SSA June 2019 eNews

Welcome to the June edition of the SSA newsletter!

Last week I had the privilege of attending ACE 2019, a conference organised by the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE), of which I am a member.

Over two days we explored the theme “upholding tradition, creating the future” and considered how membership organisations and the leaders within them can take the very best of the past and create a new, sustainable future. The most inspirational talk would have been the keynote address from Gus Balbontin, former CTO of Lonely Planet, and his advice would apply to anyone wanting to deliver the best product to their customers, or -in our case - provide the best membership association to its members. If you have a minute to be inspired, or you simply need some cheering up (because the guy could be a professional comedian), check out this You Tube video about one of his talks. The key advice that I took with me was: "Stop hitting your brain with novelty, and the brain will stop" and "It Is Not the Strongest of the Species that Survives But the Most Adaptable" (a quote often attributed to Charles Darwin).
Watch this space to see SSA adapt to its members' changing needs. By answering our "Question of the month" - a new feature in this newsletter (please see below)  - you'll help us do so.

Marie-Louise Rankin
SSA Executive Officer


The Stats Society is your society!

The Statistical Society is your society and there are many ways you can get involved. Read SSA President’s Adrian Barnett’s message to our members  here.


NSW Branch Meetings

The New South Wales Branch hosted two seminar events in May, with the one that normally would be in April moved to 2nd May so that we could have a public lecture from Hadley Wickham.

Thirteen days later we a seminar from Ian Renner in Parramatta. Read all about these exciting events here


SA Branch Meeting: 

Causal inference in epidemiology through Mendelian randomization & Mendelian Randomisation-Phenome Wide Association Studies: Opportunities and Challenges

The two speakers for the SA Branch May meeting were Dr Beben Benyamin and Dr Ang Zhou, both from the Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia. This was a joint meeting with the South Australian Epidemiology Group. Dr Benyamin uses statistics applied to large-scale ‘omics’ data to dissect the genetic mechanisms underlying human complex traits and diseases. Dr Benyamin’s talk “Causal Inference in epidemiology through Mendelian randomization” described Mendelian Randomization (MR), a statistical method that provides a framework to mimic an RCT, using genetic variants to provide an estimate of the causal effect of a risk factor on a disease.

Dr Ang applies methodologies in genetic epidemiology to understand causal associations between modifiable lifestyle factors and health outcomes related to cognitive and cardiometabolic functions. His talk “MR-PheWAS: Opportunities and Challenges” followed on from Dr Benyamin’s talk by describing phenome-wide association studies (PheWAS), an extension to Mendelian randomization.

Read the full article here.


WA Branch Meeting, May 2019

The May Meeting of the WA Branch of the SSA was devoted to the Young Statisticians, and was centred around the WA Branch Honours Scholarship award and talks by students having completed the honours year in the previous year. See further here


Vic Branch Meeting: A recipe for quantifying the impact of prevention

It was a full house for Professor Tony Blakely’s seminar on quantifying the impact of preventative health interventions, with almost 100 people in attendance. Read more here.


QLD Branch Meeting: 
Multimorbidity - Measurement for Health relatedQuality of Life and Health service use

Jeeva Kanesarajah, a member of our branch council and PhD student from the University of Queensland spoke about her project on multimorbidity and quality of life at mid-life. Multimorbidity is common in the general population.  Individuals with multimorbidity are complex to manage and this increases the financial burden of our health care system. There is a large variation across multimorbidity estimates in the literature due to differences in measurement of multimorbidity, which makes comparability across studies challenging. At mid-life, existing multimorbidity measures do not incorporate disease severity. Those with conditions which more severely affect their quality of life may consume more health services. Jeeva described how she developed a weighted multimorbidity index that takes into account disease severity, which is suitable for use in association with health related quality of life measures and health service use. You can watch Jeeva’s seminar here.

Carmen Lim (on behalf of the SSA QLD Branch)
Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland


Don Weatherburn Resigns

Last month Dr Don Weatherburn announced his resignation as the director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), a position he has held since 1988. For more than 30 years, Don Weatherburn has been collecting and analysing the state’s crime statistics, spotting trends and watching as our homicide rate has halved over the past two decades. Read more about Don and his illustrious career here.


Wanted: Your thoughts on CPD

SSA’s Committee for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) recently created a survey to find out how the Statistical Society can support you, your work or study and your CPD requirements. So far more than one hundred members and non-members participated. There is still time to have your say, if you have not yet done so - simply follow this link before 27 June 2019.


Statistics in the Capital...from Mars?!

SSA Canberra is delighted to have Dr Matt Moores speak at the June branch meeting. Matt Moores is a lecturer in statistical science at the University of Wollongong. He is also a member of the National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia (NIASRA) and an Associate Investigator with ACEMS. Matt will be speaking about a Bayesian approach to source separation of spectroscopy, which will be used as part of the planned Mars 2020 mission to Jezero crater.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 25 June. Details will be available in due course on the Canberra branch meeting website.

Francis Hui, Warren Muller, Daniel Fearnley, Phil Tennant
On behalf of SSA Canberra


Here’s how to make opinion polls more representative

In 2012, US statistician Nate Silver correctly predicted the results of all 50 states in the US presidential election with 100% accuracy.

Compare this with the shock result of the 2016 Trump election, and now the 2019 Australian election, when nearly all Australian opinion polls incorrectly predicted that Bill Shorten’s Labor Party would defeat Scott Morrison’s Coalition on a two-party preferred basis.

How did the pollsters get it so wrong? More importantly, how can we ensure we get a more accurate result next time?

Following the surprising election results, Adrian Barnett and Scott Sisson investigated this question in an article for “The Conversation”. Read the full article here


News from Official Statistics Section

The Official Statistics Section is delighted to forward the following announcement from the IAOS:

The IAOS is pleased to announce the composition of its new Executive Committee (EXCO) for the period 2019-2021. In the statement (here) from Mr Mario Palma, IAOS President (2017-2019), you will find the full report. More news here.


News from the Bayes Section

We are pleased to announce two upcoming talks by Dr Anthony Lee (Senior Lecturer from the University of Bristol): Tuesday, July 2 at QUT and Thursday, July 18 at Monash University. The call for abstracts has now opened for Bayes on the Beach. 250 word abstracts can be submitted by email to before August 16. We also mention some other upcoming conferences: MCM 2019, July 8-12 in Sydney; EAC-ISBA 2019, July 13-14 in Kobe, Japan; BayesComp 2020, January 7-10 in Florida, USA; and ABC in Grenoble, March 19-20 in France.

Read more here. 


What do the weather forecast, board games and movie ratings have in common?

According to the mathematician Ostap Okhrin, all of them are great examples of how our intuition in daily life can be described by statistical data. In this entertaining TED talk, Ostap demonstrates that we don't have to be mathematicians ourselves to make the mathematically best decisions. Watch it here.


Keep your career moving forward

The Statistical Society of Australia has a new streamlined candidate search that helps employers find skilled new hires just like you! If you’re considering a career move, now is the time to capitalise on our new and improved employer resume search interface.

Take the first step in landing your next great career opportunity. Upload or update your resume on The Statistical Society of Australia today. For more information click here.


Member News

Congratulations to Ms Alison Harcourt (Vic Branch)for being named an Officer of the Order of Australian (AO) for"distinguished service to mathematics and computer science throughpioneering research and development of integer linear programming". This is yet further recognition of Alison's contributions (see the Nov2018 eNews).  In a mediarelease, the AMSI Director, Professor Tim Brown, honoured Alison and saidthe recognition reflected our discipline's cross-discipline impact oneducation, research and innovation.

Congratulations to Professor David Balding (Vic Branch) for being electedas a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in recognition of hiscontributions to genetic and forensic science. David is a pioneer ofcomputational methods for inferring demographic history and detecting theeffects of selection and has made important contributions to methods forgenetic association analyses. You can view a videoprofile of David and his work. Also, read the fascinating story of David'swork that put a serialkiller behind bars.

More congratulations are in order for Janan Arslan (Vic Branch) and Carmen Lim (QLD Branch) who were chosen to represent the SSA at this year's "Science Meets Parliament", held in November 2019 by Science & Technology Australia. Janan is the Secretary of the YSC2019 Committee, working hard to help us the deliver a fantastic conference for our Young Statisticians this year, and Carmen has been instrumental in creating a Social Media presence for the Society.


From the Official Statistics Section

Statistical Journal of the Association of Official Statistics - June pre-print edition out

A Pre-press edition of the June issue of the SJIAOS has been released: read here.

Kirsten West is retiring as editor after 5 years. Her closing editorial can be viewed here.   

The incoming editor is Pieter Everaes.


Measuring Indigenous Identification

The March Issue of JIAOS is dedicated to this topic; the editor-in-chief reminds readers of past contributions by the journal and the Association on improving statistics of indigenous people. Australian contributiuons to this effort are conspicuous, from then- editor Fritz Scheuren's 2014 editorial leading with an Australian paper "Measuring Indigenous Populations Across Nations: Challenges for Methodological Alignment",by Bradley Petry and Erica Potts, to the three papers in the March issue drawing on Australian experience.

Australian contributors to the topic since 2014 include Kalinda Griffiths, UNSW; Richard Madden and Clare Coleman at the University of Sydney; Ching Choi and Len Smith, Australian National University; Ian Ring Elias, Brenda Lee, Vanessa’ Smylie, Janet Waldon, John Hodge, Felicia Schanche; University of Queensland; and Maggie Walter University of Tasmania. That Australian experience has been prominent in the international debate reflects a foundation in long collaboration between key ABS officers and academic demographers in the enumeration of the indigenous population, against the grain of national collection strategies of the time.


The March Open Access issue of the SJIAOS

In particular, its guest editorial by Michele Connolly:

Anderson, I, Robson B, Connolly M, Al-Yaman F, et al., “Indigenous and tribal peoples’ health” (the Lancet-Lowitja Institute Global Collaboration), Lancet, London, England. 2016: 388(10040):131–57.

Stephen Horn
Section Chair 


Question of the month

In this edition of the SSA newsletter our VP Membership Susanna Cramb introduces a new segment: The question of the month! This month we want to know:

What do you value most about being a member of SSA?

Learning/training (meetings, workshops etc)


Professional recognition (awards/accreditation)


Advocating for statistics in Australia


To have your say and help shape the Society please click here:


Looking for women in STEMM

Are you a woman working in a STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) field in Australia? Do you identify as a woman of colour or as a woman from an ethnically or culturally diverse background? Would you like to share your experiences for a new research study?

The University of Tasmania (School of Social Sciences) are looking to interview women aged 18+ who identify as either women of colour or as women from ethnically or culturally diverse backgrounds for a new study about experiences of working in STEMM fields in Australia. They are looking for women who work in either academia or industry.

Please see the information sheet and consent form for more information.

To participate, please contact Dr Robyn Moore:


Oceania Stata Conference 2019

The Oceania Stata Conference is the premier Stata conference in the Oceania region and will provide Stata users from across Oceania and the world the opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences, and information on new applications of the software. This is the opportunity to meet leading Stata users and learn how they create reproducible research with Stata. The 2019 Oceania Stata Conference will be held at the Park Royal Parramatta 20 August 2019 with optional workshops (panel data and social statistics) on 19 August 2019.

Registration is now open to all levels of Stata users. For more information please click here.


Places are still available for our workshop on Semiparametric regression with R (Sydney, 28 June 2019)!

This short course explains the techniques and benefits of semiparametric regression in a concise and modular fashion. Spline functions, linear mixed models and Bayesian hierarchical models are shown to play an important role in semiparametric regression. There will be a strong emphasis on implementation in R and rstan with most of the course spent doing computing exercises. Don't miss the Early Bird deadline!

For more information please click here.


SSA events you can look forward to:

R skills workshops: R Markdown and Building R packages
3 July 2019, Canberra

Network meta-analysis and population adjustment for decision-making, Sydney,
4 November 2019

1-2 October 2019, Canberra

Network meta-analysis and population adjustment for decision-making
4 November 2019, Sydney

Bayes on the Beach 2019
25-26 November 2019,  Surfers Paradise

6-10 July 2020, Gold Coast

Missed some of our newsletters?

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The environmental stats section is now on Twitter. Their twitter handle is @EnviroStatsSSA

Are you AStat accredited? Is your accreditation up to date? Find out all about SSA's accreditation program here.


See our events listing to see what's coming up!