10 March 2022

Dear {Contact_First_Name},  

Earlier this week the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Well, maybe not the whole world. In Turkey, for example, women were arrested for daring to mark the occasion with a march. This is less than a year after Turkey decided to withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention. Sometimes it is difficult to get your head around the fact that so much that has been achieved can be taken away in a flash.

In Australia we have the right laws in place to guarantee equal opportunities for all genders. Despite this, businesswomen are still not found in senior leadership positions in the numbers that you would hope for in the 21st century.

The most recent gender equality scorecard, published annually by the Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), indicates that women comprise 51% of the Australian workforce, but represent only:

  • 34.5% of key management positions
  • 32.5% of directors
  • 19.4% of CEOs
  • 18% of board chairs

These numbers are disappointing, especially if you compare them to some of the EUROSTAT figures on female managers (for example Latvia (47%) and Poland (43%)). 

Of course, it is in the interest of every woman to bump up the numbers of women in management in Australia. However, it is also in the interest of businesses. There are many reasons why organisations should strive for gender equality at all levels, including the top positions. Research has shown that diversity, especially at the decision-making level, leads to greater innovation and creativity. Equal opportunity employment and promotions will demonstrate to staff that they are working in an inclusive organisation, where their work is recognised irrespective of their gender. This improves workplace morale and employee retention. Also, women are generally recognised for their emotional intelligence, assisting with healthy workplace relations. In a nutshell: women are an asset and should be treated as such.

And on that note, albeit two days late: Happy International Women’s Day!

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer

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Looking back with our Past Presidents:

Adrian Barnett, President 2018-2020

I was president from 2018 to 2020 and it was a fantastic experience. Statistics has given me an incredible career and I feel I owe something back. I felt proud to represent my amazing colleagues who work hard across the country to turn numbers into useful evidence and advice. I was a happy cheerleader for our profession because I’m convinced that statistics is both wonderful and in dire need of more national investment.

“We need fewer statisticians” said nobody ever. Instead, I regularly receive emails from non-statistical colleagues asking if I know of any available statisticians – which I don’t! So many important projects are not getting the qualified statistical expertise that they need.

The fact that I still get these emails makes me think I did a bad job as president! But turning around the under-investment in maths and stats at Australian schools and universities is a huge task. We provide a consistent national voice on these issues, and I was also proud of how we gave strong support to colleagues whose departments were under threat of closure.

A huge highlight of my presidency was the Young Stats conference in Canberra – back when conferences were face-to-face. The variety of topics was incredible, and the standard of the talks was way higher than most “normal” conferences. Although I badly over-dressed on the dinner night (see photo) I had tremendous fun launching my “normal distribution” drawing competition, testing my theory that statistical ability is correlated with the ability to draw a normal distribution. The future of statistics in Australia looks bright.

Another highlight of my presidency was the great people I got to work with, with special mention for Marie-Louise Rankin (Executive Officer and the person who keeps it all together), Doug Shaw (Secretary and fountain of knowledge), Jessica Kasza (current president), Raaj Kishore Biswas (Young Stats Chair at the time) and Carmen Lim (VP Communications). 

All the people I worked with clearly respected each other and we also had fun, that’s why we were able to do so many positive things. 

I remember reading that a philosophy department in the UK had to build a wall in the corridor to separate two rival factions. These guys could learn something from us! We are a small group, but we are united, and we are working together to help statistics grow. 

A note from the SSA office:
The SSA office will be closed on Monday, 14 March 2022 because of the Canberra Day public holiday.

ISI Statement on Ukraine

The SSA strongly supports and endorses the International Statistical Institute's (ISI's) condemnation of the unprovoked attack on Ukraine. You can read the ISI's statement here:

"Dear members,

The ISI strongly condemns all military aggression, and in particular that currently taking place in Ukraine. It is of global concern. We express our support for the Ukrainian people and all who are victims of these events.

The current actions, as with all military aggression, will seriously impact on statistical science and the work of statisticians, both in the field of academic and official statistics, not only in Ukraine but also in the Russian Federation, and in other neighboring countries. In particular, the actions will cause disruption to the statistical processes that official statistics rely on, leading to a lack of information on Ukrainian society and its economy; with an impact on the quality of statistics, especially on key indicators such as the movement of people and trade.

The ISI and its seven associations have a long tradition of collaborating with statisticians and organizations in Ukraine as well as in the Russian Federation and other countries in the region, where we have a number of members.

Our mission is to lead, support and promote the understanding, development and good practices of statistics worldwide. International co-operation on statistics remains the cornerstone of our mission. We continue our support of the scientific work of Russian and Ukrainian statisticians, including students whose studies have been interrupted by the conflict. However, in the light of these extraordinary circumstances, and while we do not hold our Russian colleagues responsible for the actions of their government, the ISI has decided to refrain from organizing and/or supporting statistical events in Russia. We have also put the activities of the ISI Eurasian Outreach Committee on hold.

We will reconsider our position in the light of changes in the current situation.

Stephen Penneck, ISI President

Ada van Krimpen, ISI Director"

Newsletter Reflections

I recently referred past President Tim Brown to SSA’s newsletter archive, because he was interested in what was happening in the Society during his tenure as President. He replied with the following observation, which I thought was timely and appropriate to share with our newsletter readers:

“The most poignant part of reading the newsletters for me was reading Eugene Seneta’s article in the March 1993 issue about the Ukrainian mathematician Kravchuk…. I did know about the Australian connection to Kravchuk polynomials via Oliver Lancaster, Geoff Eagleson (my PhD supervisor) and Bob Griffiths (also supervised by Geoff ...). The poignancy comes not least from the fact that Kravchuk died in a labour camp in Siberia in 1942, sent there after being arrested in 1938 because of his connections with foreign mathematicians."   

Want to get involved with your professional association?

The following  volunteering positions are currently available:

ANZJS "Social Media Editor" (Deadline 1 April 2022)

SSA Mentoring Program Committee Member

Chair, Student and Early Career Statistician Network Committee

Francis Hui awarded Christopher Heyde Medal

Today the Australian Academy of Science announced its 2022 honorific awardees. Warmest congratulations to the Past President and current VP of the SSA Canberra Branch, Dr Francis Hui, on having been awarded the Academy’s Christopher Heyde Medal.  The Christopher Heyde Medal recognises outstanding research in the mathematical sciences by researchers up to 10 years post PhD.

It honours the contributions to mathematics by the late Professor Christopher Charles Heyde AM, DSc, Hon DSc(Syd), FAA, FASSA. Professor Heyde was the Foundation Dean of the School of Mathematical Sciences at the Australian National University, and Professor Emeritus of Statistics at Columbia University, New York. Christopher Heyde was President of the SSA from 1979 until 1981.

Watch Francis discuss his research and receiving the Christopher Heyde Medal in the video produced by the Australian Academy of Science.

Nominations for the 2023 awards are now open.

Read the ANU Media Release

Anatomy of a Rain Bomb

This week, due to the recent extreme weather events, I learned a few new words, such as "rain bomb" and "atmospheric river". What is a rain bomb?  According to Wiktionary it is "a wet microburst or macroburst; a downdraft produced by a thunderstorm". Wikipedia explained that an atmospheric river is a “narrow corridor or filament of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere". 

In his article "Anatomy of a ‘rain bomb’: scientists strive to understand phenomenon that caused Australia’s east coast floods" (The Guardian, 5 March 2022), reporter Graham Readfearn writes about four scientists investigating the causes of the record breaking rainfall we had. He quotes Kimberley Reid, PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, who has been researching extreme weather events and concludes: “I’ve found that over Sydney, the frequency of these long duration events will increase by 80% by the end of this century.”

Her prediction is echoed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. In the IPCC’s recent report on the impacts of climate change and how we can adapt to them, researchers found that the scale of the impacts threaten to overwhelm our ability to cope in the coming decades. Seemingly unable to turn back the clock, the world now needs to find ways to deal with the dire consequences of climate change. This requires immediate and radical transformations in our daily lives, at home and at work,  while trying to undo the damage that has been done.

Some of the points made in the report are

  • Rising sea levels and changes in weather patterns can be slowed but not stopped
  • While Australia is adapting, changes are taking place too slowly
  • State and federal governments have failed to adequately plan for rising sea levels

You can read the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report hereIf you would like to learn more about Kimberley Reid’s weather and climate change research, read the full article "Anatomy of a Rain Bomb" here.

Could you be our new Chair of SSA's Student and Early Career Statistician Network Committee?

We are looking for a student or early career statistician to take on the role of Early Career & Student Statisticians Network (ECSSN) Chair from April 2022.

The ECSSN Chair is an important position on the Society’s Executive Committee (EC). The holder of this position will work closely with the ECSSN Branch representatives, consider important issues facing early career statisticians and report back to the EC at their monthly meetings.  Traditionally, the ECSSC Chair helps with organising events, including SSA’s signature event for early career and upcoming statisticians, the biennial ECSS Conference.

Being the Chair of the ECSSN will provide a fantastic opportunity to broaden your own experience while helping your fellow student and early career statisticians and promoting statistics. Contribute to your field and build your CV! This is an honorary two-year role; find more details here

Please contact the current Chair, Janan Arslan or the SSA President, Jess Kasza if you have questions about the role.

To apply, please email your CV and a brief description of what you think you could bring to the role to the SSA Executive Officer before 1 April 2022. 

How to make the perfect chip butty

There is a lot of serious stuff happening in the world at the moment. Just for a moment, let's take a break from all of that, and have a lighthearted look at the formula for the best chip butty! I'm more a bacon butty woman myself, but according to New Food Magazine, US, Nottingham Trent University statistician Dr James Hind recently created a formula for the perfect chip butty! After many experiments and surveys on the important question of what constitutes the perfect chip butty, Dr Hind found that the ideal ratio of chips to buttered bread plus ketchup by weight is three quarters. "On that basis, a layer of 12 chips weighing around 60g should go between two 40g medium slices of white bread." You can read all about this important research and more importantly, find the fail-proof recipe here.

Can I just state for the record that if anyone is planning a trial on a similar topic, perhaps involving chocolate, please sign me up!

Significance 2022 Early-Career Writing Competition

Are you an early-career statistician with a compelling data story to tell? It sounds like the Significance 2022 writing competition is for you! The Significance magazine, a partnership between the Royal Statistical Society, American Statistical Association and the Statistical Society of Australia, is seeking applications for the ‘Statistical Excellence Award for Early-Career Writing’. 

The closing date is 31st May 2022; further details can be found here.

SSA Events

Queensland Branch March Meeting: Linking Heterogeneous Human Cognition with Household Financial Stress in an Agent-Based Model: Livestock Vaccine Decision-Making Among the Global Poor

11 Mar 2022, 12:30 PM AEST in room 620, Q-Block, Kelvin Grove, QUT campus/ or online.

Learn more and rgister here

Please join us for this Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Section Event: 

COVID-19: Unexpected Opportunities and Lessons for Australia's Biostatistics, Bioinformatics and Epidemiological Community

30 Mar 2022, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (AEDT), held online

Several Australian scientists unexpectedly shot to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Biostatistical concepts and models were discussed on breakfast television and news radio, presenting a significant communication challenge. At the same time, a number of our community actively and publicly critiqued high-profile studies of COVID-19, generating substantial (and at times very personal) criticism. 

In this lunchtime webinar we will hear from Adrian Esterman and Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz about their whirlwind journeys from 'quiet' academia to high-profile sci-comm personality, with a focus on the lessons biostatisticians and bioinformaticians can take from these experiences. Please join us!

To register click here.

NSW Branch 2022 AGM, followed by the Lancaster Lecture

23 Mar 2022, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM (AEDT), held at the University of Sydney 

We are happy to announce that we will be having our 74th (2022) AGM on 23 March 2022 at the University of Sydney. We encourage you to join us physically so that you will be able to chat to your peers. 

After the AGM we will have the Lancaster Lecture given by our new branch president Dr. Clara Grazian about clustering:

A mixing path from theory to applications

Clustering is an important task in many areas of knowledge: medicine and epidemiology, genomics, environmental science, economics, visual sciences, among others. Methodologies to perform inference on the number of clusters have often been proved to be inconsistent and introducing a dependence structure among the clusters implies additional difficulties in the estimation process. In a Bayesian setting, clustering in the situation where the number of clusters is unknown is often performed by using Dirichlet process priors or finite mixture models. However, the posterior distributions on the number of groups have been recently proved to be inconsistent. This lecture aims at reviewing the Bayesian approaches available to perform via mixture models and give some new point of view. 

If you would like to attend virtually please register in advance here. For more information and registration click here.

Vic Branch AGM and Branch Talk

30 March 2022, The University of Melbourne, Tea Room, School of Mathematics and Statistics, Peter Hall Building (160), 813 Swanston St, Parkville or online

5:30pm- 6:00pm (AEDT) - AGM

6:00 -7:00PM (AEDT) – Joint presentation, Dr Damjan Vukcevic and Prof Philip Stark.

Members of SSA Victorian Branch, which includes those in Tasmania, are cordially invited to attend either in-person or online via Zoom for the SSA Vic Annual General Meeting on 30th March from 5.30pm to 6.00pm, vote on proposed change to the Rules and Regulations and elect our Council for 2022. The relevant documentations, including the Annual Report, will be circulated prior to the AGM.

For those who wish to join the Council for 2022, please send an email nominating yourself to and copy in a current member of the Branch who is willing to second your nomination. The same goes for voting via proxy – if you are unable to attend and wish another member to vote on your behalf, please send an email to, stating which member you would like to act as your proxy.

You must be logged in to your SSA account on the website in order to register for the AGM. If you have any difficulties please email us at

Following the AGM, we will hear from Dr Damjan Vukcevic and Prof Philip Stark who will give a joint presentation on the timely topic of election. More details will follow soon.

At the start of this event, we will also be announcing the winner of the Di Cook Award.

Please register for this event here.  

Register here for the Vic Branch AGM

Other events

World University Ranking systems, Texas Target Practice, and a Gedankenexperiment

presented by Nicholas Fisher

11 March 2022, 2-3pm AEDT

Access Grid Room, Carslaw Building, University of Sydney and online

World University Ranking (WUR) systems play a significant role in how universities are funded and whom they can attract as faculty and students. Yet, for the purpose of comparing universities as institutions of higher education, current systems are readily gamed, provide little guidance about what needs to be improved, and fail to allow for the diversity of stakeholder needs in making comparisons.

We suggest a list of criteria that a WUR system should meet, and which none of the current popular systems appear to satisfy. By using as a starting point the goal of creating value for the diverse and sometimes competing stakeholder requirements for a university, we suggest via a thought experiment a rating process that is consistent with all the criteria, and a way in which it might be trialed. Also, the resulting system itself adds value for individual users by allowing them to tune it to their own particular circumstances.

However, an answer to the simple question “Which is the best university” may well be: there is no simple answer.

Join the event here (Zoom link)

SSA Career Centre

Hiring in a candidate driven market is tough. As an employer, it can be difficult to find the right talent. SSA's career centre is the best source to look for highly-qualified professionals in your industry, making sure that you're spending your recruiting dollars on the right resources.

With SSA's career centre's pay-per-use Resume Bank, you'll be able to search through anonymous resumes before you pay anything. Browse and contact candidates for free. Pay only when the candidate accepts your invite.

Check out SSA's Career Centre here

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

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