics Group (APBG) is providing a fantastic opportunity for undergraduates or new graduates in the data science and statistical fields to work together on this important conundrum.

Biostatisticians and data scientists often have different approaches to answering important clinical questions. Classical statistical regression methods used for prediction modelling are well understood in the statistical sciences and the scientific community that employs them. These methods tend to be transparent and are usually hypothesis driven but can overlook complex associations with limited flexibility when a high number of variables are investigated. In addition, when using classic regression modelling, choosing the ‘right’ model is not straightforward. Non-traditional machine learning algorithms, and machine learning approaches, may overcome some of the limitations of classical regression models in this new era of big data, but are not a complete solution as they must be considered in the context of the limitations of data used in the analysis.

In this project, you will receive a large dataset with an underlying correlation structure. You will work together with your assigned collaborator to discover the algorithm that best fits the data.

You will be expected to meet with the APBG steering committee to present updates on your project, provide a written report, code, and present your findings at our annual meeting which is to be held in December 2021.

Applications are welcomed from undergraduates or graduates of Data Science or Statistics or related fields who are based in Australia or New Zealand.

Apply before 15 August 2021.

Find out more

Our Accreditation Committee needs you!

We are seeking expressions of interest from AStat accredited members wanting to join the Accreditation Committee. Get involved and help other members attain accreditation! Keep in mind that you would not be accredited yourself if it were not for the dedicated volunteers on SSA’s Accreditation Committee.

Committee tenure is usually for three years, but some committee members enjoy their time on the AC so much that they extend to six years! Meetings are held via Zoom every six weeks or so; sometimes just every other month. Accreditation applications are uploaded to Dropbox and the committee members are asked to read them prior to the meetings and then give their view on whether candidates meet SSA’s criteria for accreditation or not. In 2020 we received a total of 33 applications, many of them applications for reaccreditation which are usually very straightforward.

If you are interested, please contact me. If you would like to chat with someone on the committee before making a decision, please let me know and I will put you in touch with a committee member or the Chair.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Marie-Louise Rankin
SSA Executive Officer

Joint SSA Canberra Branch + Canberra Data Scientists Meeting

From supervised machine learning to causal heterogeneity modelling for personalised decision making 

27 Jul 2021, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM AEST via Zoom

The SSA Canberra Branch invites you to its June branch meeting, which will be held jointly with Canberra Data Scientists, and presented Prof. Jiuyong Li, University of South Australia.

About the talk:

Causal heterogeneity modelling emerges as an effective approach for personalised decision making and is used in personalised marketing and personalised medicine. In this talk, We will differentiate causal heterogeneity modelling from supervised machine learning and show some research and applications we have done in using causal heterogeneity modelling for decision making. We will give some common practice recommendations for using causal heterogeneity modelling methods. 

Have you heard of SSA’s Distinguished Presenter’s Award?

This award acknowledges the contributions made by SSA’s regular workshop and course presenters who are also members. It is awarded – subject to eligible nominations, annually every December.

As part of the criteria, the nominee has presented at least two workshops or courses for SSA within the previous two years. The nominee, if awarded, agrees to present at least

two workshops or courses under the SSA banner within two years from the date of the award. Successful nominees will receive one year of complimentary full membership with SSA. They will also have access to an electronic badge demonstrating their status as a Distinguished Presenter of SSA.

Find out more

We'd like to thank  our other generous sponsors:

Now that ANZSC2021 is finished, let’s keep the great feeling going! Don’t forget to register for ECSSC, which is coming up really quickly. Come and support our young and budding statisticians and continue to network.

Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference 2021

will be held from 26 July to 1 Aug 2021. There are many things to look forward to, such as an amazing line-up of keynote speakers from all occupations.

Not sure yet? It pays to register soon, because the first 120 paid registrations will receive a Menulog voucher worth A$25, generously sponsored by ACEMS, to be used during the conference. Enjoy your favourite take-away and socialise with your colleagues during one of our many social events! 

And don’t forget: every delegate will receive a virtual goodie-bag!

Register here.

See you at ECSSC2021!

ECSSC2021 Conference Committee


The Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia (BCA) offers a unique opportunity for postgraduate biostatistics training

Skilled biostatisticians are in high demand in Australia and internationally. The BCA aims to fill that gap by producing professional biostatisticians that are equipped with the skills required to meet the diverse needs of modern health research.

BCA graduates enjoy exciting and rewarding careers in medical research, academia, government and a wide range of commercial industries. They are directly involved in projects that are making a real difference to the health of communities.

The BCA program is:

  • delivered across a collaboration of 5 renowned Australian Universities - enrol at the University of your choice!
  • fully online and flexible to allow study full or part-time
  • developed for working professionals to help fit study in your busy lifestyle
  • designed so each unit of study can be taken as a professional development short course
  • accredited by SSA!

Enrol now to become a biostatistician and take your career to the next level!

SSA Vic Conference and Workshop Funding Scheme 

A reminder that SSA Vic are offering financial support to our members for the attendance of statistical workshops, conferences, winter/summer schools and short courses; both national and international, in 2021. This includes for example, the ECSSC 2021 

Members are invited to apply for funding via one of the two schemes: 

1.   (Conferences 2021) We are offering up to $200 of total funding, per member, for the registration and travel expenses associated with attendance of national and international conferences; or

2.   (Summer & Winter Schools/Short Courses/Workshops 2021) We are offering up to $150 of total funding, per member, for the registration cost of short courses or workshops for their statistical development.

Members may apply to both schemes, however the total amount of funding available per member is $250 (e.g., if a member has received $150 for a Workshop, and then applies for conference expenses, then they will only be eligible for $100 from the Conference scheme). Members who were funded in 2020 are also eligible for funding in this 2021 round.

Find out more

If you have news from the Australian statistical community to share in Stats Matters and Events, please get in touch with us! We love getting feedback too.

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

02 6251 3647 |