23 September 2021

Dear {Contact_First_Name}, 

Are you currently in lock-down? Dreaming of a day on the beach, where you can just sit with your favourite book, a cold can of Coke (or something stronger) in your “Cool Cabana” beach tent and don’t have to pretend to be exercising?

Let’s hope your State Premier read Latika Bourke’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald last Sunday. Latika writes that “British statistics suggest beaches aren’t COVID superspreader hotspots”.

She quotes Professor Mark Woolhouse, a government scientific adviser and epidemiologist at Edinburgh University, who says that “No, SARS-CoV-2 does not transmit well outdoors, especially where there is sunlight and wind. There has never been an outbreak linked to people being on beaches.”

It seems that Mark Woolhouse is backed up by fellow scientist Graham Medley, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Professor Medley was quoted in the same article to say that people going to the beach in large numbers “resulted in almost no extra transmission”. He compared this to crowds at festivals, who had been linked to increased spread of the virus and explains:

“The difference is likely to be the nature of the contact – the beach setting in the UK involves small groups and families going and keeping apart and having little contact and largely outdoors.”

However, while beaches are deemed relatively safe, beach dwellers will increase their risk of contracting COVID-19 by doing the things that many of us associate with going to beach: stopping at a café for ice cream or piling into a car or public transport to get to the beach.

Maybe it’s time to get the old bicycle out again?

Stay safe!

Marie-Louise Rankin
SSA Executive Officer

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Australia’s population growth close to zero

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) published a media release last week, highlighting the impact of the international border closures on overseas migration to and from Australia.

Australia’s population growth was close to zero in the twelve months leading up to March 2021. ABS Demography Director Beidar Cho explained: “Australia’s population grew by just over 0.1 per cent (35,700 people) to 25.7 million, in contrast to a growth of 1.5 per cent we had in the 2019 calendar year. This is the first full year of data reflecting the impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s population. “

For the first time since 1946 net overseas migration was negative, with departures exceeding arrivals by 95,300.

The ABS’ media release comes with a table showing migration within Australia during the same twelve months. What stands out in this table is the exodus from Victoria (minus 42,900). The population increase of 43,900 in Queensland may give us a hint where the majority of Victorian emigrants moved to.

Read more here.

The world’s tallest populace is shrinking, and scientists want to know why

In an article published by the Washington Post on Monday this week, author Rachel Pannett addresses the question why the Dutch, for many years holding the record of being the tallest people on the planet, are shrinking. Scientists don’t have the answer yet as to why this is.

The most obvious answer could be nutrition, of course. People are eating very differently today than they did just thirty or forty years ago. For many people Fast Food, not exactly known for its high nutritional content, is a staple of their diet. An increase in veganism could have something to do with a reduction in height as well.

As similar trend has been documented in the US, where the average inhabitants, while not shrinking, are not growing either, at least not vertically. It would be interesting to see similar research about Australians.

Read the complete article here

Leading in a Crisis: Why Women Leaders Excel

At Wiley’s recent virtual Society Executive Seminar forum, delegates heard from Dr. Helen Burstin, CEO of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies. Dr Burstin’s keynote “Leading in a Crisis: Why Women Leaders Excel” focused on what we know about women leadership in a crisis using COVID-19 as the lens and offered ways to increase women in leadership positions. She used a quote that struck a special chord with me: “While ‘charm and confidence’ may help leaders achieve top positions, qualities like empathy and humility are critical to leadership.” (J. Stillman). A recording of the keynote is available and will take just under twelve minutes of your time.

SSA online newsletter archive to be expanded

A big shout-out to SSA member Eric Sowey, who took advantage of lock-down to undertake a big clean-out of his home and offered me his old SSA newsletters, going back to the first issue. While the SSA office already had hardcopies of those early newsletters, they are bound into books, making it impossible for me to scan them. Now that we have Eric’s copies, we can scan the early issues and add them to the newsletter archive on the SSA website in due course. Watch this space!

Thank you, Eric!

Latest edition of the Statistical Journal of the IAOS devoted to "Training in Official Statistics"

The latest edition of the Statistical Journal of the International Association for Official Statistics has appeared; devoted to "Training in Official Statistics".

Recommended is the editorial by Pieter Everaars (open access). And particularly interesting is his reference to Adaptive Statistical Practice.

Read it here

Australian Public Service Data Professional Stream Video Library

The Australian Public Service Data Professional Stream links data professionals from across the Australian Public Service together.  The Data Professional Stream video library, available here, may be of interest to SSA members. Along with Australian Statistician Dr David Gruen's conversations with a range of interesting people, including the CEO of Kaggle, Alan Kohler, and Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, recordings of Technical Forums are also available. Keep an eye out as more videos are added!

Nominations Sought for 2022 COPSS Awards

Each year, the statistical profession recognises outstanding members at the Joint Statistical Meetings in an awards ceremony organised by the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS). Nominations are an important part of the process, and everyone can contribute—from the newest to most senior members of our societies. We recognise excellence in our mentors, colleagues, and friends, and it is important to single out those who have made exceptional contributions to the profession. So please take a few minutes, review the various COPSS Awards, and see if you can identify worthy individuals.

Nominations should be submitted by 15 December 2021.

See the different award options here

Margins of Error - Podcast

Every stat has a story and CNN’s Harry Enten is on a mission to find out what the numbers have to say about who we are and what we believe.

Look closely at almost anything and you’ll find data—lots of it. But when you push past the calculations, what are all those numbers really saying about who we are and what we believe? CNN’s Harry Enten is on a mission to find out. This new podcast season on Margins of Error, Harry looks at why belief in ghosts is on the rise, the case for letting states decide whether to acknowledge Daylight Saving Time, and why human composting—not cremation—may be the answer to a climate friendly death.

Go to the podcast series

Joint SSA Canberra + Canberra Data Scientists Online Meeting:

Using Data Analytics for Audits

28 Sep 2021, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM (AEST) via Microsoft Teams

In this talk Ms Xiaoyan Lu will share

  • how data analytics is applied in the audit context;
  • her experience and lessons learned of establishing data analytics teams and delivering data analytics strategy in government agencies; and
  • what capabilities that employers are after when recruiting data scientists and analysts.  

No RSVP required for this meeting. Just click here to join.

For more information please click here.

The SSA Vic Branch’s 2021 Belz Lecture will be presented online by Professor Andrew Forbes on

Tuesday, 12 October 2021, 6pm AEDT.

Andrew will speak about

Tales of clinical trials, tribulations, twists and turns

In this era of COVID-19 we constantly hear about case numbers of people infected, vaccines and epidemic modelling, and, particularly early in the epidemic, randomised clinical trials of treatments for COVID-19-infected patients. In my experience, the general public’s perception of clinical trials is that they are limited to evaluation of new drugs or treatments for particular conditions. Arguably, among some statisticians (including an earlier version of myself), there may be a perception that the statistical issues and analyses of randomised trials are formulaic and rather routine, due to the reliance on the virtues of randomisation. However, this is certainly not the case and there is a fascinating world of randomised trials both inside and outside of drug development. In this talk I’ll focus primarily on trials outside of drug development and discuss my experience with a diverse array of such trials and some unanticipated twists and turns that needed addressing from a statistical or practical perspective.

Find out more and register here

Fellowship Funding Support

For 2022 the SSA is once again offering Fellowship Funding Support for our members applying for ARC DECRA and Future Fellowships (Level 1): $3000 to complement your Fellowship activities.

The deadline for applications is 30 September 2021. 

For more information and the application form, see the website here.

NSW Branch September Meeting: Sieve bootstrap memory parameter in long-range dependent stationary functional time series 

presented by Prof. Hanlin Shang

29th September 2021, on Zoom from 6pm AEST (Date correction!)

We apply a sieve bootstrap procedure to quantify estimation uncertainty of long-memory parameter in stationary functional time series. To estimate the long-memory parameter, we use a semiparametric local Whittle estimator, where discrete Fourier transform and periodogram are constructed from the first set of principal component scores, via a functional principal component analysis. The sieve bootstrap procedure uses a general vector autoregressive representation of the estimated principal component scores. It generates bootstrap replicates that adequately mimic the dependence structure of the underlying stationary process. For each bootstrap replicate, we first compute the estimated first set of principal component scores and then apply the semiparametric local Whittle estimator to estimate the memory parameter. By taking quantiles of the estimated memory parameters from these bootstrap replicates, we can construct confidence intervals of the long-memory parameter. As measured by coverage probability differences between the empirical and nominal coverage probabilities at three levels of significance, we demonstrate the advantage of using the sieve bootstrap in comparison to the asymptotic confidence intervals based on normality.

Register here

QLD Branch September meeting: Statisticians and the reproducibility crisis

Tuesday 28th September 2021, 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM AEST (Branch meeting at 16:30 followed by a seminar-discussion at 17:00) – via Zoom

Statisticians play a key role in almost all scientific research, and so are also key to tackling the reproducibility crisis which is undermining the value of much scientific research. Our role may be particularly important given that many problems with irreproducible papers are due to problems in the study design, statistical analysis and interpretation of results. We must promote more efficient, replicable and credible science, starting today, by being the role-model statisticians that we need for tomorrow.

Four speakers (Dr Sabine Hoffmann, Dr John Maindonald, Dr Terry Neeman and Professor Adrian Barnett) will give their perspective on statistics and the reproducibility crisis, and also give their opinions on how statisticians can help improve the quality of research. We hope to have at least 20 minutes for discussion after the speakers' presentations, so please come along and share your thoughts on this hugely important topic.

Find out more and book your place.

SSA Peer-Review Seminar and Panel Discussion-25 Oct 2021,
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM (AEDT), Online

Are you curious about the peer-review process used by academic journals? Have you been asked to review a paper for a journal but not sure where to start? Do you want to improve your own academic writing and chance of getting published?

In this seminar, Dr Myra McGuinness will provide a general overview of the peer-review process. This will be followed by a panel discussion on reviewing statistical methodology papers with Professor Kate Lee, Professor Andrew Forbes and Professor Alan Welsh. This session is targeted at students and early-career statisticians, but we welcome anyone with questions about peer review to join.

It is free for members but you do need to register.

Register here

Data Visualisation with R

SSA is pleased to announce this workshop, held on  

6 Dec 2021, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, online

presented by Professor Di Cook and Dr Emi Tanaka.

Data visualisation is a key statistical tool for effective communication and to understand aspects of data and models. The statistical language R is used widely for data analysis and visualization, e.g. the BBC Visual and Data Journalism team uses ggplot2 R-package to create production-ready charts. This workshop will teach you how to create production-ready graphics using the grammar of graphics implemented in ggplot2 R-package. In addition, the workshop will teach you how to construct more complex plots, including maps, and discuss inference for statistical graphics to understand if what we see in a plot is really there. The workshop will be hands-on with plenty of practical examples.

For more information and to register click here.

This workshop is now full but you can add your details to the waitlist.

The NSW Branch of SSA is pleased to offer the following two-day online workshop:

An Introduction to Bayesian Modelling Using Greta

presented by Professor Nick Golding

on 16 Nov 2021 – 17 Nov 2021.

Nick Golding is an infectious disease modeller with a focus on globally-important pathogens. Nick's work combines mathematical and statistical modelling, ecology, public health, and research software engineering.

After this course you will be able to:

  • Fit and predict from Bayesian generalised linear models in greta
  • Check model convergence and fit (including prior and posterior predictive checks)
  • Summarise MCMC outputs
  • Be able to fit more advanced models including mixture and hierarchical models
  • Create visualisations and tables of the model outputs for use in understanding model fit and for publication.
For more information and to register click here.

Missed any webinars or branch events?

We recently uploaded new recordings to the SSA website. Only SSA members have access to these recordings:

  • Can a digital, geospatially enhanced data ecosystem incorporate Indigenous defined protocols, principles and approaches to achieve data democracy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples? -Darren Clinch
  • Biostatistics collaborations in Health and Social research: The road taken- Alberto Nettel-Aguirre
  • The Science of Survival in Game of Thrones - Reidar Lystad

Check out current job vacancies in SSA's Career Centre here

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer - School of Mathematical Sciences

The University of Adelaide

(Level B, Lecturer) $100,933 to $119,391 or (Level ...

Associate Professor/Professor in Mathematical Sciences

The University of Adelaide

(Level D/E) $147,685 to $189,518 per annum plus ...

Post-Doctoral Fellow

University of Sydney

Undertake research into tuberculosis epidemiology ...

Biostatistician Senior Research Fellow

Austin Health

Biostatistician (Research) Fixed term Part ...


University of Sydney

Senior Biostatistician required to provide statistical ...

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