12 May 2022

Dear {Contact_First_Name},  

In her article below, reflecting on SSA’s earlier years, Past President Helen MacGillivray mentions – amongst other things - her involvement with getting SSA’s accreditation program off the ground in the mid-nineties.

Over the years many of our members have received prestigious AStat accreditation status. Currently we can call 129 AStat accredited members our own and looking at the retention rate of AStats these members like their credentials. Not only do they renew their membership year after year, but they also tend to engage significantly with SSA. The trust mark, suggested by AStat accredited member Helen Bartley, was first introduced in 2018 and is a great addition to the AStat accreditation program, allowing accredited members to demonstrate their status with every email they send and on their stationery and business cards.

SSA offers GStat accreditation as well, of course. Here, the story is somewhat different. As more universities obtain accreditation of their statistics courses, making it very easy for those completing the courses to obtain GStat status, it is a no-brainer to go for GStat accreditation. Sadly, many GStat holders let their membership drop soon after, probably not realising that their accreditation lapses the moment their membership expires. Perhaps though they have landed that perfect job by then and don’t feel the need to keep up the GStat credentials? What a shame though because they are probably well on their way to accumulating more practical experience and statistical expertise, which would make them ideal candidates for AStat Accreditation in the not too far away future.

Find out more about SSA’s accreditation options here.

The next Accreditation Committee meeting will be held at the end of June 2022, so keep those applications coming.

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer

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Please note that the SSA office will be closed from 19 May until 6 June 2022 while the Executive Officer is on recreational leave. 

You can still contribute to next week's newsletter until Thursday morning, 19 May 2022, 9:00am AEST.

Looking back with our Past Presidents:

Helen MacGillivray, President 1995-1997

A professional society is its people and all members of SSA and other statistical societies, international and national, are flag-bearers and ambassadors for the statistical sciences which are more important now than ever before. After being SSA president, I was president of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Council (AMSC), and 10 years later, president of the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE), vice-president of ISI for 4 years, and ISI president 2017-2019. I have met, interacted and worked with, so many talented, dedicated, enthusiastic and wonderful people across the statistical community and the world, on the frontline and behind the scenes, and it is the memories of people which will always stay with me.

Thanks Dennis Trewin for reflecting on the history of SSA newsletters and to SSA for putting them on the website; browsing them is fascinating. This is also an opportunity to pay tribute to Doug Shaw, for his long and excellent work on the newsletter and for his dedication and diverse support of SSA – organisational and of individual members - over more than 4 decades.

As others have commented, the years 1991-1997 were busy for SSA, with increasing national and professional perspectives, including active involvement with FASTS and AMSC. I worked closely as secretary with Tim Brown, Ron Sandland, Jeff Wood, and then with Ray Chambers and Neville Weber in 1995-1997. As Richard Jarrett commented, in February 1990, the Society became an incorporated body, but just two years later, the Rules and Regulations had to be completely overhauled to meet the new ACT Incorporations Act whose requirements, still applicable today, needed considerable thought and explanations to Branches. The first AGM of members of SSA and Australian Statistical Publishing Association (ASPA) was held in March, 1993.


Neville Weber, Helen MacGillivray and Des Nicholls at a Central Council meeting in 1997

After work by a committee chaired by Ron, a survey of members and much discussion, accreditation was accepted. The model I wrote using members’ feedback plus other models, was approved by the 1996 AGM, and the first accreditation committee appointed in February, 1997. At SISC 1996, my meeting with the RSS president to negotiate reciprocal accreditation was unsuccessful despite his saying the RSS would use some of our ideas. The Regulations (or By-laws) of Constitutions contain guidance for practical implementation of the Rules; for SSA this includes the full accreditation model and the Code of Conduct, based on Eden Brinkley’s work reported in the May 1997 Newsletter.

Another major development was the merging of the Australian and New Zealand journals into ANZJS and simultaneously moving to professional publication. I found the financial balancing work more demanding than the Constitution overhaul, but after endless spreadsheet trialling and excellent Australian and New Zealand collaboration on the legal and logistical challenges, the merge was approved at the July 1997 AGM. Creating international legal entities is very difficult; the presence of ASPA to use as the natural existing legal body was a great help.

As guest speakers at the first national young statisticians conference, organised by Peter Hall and Ann Cowling in September, 1993, and following on successful regional meetings, Tim Brown and I listened to early career experiences from across the country. When I proposed in 1994 a Young Statisticians Section, there were questions as to whether a Section was the appropriate structure, but it was quickly approved, and has flourished. It is of interest to watch the Sections change over time; such histories should be included in professional society websites for the benefit of members.

Circa 1994 was a time of change for many and in many contexts. For me, I was asked to be SSA president at the same time as being asked to do a second term on the ARC’s Institutional Grants Committee (forerunner of the Linkage Program), and to be a Deputy Dean. At the same time I was developing major and exciting statistical teaching, curricula, and extension innovations but that’s a big story for another day. From the time I did an ANU vacation scholarship supervised by Pat Moran (as an oddity amongst the astronomy vacation scholars), the tug of the statistical community was always the strongest, so I chose the statistical professional and teaching paths.  

And a whole of statistical community approach is needed now more than ever in statistical and data science education, across all educational levels from primary to the workplace, into and across all disciplines. Currently the biggest challenges and opportunities are in middle school, introductory tertiary and later tertiary in other disciplines. The teaching of statistics and statistical thinking is as enormous as it is important, and the lessons of decades are essential for data science education. Why has the long time advocacy of thinking statisticians and statistical educators not penetrated sufficiently and why are successful innovations not sustained? A cultural shift is needed with awareness, collaboration and leadership by the whole statistical community. 

NSW Branch April meeting: +Best Selection via Continuous Optimization" with Prof. Benoit Liquet and Dr Sarat Moka

On 27th April 2022, Prof Benoit Liquet and Dr Sarat Moka presented the first seminar of the year on "Best subset selection via continuous optimization". The seminar started with a question: What is the best set of predictors to predict a response variable? Prof Liquet went on with a series of solutions from 1974 to today, by also referring to the available R packages to perform subset selection, from bestglm implementing the method proposed by Furnival and Wilson (1974) to glmnet implementing ridge regression, LASSO and elastic net. Prof. Liquet was passionate, with an infinite number of questions to the audience, which felt back in the University seats where no student can answer to the professor's questions. And he waited until an answer did not come up! 

Dr Moka replaced Prof Liquet in the second part of the seminar, and he warned the audience: he would have not been as funny as Benoit. And indeed, his part of the seminar was interesting and showed the mathematical background of the algorithm together with a thorough simulation study. Dr Moka presented the solution by himself (together with Prof Liquet, Dr Zhu and Prof Muller): a method called COMBSS which introduces a smooth function in the model space, and which allows to introduce some penalties in order to favour sparsity. Last ten minutes of the seminar were focused on the mathematical framework of COMBSS. The penalisation is similar to the one implied by LASSO, but with a penalisation which is differentiable.  

The last part was left for questions, among which one essential question from Dr Botev: what does COMBSS stand for? To answer this question we refer everyone to the available pre-print on ArXiv.

Clara Grazian
President, NSW Branch

Athlete data in professional sport

We are getting more and more protective of our personal data. Companies go to great measures to make sure they have our consent before they store any information about us. Or at least they are supposed to.

Imagine then for a moment, that you are an athlete. How would you feel about having every aspect of your body scrutinised and recorded?

In the discussion paper, Getting ahead of the game: athlete data in professional sport” (13 April 2022), the co-chairs of the Expert Working Group that produced the paper, Professor Toby Walsh and Associate Professor Julia Powles, outline the main issues and call for improved governance of data collection in professional sport.The discussion paper reveals that Australian professional sports are collecting more personal information about athletes than they can meaningfully deal with. Concerningly, this data—which is personal, unique, and intimately revealing about individual athletes—amounts to excessively more information than has been proven to be useful. What are the stakes of exponential and unregulated growth in human monitoring for the workplace of professional sport, and beyond? What are the challenges, the opportunities, and the imperatives to act?”

Read the discussion paper here

Nominations open for Australian Academy of Science Awards

The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) is committed to celebrating and supporting diversity. The Academy is seeking nominations of outstanding scientists from all career stages, backgrounds and genders, and strongly encourages more nominations of women and other under-represented groups for all awards, in particular the career and mid-career honorific awards.

Honorific award nominations close on 30 May 2022. Research conference, research award and travelling fellowship applications close on 1 June 2022.

Awards include the prestigious Hannon Medal, which is given every 2 years, alternating between applied or computational mathematics and statistics.

The following two awards might be suitable for people more in the genomics area:

  • The Suzanne Cory Medal (career award, 2023 non-biomedical biologicals sciences
  • Ruth Stephens Gani Medal (human genetics, including clinical, molecular, population and epidemiological genetics and cytogenetics; ECR up to 10 years post PhD).

For further information on the 2023 award round, including how to nominate and apply, visit the Academy’s award page.

If you have any questions about the award nomination process, please contact the Academy’s awards team at

Find out more about the APBG

The Australian Pharmaceutical Biostatistics Group (APBG) provides expert advice from qualified statisticians in the pharmaceutical industry in Australia on any issue, from statistical issues in the analysis of clinical trial data to health economics.

Check out and follow their new LinkedIn page.

Eurovision 2022 - Vital Statistics

Perhaps you are sleep-deprived as you read this, because you are one of millions of fans following the Eurovision song contest in Turin this week. Did you spend a few nights, or rather early mornings watching the opening ceremony and the lead-up shows?

I’m not quite sure how Australia found its way into this iconic European event, but here we are again, proudly represented by Sheldon Riley, singing “Not the Same”.  

As a statistician you may (no doubt!) be expected to rattle off some Eurovision statistics when you catch up with friends this weekend. You might even be attending a Eurovision party? It’s always good to be prepared. I’ve made it easy for you. Click here for some fascinating stats surrounding this fabulous event.

May the best song win! Aussie Aussie Aussie...

Celebrating 60 years of the SSA: Diamond Jubilee Fellowships


To celebrate 60 years since the formation of the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) as a national association of statisticians, in 2022 the Society is offering up to 4 SSA Diamond Jubilee Fellowships, worth up to $5000 each, to help further the careers of our early/mid-career members. These SSA Diamond Jubilee Fellowships are intended to celebrate this Society milestone and to offer a boost to our early/mid-career members whose careers may have been limited by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, eligibility criteria, and to apply, see here.

SSA PhD/Masters Top-Up Scholarships 2022

Are you undertaking a PhD or Masters degree with a project in the development of statistical or data science methodology, in the assessment of statistical or data science methodology, or in the development of statistical/data science software? The Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) wants to support you! You may be eligible to apply for an SSA PhD/Masters Top-Up Scholarship. Up to 4 Scholarships, worth $2500 each, will be awarded to SSA student members. Find out more here.

Applications close today, 12 May 2022, 5:00pm AEST.

Bill Venables Award for new developers of open source software for data analytics

SSA's Statistical Computing and Visualisation Section is pleased to announce the creation of the Bill Venables award for new developers of open source software for data analytics, sponsored by the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDT). The goal of this award is to encourage new open source software development from the Australian community with a view to support efforts to develop and share data science and statistics methodology.

The application deadline is 24 May 2022. More information is available here.

SSA Events

Sampling Course -12 October – 7 December 2022, 11:00 AM (AEDT), held online

The Social Research Centre (SRC) and the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) are very proud to offer statistical training from the International Program in Survey and Data Science (IPSDS).

The 8-week online sampling course is aimed at working professionals who are interested in expanding their data collection skills. The course will be available fully online with pre-recorded videos that students are expected to watch on their own time plus weekly 1-hour live interactive sessions with the instructor, Raphael Nishimura, Director of Sampling Operations at the University of Michigan.

For more information and to register please click here.

Presentation of Di Cook Award projects-SSA Vic May Event

17 May 2022, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM (AEST), held by Zoom and In-person at the Evan Williams Theatre in the Peter Hall Building of the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne.

The Di Cook Award, established in the name of Professor Dianne Cook at Monash University who is one of the world's leading authorities on data visualization, is an open-source statistical software award for students (or recent graduates) of Victorian and Tasmanian institutes. The winner of the Award, as well as two students with honourable mentions, will be presenting their award-winning projects in the upcoming May event: Award winner: Weihao (Patrick) Li, Honorable Mention 1: Jjeffrey Pullin, Honorable Mention 2: Sayani Gupta. 

For more information and to register please click here.

SSA NSW Branch: May Event - Michael Bewley, From AI to Action

19 May 2022, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (AEST), F07.01.173.Carslaw Building.Carslaw Lecture Theatre 173

We are very pleased to announce that Michael Bewley from nearmap will give a talk about geospatial analysis of tree canopy data at Sydney University this month. This is an in person event, and we hope you can join us at Sydney Uni. If you would like to attend virtually, you can register for a zoom link. 

For more information on the lecture and to register please click here.

Other Events

Australian Data Science Network (ADSN) Webinar:

Advancing Data Science in Australia

13  May 2022, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM AEST, held online

This webinar will explore the report released by the Australian Academy of Science on 'Advancing data-intensive research in Australia'

This is the first of a six-part monthly webinar series from the Australian Data Science Network. This series will focus on the October 2021 Report released by the Australian Academy of Science on 'Advancing data-intensive research in Australia'.

In this webinar, the ADSN will focus on some of the high-level findings of the report and discuss the relevance for ADSN member organisations. Our guest speakers are:

  • Professor Jane Elith – Report Co-Author
  • Emeritus Professor Michael Barber – Report Co-Author
  • Anna-Maria Arabia – Chief Executive at The Australian Academy of Science

QUT Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen will moderate the panel discussion.

Register here

Are you hiring?

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


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