2 June 2022

Dear {Contact_First_Name},  

Returning from ten days overseas, I came back to a different political landscape. We have a new government and great hopes for a better future. Only time will tell if our hopes are well-placed. 

Watching the news and political talk-shows, and spending time with my family and friends in Germany, I couldn’t help but notice that the concerns of the people over there are remarkably similar to ours here in Australia. Passing a petrol station in Bavaria, I saw that a litre of unleaded fuel sets you back EUR2.39. That’s an eye-watering A$3.41! Apart from a real fear of the rising cost of living, people are worried about climate-change, future homeownership of their children and dependence on other countries for natural resources and economic growth, just like we are here. 

Many issues have their roots in international interdependence and implementing change cannot be brought about by a single country. Other problems are home-made and well within the influence of domestic governments. One of these matters is the importance a government places on the education and science and technology sector. 

In a letter to Science & Technology Australia, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) said it “believed Australia can be a global STEM superpower” and vowed to work with industry and the research sector to lift Australia’s research and development investment “getting it closer to 3% of GDP achieved in other countries”.

The ALP also pledged to legislate the 'Australian Economic Accelerator' as part of the University Research Commercialisation Action Plan.

“An Albanese Labor Government will prioritise science and technology with our comprehensive plan to create jobs, boost vital skills by investing in education and training, bring industry expertise back onshore and supercharge national productivity,” it said.

Let's watch this space.

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer

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Reflections by our Pitman Medallists

The Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) offers several awards, honouring members' contributions to the statistical community. The most prestigious of the awards is the Pitman Medal, named after Edwin James George Pitman (1897-1993). The Pitman Medal is awarded in recognition of outstanding achievements in, and contribution to, the discipline of Statistics.

In this series, we feature past recipients of the Pitman Medal:

Rob Hyndman, Pitman Medalist 2021

I became a statistician accidentally. At the end of my first year of university, I was looking for a summer job, and there was a position advertised outside the University of Melbourne Statistical Consulting Centre (SCC) with one of their clients. I think it was surveying people on a beach. To apply you had to talk to Tim Brown, the Director of the SCC. I knocked on his door and after explaining who I was, he wanted to know whether I could program in FORTRAN. Having written 2 FORTRAN functions in one of my first-year computing units, I confidently asserted that I could. He then said that I should work for him, and not his client, because he had some debugging that needed doing! I spent the weekend frantically learning FORTRAN77, and on Monday morning I was set. Three weeks later I found the bug (a missing period!). By the end of the summer, I was well-entrenched in several projects with the SCC and Tim invited me to keep working for them throughout the year. By then I had decided to switch my major from mathematics to statistics. I learned many statistical methods by applying them in an analysis for a client, before encountering them in lectures. It was the ideal apprenticeship -- learning the practice of statistics through working with many clients and hundreds of wild data sets, while learning the theory in parallel through university classes.

At some point I ended up taking on some forecasting projects, and quickly realised that there was a big gap between the types of problems encountered in practice and the textbook analyses which were grounded in stochastic processes with elegant, but often unrealistic, theory. The textbooks seemed to regard forecasting as a trivial application of a model, ignoring many of the complexities that occur with real data. And the few textbooks that I could find on forecasting were riddled with basic statistical errors or used methods that were simplistic and had no obvious way of quantifying the prediction uncertainty. So I thought this might make an interesting area to work in --- no-one else seemed to be doing it, yet it appeared that one could make a big impact by developing good statistical models that could handle the types of data issues I was seeing in the consulting work.

Thirty seven years after I knocked on Tim Brown's door, the field of forecasting is vastly different from what it was then. It is statistically much more sophisticated, and it is now well-recognized as an important area for applying statistical thinking. It's been a privilege to have been able to contribute to that development.

Professor Rob J Hyndman
Head of the Department of Econometrics & Business Statistics
Monash University

NSW-SSA May event: From AI to Action with Dr Michael Bewley, Nearmap

During the May meeting of the SSA NSW branch, Dr Michael Bewley from Nearmap presented a talk about geospatial analysis of tree canopy data. Using the latest technology on location intelligence and remote sensing, Michael and his colleague at his Nearmap has helped uncover many spatial-temporal patterns on a large scale. In the talk, Michael introduced one particular application of these technologies in tracking the distribution of trees across suburbs in Australia over time. He showed us many high-resolution maps that highlight the difference in the level of tree cover in many suburbs during the past years; while many were getting greener, some were getting less. Behind these maps are many stories reflecting the development of different suburbs as well as people’s living quality. In the last part of the talk, Michael explained briefly the technologies that Nearmap developed and compared results from using Nearmap technology with some other technologies, such as Lidar. 

Linh Nghiem

Have your say in shaping the ASC2023 program: ASC2023 Survey

The Scientific Programming Committee for the 2023 Australian Statistical Conference is currently working towards securing keynote speakers for the conference program. The conference theme is ‘Statisticians in society’, focussing on the role statisticians play in communication across diverse areas that are key to our society.  

The Scientific Programming Committee is striving to deliver a diverse and inclusive conference programme. As part of this planning, we are seeking recommendations from all SSA members on keynote speakers and pre-conference workshops they would like to see as part of the ASC 2023 program. If you have any suggestions, please complete the following short survey by Monday 13th June. We look forward to seeing your suggestions!

How can a PhD Top Up Scholarship help you?

The deadline for SSA’s 2022 PhD Top Up Scholarships was two weeks ago, and the selection panel is currently busy assessing the many applications received. While we are awaiting their decision, let’s hear from one of last year’s recipients, Owen Forbes, about how the scholarship helped him: 

I am extremely grateful to the SSA for awarding me a PhD Top-Up Scholarship. This support eased my financial stress as an HDR student, giving me more breathing room to be able to focus on my PhD research. It reduced the pressure on me to look for extra hours in my casual employment and made me feel like I didn't have to spread myself too thin across lots of roles. My wellbeing and mental health have definitely been improved by having this extra support. I have also benefitted from using this funding to travel to and from Brisbane so I can spend time in person with my supervisors and colleagues at QUT. As a remote/external student, this has given me the chance to build and maintain positive relationships with my colleagues and feel more connected to my research community. 

The gender balance quota for this scholarship program is fantastic and so important - I think it is a valuable step towards supporting more gender diversity and more equitable opportunities for early career researchers. I also like the approach of the lottery system to choose among candidates who meet eligibility criteria - stoked that the random number generator worked in my favour this time! For applicants to future rounds, may the RNG be ever in your favour. 

Owen Forbes

Significance June 2022 out now!

How do people feel about their lives and the societies in which they live? Are they happy, hopeful or concerned about the future? Surveys can help answer these questions, of course. But, in the June 2022 issue of Significance, Stefano M. Iacus and Giuseppe Porro argue for using social networks and sentiment analysis to let citizens speak for themselves.


Also in the June issue, we publish an analysis by Karen Lamb, Jessica Kasza, Sophie Calabretto, Rushani Wijesuriya and Linda McIver, looking at authorship by gender in Significance. Their conclusion: too few of our featured experts are women, and this needs to change.


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.

Canberra Branch Meeting -- Flexible models for clustered data

7 Jun 2022, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM AEST, held online via Zoom

The Canberra Branch of SSA invites you to its May (well technically early June!) branch meeting, featuring a talk by Helen Odgen from the University of Southampton: Flexible models for clustered data.

Click here for more information about this talk and to receive the zoom link.

Perth Biostatistics/Bioinformatics Meetup

This is a joint event supported by the WA Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA), the SSA Biostatistics and Bioinformatics SectionClinical Trials Enablement Platform WA (CTEP-WA).

Tuesday, 14 June 2022, from 5:30pm AWST
McCusker Auditorium, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (North), ), QEII Medical Centre, 6 Verdun Street, Nedlands

The purpose of this event is to bring together those with expertise and/or interest in medical and healthcare statistics in Perth. It is an opportunity to socialise and network, and encourage upcoming professionals to pursue a career in this worthwhile field.

We have invited two speakers to give brief addresses this evening:

  • Dr Julie Marsh (Telethon Kids Institute) who will speak on "Bayesian Approaches to Platform Trials", and
  • Dr Alyce Russell (University of Sydney) who will speak on her recent work.
Click here for more information and to register

NSW Branch Meeting: Bayesian Analysis of Raman Spectroscopy

16 Jun 2022, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM AEST, held at F10A.01.106.Law Building Annex.Law Annex Lecture Theatre 106 and online

Matt Moores from the University of Wollongong will give a talk about Bayesian Analysis of Raman Spectroscopy at Sydney University in June. Raman spectroscopy is a measurement technique that can be used to quantify the chemical composition of a sample. In this talk, he will describe a statistical model for joint estimation of the peaks and baseline. The locations of the peaks depend on the structure of the molecule, so it is often possible to obtain informative, Bayesian priors using computational chemistry. In the absence of such prior information, we can model the peak locations as a point process. We fit this model using a sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) algorithm, which we have implemented in the R package “serrsBayes.”

To register for in-person or online please click here.

Other Events

Frontiers in Biostatistics: Celebrating 10 years of ViCBiostat

Tuesday 7th June 2-5:30pm AEST

Followed by networking reception

Please note that the organisers have secured a new venue for this event next Tuesday 7th June to accommodate more attendees in a COVID-Safe manner. They hope you will be able to join them at the Ian Potter Auditorium, Kenneth Myer Building (Melbourne Brain Centre), 30 Royal Parade Parkville.

Registration is essential to attend in person. Register here

If you are unable to attend in person, please join the event via Zoom (no registration required).

Please see the website for further details.

Current positions advertised in SSA's Career Centre

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