22 July 2021

Dear {Contact_First_Name}, 

Worry seems to be a part of our life these days. While I am mostly worried about COVID-19 these days, events of the past week reminded me of what I worried about before COVID. Climate change.  

Last Thursday I woke up to frantic messages on my phone, friends wanting to know if my family in Germany was affected by the terrible floods devastating regions in Western Europe. It was the first I had heard about the disaster unfolding and I was in utter shock. Many people had lost their lives – we still do not know the exact figure, but it is over 160 today.  Thankfully, my mum, though living in one of the states that was mentioned, lives up on a hill and is well. Other members of my family who live in Germany were also unaffected. However, the town centre of Bad Münstereifel, a place where I spent six months of my student life, was completely destroyed.

On that same day, Special Envoy for the Greater Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch, took a group of ambassadors to the Great Barrier Reef, in an attempt to stop the Great Barrier Reef being listed as “endangered” by the UNESCO. To be fair, he was able to showcase how “Local communities, Traditional Owners, marine scientists, tourism operators and farmers are working together to protect the Reef (…)”.  While these efforts are to be commended, Mr Entsch highlighted that the whole world needed to address the issue of warming waters caused by climate change.

After dinner that Thursday, my family and I watched a recently released documentary, “Breaking Boundaries”, on Netflix.  In the film, Sir David Attenborough and scientist Johan Rockström examine the collapse of Earth's biodiversity and how this crisis can still be averted. It’s not easy to watch but I highly recommend it.

 And then this week, as you are probably aware, parts of China received more than a year’s worth of rain in just three days, resulting in catastrophic flooding and more lives lost.

What is happening to our planet? I’m not a scientist. I’m an ordinary person worrying about the future of my children and future generations. I rely on our politicians taking the best advice from scientists and then making the right decisions for us, for the best possible future. Being a perpetual worrier this sometimes keeps me awake at night.

Working with our members though gives me some comfort. I am proud to be associated with a professional society that represents scientists like our statisticians. In 2019 the SSA published an official statement on climate change and the urgent need for action.  You can read the statement here. . Let’s keep talking about it.

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer, SSA

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There is still time (though not much) to register for our

Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference 2021

(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:


Peter Taylor, Redmond Barry Professor /University of Melbourne

26 July 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM AEST

Modelling the Bitcoin blockchain: what can probability and statistics teach us?

In 2009 the pseudononymous Satoshi Nakamoto published a short paper on the Internet, together with accompanying software, that proposed an `electronic equivalent of cash’ called Bitcoin. At its most basic level, Bitcoin is a payment system where transactions are verified and stored in a distributed data structure called the blockchain. The Bitcoin system allows electronic transfer of funds without the presence of a trusted third party. It achieves this by making it `very hard work’ to create the payment record, so that it is not computationally-feasible for a malicious player to repudiate a transaction and create a forward history with the transaction deleted.

Minh-Ngoc Tran

Associate Professor, University of Sydney

28 July 2021, 11 AM - 12 PM AEST

Bayesian computation: why/when Variational Bayes, not MCMC or SMC?

Bayesian inference has been increasingly used in statistics and related areas as a principled and convenient tool for reasoning with uncertainty. Bayesian computation is often a challenging task and modern applications of Bayesian inference, such as Bayesian deep learning, have been called for more scalable Bayesian computation techniques. In this talk, we will give a quick introduction to Variational Bayes for scalable Bayesian inference. We then provide a general discussion on its pros and cons, recent advances and some potential research directions.


Paola Oliva-Altamirano, Principal Data Scientist, Innovation Lab, Our Community/SmartyGrants

27 July 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM AEST

Metrics in the wild! How to deal with biases when building auto-classification systems

When designing auto-classification systems we often trust standard metrics in-built in Machine Learning models. How much do you trust them? Or in other words, to which extent do these scores reflect the success of your algorithm? Knowing your data, the decisions that your model will influence, and the role that scoring plays in enhancing or mitigating biases should be essential for Statistic practitioners and product builders. In this talk I will share our lessons learned when building classifiers in the social sector, the biases we have encountered in multilabel text classifications, and our constant battle to design ethical, human centre products.

Kendra Vant, EGM - Data /Xero

30 July 2021, 2 PM - 3 PM AEST

Commercial machine learning at scale – the joys and the pitfalls

The art and science of applying machine learning techniques inside a for profit company is a world away from pursuing algorithm improvement and fundamental in a research setting. I will talk about the end to end process of building smart products within a SaaS company today.


Helena Jia

Executive Director, National and International Assessments, ETS

1 August 2021, 11 AM - 12PM AEST

Statistics, Psychometrics and Data Analytics in Educational Survey Assessments

Educational survey assessments are used in measuring and monitoring learning and educational progress for youth as a group, rather than as individuals. This talk offers an overview of how practitioners applying methodologies in statistics, psychometrics and data analytics in the design of educational survey assessments, as well as in the estimation of group scores nationally and internationally. I will describe several statistical approaches that are involved in the group score estimation–item response theory models, latent regression models and missing data imputation/plausible values. Recent and future research and methodology development as survey assessment data collection transitioning from paper-based to digitally-based platform will be discussed as well.


National Science Quiz  

Thursday 19 August, 6pm-7pm AEST

Celebrate National Science Week with the return of the National Science Quiz. Hosted by Charlie Pickering, of ABC’s The Weekly Program, the Quiz brings together six of Australia’s best scientists and science communicators as they battle it out for the honour to be the 2021 Quiz champions. The best part, though, is that you can do more than just watch this online event. This is an interactive event that will allow you to test your scientific knowledge and reasoning and play along for a chance to win cash and prizes for the top 10 winners, with first prize: $1,000 cash! Further details are available on the website.

Register to receive competition link

 More events advertised by the Australian Data Science Network:

Data Science Under the Hood: Manifold Learning | 29 July, 2pm-3pm | QUT Centre for Data Science

This talk introduces Manifold Learning, the technique to uncover the intrinsic shape of the original data. There will also be a discussion on how different manifold learning paradigms can be designed to be incorporated to a dimensionality reduction technique to learn the accurate low-dimensional data representation.

Register now

Provably Beneficial Artificial Intelligence – Professor Stuart Russell | 5 August, 6pm-7:30pm | Monash Data Futures Institute

Intelligence gives us power over the world and other entities therein. As AI progresses, how will we retain power, forever, over entities that will eventually be more powerful than ourselves? Distinguished AI researcher Professor Stuart Russell will propose a solution to this conundrum based on a new model for the design of beneficial AI systems, in the inaugural lecture of Monash Prato Dialogue - Distinguished Lecture Series in AI.

Register now

Great Barrier Reef Citizen Science Challenge | 14-22 August | ACEMS

Join the National Science Week activities to celebrate the Great Barrier Reef & science! Take part in a Citizen Science challenge with the ultimate 1st prize holiday adventure to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, hosted by master-reef guides teaming with Reef Today filmmakers.

Register now

Studying social media can give us insight into human behaviour. It can also give us nonsense (Published 13 July, UNSW)

Researchers found the letters X, Y, and Z make tweets more shareable. The nonsensical result shows how easily statistics can be misused.

Read the study here

Low- and middle-income countries lack access to big data analysis – here’s how to fill the gap

The ability to collect and learn from large amounts of data has been a major driver of innovation over recent decades. Everything from health care – think patient analytics, wearable devices and the COVID-19 response – to transportation – Uber and Lyft – to entertainment – Netflix – is now driven by data and statistics.

Yet the ability to collect good data, the capacity to derive insights from it and the skills to turn those insights into change aren’t spread evenly across the globe.

Taking a page from the way Doctors Without Borders sends medical personnel and expertise to developing countries, some organizations have begun to do the same with statistics. But overall, the need to improve local statistical capacity in developing nations remains largely unmet.

David Gunderman, Research Fellow, University of Colorado Boulder and Eric Vance, Associate Professor and Director of LISA, University of Colorado Boulder explore this further in the "The Conversation" (US). 

Read more

AMSI-SSA Public Lecture 

Do not miss Professor Renate Meyer presenting the 2021 AMSI-SSA Public Lecture “Data Detectives on the Trail of Black Hole Mergers”.

Thursday 22 July, 6.30pm AEST

This lecture will be approximately 45 minutes followed by a 15 minute Q&A.

Read the abstract and register here

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.

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. 

To register click here.

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.

Apply before 15 August 2021.

Find out more

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. 

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.

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