5 August 2021

Dear {Contact_First_Name}, 

Not long ago our Early Career and Student Statistician Conference 2021 (ECSSC2021) wrapped up and I would like to congratulate the ECSSC2021 Committee, competently led by Chair Janan Arslan, on a stellar job. They pulled off an amazing event, which is even more impressive considering the uncertainty surrounding meetings of any kind these days in the COVID environment. They demonstrated adaptability, resilience and patience and they took their delegates, including myself, on a learning journey of new event technology. If this is the next generation of statisticians in Australia, the future for the statistical community looks very bright indeed.

My favourite session was a panel discussion called: “How can the Early Career and Student Statistician Network & SSA meet the needs of early career and student statisticians?” What struck me were comments from people mentioning they suffered (or had suffered in the past) from “imposter syndrome”, young people thinking they were not good or experienced enough to be part of their professional society. Some mentioned they actually did not feel like they are real statisticians, feeling nervous when mingling with more senior statisticians or even contacting the SSA office!  With many of us coming from a (slightly!) older generation, I think we sometimes have to remind ourselves that perhaps we were not always as confident as we are now.  We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the next generation once in a while and try to see the professional world through their eyes, while remembering how we felt when we started out in our careers.

Let’s all take this on board and next time you find yourself at a face-to-face branch meeting (let’s hope you all get to attend one soon!), keep an eye out for that unsure person on the sidelines, introduce yourself and start a conversation. Make them feel welcome and please dispel them of the notion that they are too young or too inexperienced to call themselves a statistician.

And please don’t ever be nervous about contacting the SSA office. I love interacting with our members.

Take care and stay safe,

Marie-Louise Rankin
SSA Executive Officer

Read newsletter in your browser

ECSSC2021- Were you there?

The Early Career Statisticians and Students Conference (ECSSC) kicked off a full week of keynote speakers, panel discussions, abstract and poster presentations, and social events on the 26th of July, 2021.  The event, previously known as the Young Statisticians Conference, is a forum designed to connect statisticians who are in the early stages of their careers. This year it was entirely virtual for the first time.

Delegates were treated to talks on a wide range of topics covering innovative academic research, solutions developed for industry, and tips for navigating the rigors of study and life on the job.

Keynote speakers with a wealth of experience in their respective fields generously shared their work and wisdom. Peter Taylor of the University of Melbourne discussed modelling the Bitcoin Blockchain. Minh-Ngoc Tran of the University of Sydney made the case for Variational Bayes. Kendra Vant took us through the machine learning techniques she uses to create products at Xero. Paola Oliva-Altamirano shared the lessons she and her team at Innovations Lab (Our Community/ SmartyGrants) have learned in creating text classifiers for machine learning models. And finally, Helena Jia presented an inside look into the complex world of educational survey assessment design and analysis.

Read Sherri McRae's full article here

"I thoroughly enjoyed attending the ECSSC 2021 conference!  There were a wide variety of really interesting presentations and it was inspiring to hear about the different work being conducted by my peers.  I was a bit hesitant about attending a virtual conference but I really enjoyed chatting with others over Slack and sharing our PhD experiences."

Sharmala Thuraisingam

The new questions that will (and won’t) be asked in the census

In his article on 1 August 2021 in the Sydney Morning Herald, Tom Cowie asks: “Lockdowns got you bored of watching Netflix? The Australian Bureau of Statistics is here to provide one night of in-home entertainment, as long as demographics and personal questions are your thing.”  As this newsletter goes out to statisticians only, I know, of course, that demographics are your thing! The deadline for the 2021 Census is just around the corner with only five days to go from today.

For the first time, this year’s census will ask respondents if they have any long-term health conditions, giving them a list to choose from that includes asthma, cancer, depression, anxiety and dementia. There will also be a question about whether someone has ever served in the Australian Defence Force, including the reserves.

Ms Teresa Dickinson, Deputy Australian Statistician at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and member of SSA of many years, said both topics would help better understand and tailor services in health and veterans’ affairs. 

A subject that was not added to this year’s census is a question about people’s sexual orientation.

“It made it on to our shortlist of eight, we investigated it in quite some detail,” Teresa Dickinson explained. “And in the end, the government makes the decisions on what goes onto the census rather than the ABS. The government was appraised of the pros and cons of putting those questions on, and they made their choice.”

Read Tom Cowie's article 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, Nicola Armstrong 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.

To find out more and to register, click here.

Celebration of Women in Australian Mathematical Sciences - including statistics!

The WIMSIG Conference 2021 (postponed from 2020) will now be taking place at a range of “local hubs” on Friday 1st October this year. There will be events in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, and Perth, with events live-streamed so that everyone can take part: regardless of lockdowns! However - local hubs will include in-person activities, so we would encourage you to attend one of these if you are able, given your local ever-changing COVID situation. Of particular interest to statisticians will be a plenary talk by the Dr Kristian Lum, who is slated to speak about her work on algorithmic fairness. Please register your proposed attendance here

Please register your proposed attendance here.


August Issue of Significance out now!

Lapses in concentration while driving can be fatal, so if a person experiences a seizure – whether behind the wheel or not – UK authorities require that person to take time off driving until the risk of another seizure falls below a set threshold.

But how much time off is required? In the August 2021 issue of Significance, Laura Bonnett explains how statistics helped find an answer. 

Also, what is the smallest percentage of the popular vote that a US presidential candidate can receive and still win the election? Benjamin Leinwand, Puyao Ge, Vidyadhar Kulkarni and Richard Smith consider a range of scenarios – from the realistic to the implausible – to answer this question.


Membership of the SSA includes online access to Significance.

Find out how

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

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

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.

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

02 6251 3647 |