29 July 2021

Dear {Contact_First_Name}, 

A couple of weeks have now passed since ANZSC2021 – and I’m still working my way through the excellent presentations! The ability to catch up on things you missed is one of the great advantages of a virtual conference. And speaking of virtual conferences, I’ve been attending the Early Career and Student Statistician conference this week. Our early career members are really making the most of the virtual conference environment, with a lot of chat on the conference slack channel, virtual conference bingo cards, and virtual social events. At the time of writing this, the conference is half-way through, and I’m incredibly impressed with the depth and breadth of statistical knowledge that our early career statisticians have. I am very confident about the future of statistics in Australia!

On the theme of the future of statistics in Australia, the SSA is seeking a new Vice President of Media and Communications, to lead the already-established media and communications team. This role provides an excellent opportunity to contribute to the direction of the Society. See the item further below for more information. Please get in touch if you’re interested!

Finally, my thoughts are with our members in New South Wales, with the extension of their lockdown. Having been through Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown, I know that these lockdowns are challenging. I hope that you are all managing okay in these challenging circumstances.

Jessica Kasza
SSA President

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SA Branch July Meeting: Programming paradigms x Statistical software design

Dr Emi Tanaka from Monash University gave a talk to members of the South Australian Branch on Programming paradigms x Statistical software design.

Emi started off by illustrating 5 computer programming paradigms in terms of drawing faces which was a very useful analogy.

Imperative programming is when your code to draw a face is lines of code that instruct the computer to do something. Functional programming where you gather your code together and generalize it in a ‘function’, so you can repeatedly apply the same code but with different attributes.  Syntactic sugar where functions are designed to make it easier to express for humans- this may be as simple as giving a function a sensible name representing what it actually does, for example instead of calling it “face1” it could be called “face_angry”. Rethinking functions arguments -separating the parts of the function into sensible parts. In terms of the face, instead of having a function that creates the whole face, breaking it down into face parts (eyes, mouth, face shape)- each of which can be altered individually and also added to eg. Adding a mole or eyebrows.  Object -oriented programming where the previous arguments of function are now objects. Now anyone can add a new object to add to the available options.

Read more

ANZSC2021 experiences - The first reports are in

Some of SSA's members were lucky enough to attend ANZSC2021 with a scholarship from their respective branches. Three recipients from the QLD Branch tell us about their conference experience and the highlights of ANZSC2021.

Read their reports here

An inclusive COVID-19 recovery needs reliable and timely data

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) helps strengthen international trade statisticians’ skills and capacity, for a continuous flow of high-quality statistics amid pandemic-induced disruptions to data supply.

UNCTAD held a series of sessions during the World Statistics Congress 2021 to help improve data and statistics for the analysis of COVID-19’s impacts on societies, economies and the planet, and advance progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Organized by the International Statistical Institute, the congress held online from 11 to 16 July underlined the importance of reliable, timely and readily available data and statistics for an inclusive recovery from the pandemic. It took place under the theme “Statistics and data science for a better world”.

“Policymakers need timely economic data and more granular information to detect inequalities that may have been exacerbated by the health crisis,” said UNCTAD senior statistician, Anu Peltola.

“Also, more transparency is needed on financial leakages, especially illicit financial flows, to harness resources for an equitable recovery,” she added.

UNCTAD’s sessions during the event examined how to tackle these challenges and use online training approaches to strengthen international trade statisticians’ skills and capacity, for a continuous flow of high-quality statistics amid pandemic-induced disruptions to data supply.

Read more

Get Covid and live longer? No, it doesn’t work like that

In this article, published on 25 July 2021 in “the Guardian”, David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters react to a WhatsApp message allegedly sent by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last October. The message said: “I must say I have been rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities. The median age is 82 – 81 for men, 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer.” While they concede that this message was hopefully meant as a joke, the two statisticians then delve into the numbers, showing that contracting Covid is not a ticket to extending your life expectancy.

Read the article here

Congratulations to SSA member Emi Tanaka for having been awarded SSA’s Distinguished Presenter’s Award.

This award acknowledges the contributions made by anyone presenting workshops or courses for SSA. To be awarded the Distinguished Presenter’s Award, a nominee is required to have presented at least two workshops or courses for the SSA within the last two years and has to agree to present at least two workshops or courses under the SSA banner within two years from the date of the award.

Emi exceeded the prerequisite number of two workshops by far, having held several workshops on Data Visualisation with R, a workshop on Data wrangling with R, the R-skills workshop Building R Packages and R Markdown as well as a workshop on Gaining skills in biostatistical consultancy.

Mathematician at the University of Lausanne crowned Olympic champion!

Olympic cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer from Austria was reported to have used her STEM expertise to help map out her acclimatisation period to the heat of Tokyo. This is another excellent example of where STEM expertise can take you! 

Read Anna's story here

ECSSC2021 High School Career Day

SSA is offering an exciting free online event this Saturday: As part of our Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference we are hosting a High School Career Day for high school students as well as for high school and primary school teachers. The day will kick off with a hands-on workshop where students and teachers will be introduced to the freely available software package R and learn the fundamentals of statistical programming (no experience required!). This workshop will be followed by a career panel, providing information on the many possible career pathways in statistics and how to navigate statistical learning.

A number of door prizes will be drawn during the High School Career Day, courtesy of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Mathematical & Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS). These will include some introductory statistical textbooks and book vouchers to help foster our young delegates' learning in statistics!

Please share this information widely with any high-school children in your life, and teachers.

Find out more

The 3rd issue of the ECSSN Magazine

Inferential Interests

is out now! 

Read it here

Announcing a special joint meeting of the Statistical Society of Australia, W.A. Branch and the Australasian Region of the International Biometric Society:

Investigating Epigenetic Clocks, presented by Associate Professor Nicola Armstrong, Mathematics and Statistics, Curtin University.

10 Aug 2021, 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM (UTC+08:00)

Cheryl Praeger Lecture Theatre, The University of Western Australia

An epigenetic clock uses methylation levels to estimate an individual’s age. There is currently a lot of interest in these clocks, including the potential to use them to estimate age in forensics. In this presentation, I will give an overview of how these clocks are developed from a statistical perspective, introduce several well-known epigenetic clocks and discuss how they perform in practice. In particular, we were interested in assessing performance in different cohorts with neurological diseases. Our study highlights some common issues with these types of methods data science and bioinformatics that need to be considered (and often aren’t) when interpreting any findings.

Associate Professor Nicola Armstrong is currently working at Curtin University, as a teaching and research academic in Statistics and Data Science. Dr Armstrong is a statistical bioinformatician who completed her doctoral studies in Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Originally from Perth, she spent several years in the Netherlands before returning to Australia and eventually Perth. She is currently an Associate Professor in Statistics and Data Science at Curtin University. Her research work has centred on the development of statistical methodology and the application of statistics to problems in genetics, genomics and biomedical research.

Following the meeting all attendees are invited to dine with the speaker at 7:30PM (promptly) at Steves Bar and Café (

To find out more and to register, click here.

Free R-Bootcamp

The R-Bootcamp is a gentle and gradual introduction to manipulating and visualizing data in R using the `tidyverse` suite of packages. It is meant for incoming OHSU Bioinformatics and Computational Biomedicine Majors but is appropriate for any beginners wanting to learn elementary data manipulation in R. Thank you to Ted Laderas and Jessica Minnier for putting this free resource together!

Access your free R-Bootcamp here

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

Calling all early career researchers

Got results, a discovery or invention that has not received any publicity?

Nominate for Fresh Science 2021. Find your story, get media trained and promote your science.

Fresh Science is looking for:

  • early-career researchers (from honours students to no more than five years post-PhD).
  • a peer-reviewed discovery that has had little or no media coverage; and
  • some ability to present ideas in everyday English.

Participants receive a day of media training followed by the chance to share their work with peers at the pub. Their work will be profiled online, promoted by social media and, for some, the mainstream media.

In some states, they will also get an introduction to talking to business and government and learn how to pitch.

Now in its 23rd year, Fresh Science has trained over 550 scientists to share their science, and generated hundreds of news stories via TV, print, radio and online. You can read past Fresh Scientists’ stories online at

In 2021 Fresh Science will run in QLD, VIC, and NSW.

We are working on the final sponsorships to lock in events for SA and WA. We will also run it in other states and territories where we can secure local support.

In each state where we run an event, we will select the top ten applicants (Vic, Qld, NSW). For successful applicants from other states, you will be invited to participate in a nearby state event if you can cover your travel costs. Events are in October and November­– dates are online.

Nominations close 12pm AEST Monday, 2 August 2021 (The deadline has been extended from  29 July 2021).

Learn more

Seeking a social media specialist!

The SSA is seeking a new Vice President of Media and Communications. This person will work with the established Media and Communications team to drive the SSA’s engagement with people on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc! You can find more information about the role in the document here.

If you’re a social media specialist and are keen to contribute to the SSA, or just want to know more, get in touch with Jess Kasza or Marie-Louise Rankin

R-Ladies Melbourne presents

A remote glimpse into the useR! 2021 conference

Tuesday, 3 August 2021, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm AEST - online

Recently the useR! 2021 conference was held. useR! is the main annual R conference where R users, developers, or simply R lovers from any level of experience come together to share new packages and ideas. If you missed out this years useR! conference, or have never had the chance to attend, then this event will be for you! Our very own Anna Quaglieri will give a seminar about her experiences at useR! 2021!

Officially, useR! 2021 was held in Zürich, but due to the ongoing pandemic it was run completely online. In this talk, Anna Quaglieri is going to share her conference experience and highlights that she could follow from the comfort of her Melbourne bedroom. The talk will cover a broad range of topics, from new packages for data visualization, discussions and methods to allow R in production, package testing, highlights from keynotes talks, and more!

Find out more 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

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

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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