SSA May 2019 eNews

Welcome to the May edition of the SSA newsletter!

Welcome to the May newsletter. We are sending it out a bit earlier this month, because I’ll be going on leave this Wednesday, 8 May 2019. I’ll be back at my desk, all refreshed (except for a bit of jetlag, probably) on Monday, 27 May. The office will be unoccupied during this time and I will attend to any requests after my return from holiday.

If you have been a member for more than six months and if you have looked at your membership profile on the new website, you may have noticed that your “Member since” date is not correct. Rather than showing the date you joined the Society, it shows the date when you logged into the new website for the first time. Please don’t worry – we have not misplaced your original joining date. In fact, it was brought across from the old database, so at the back-end of the website we administrators can see it as a “Joined” date.  We are currently looking for ways to make some changes and update the "Member since" box, and SSA member Rory Tarnow-Mordi kindly offered to write a program to help us. Thank you, Rory! I'm just so impressed with all the talents our members have!
If you need to have your profile updated straight away, please email Irene Kiely ( and she’ll attend to your particular profile straight away.

Kind regards 

Marie-Louise Rankin
SSA Executive Officer


Dr Ingrid Aulike wins Women in Big Data – Canberra, data challenge 2019

Dr Ingrid Aulike, a University of Queensland statistician, won the “Women in Big Data”data challenge for 2019. Her presentation was a masterclass in exploratory data analysis and the importance of not making assumptions about data. Participants were given a dataset with a series of numbers with no apparent meaning. By challenging typical assumptions about data e.g. columns are variables or features, and using different visualisation techniques to summarize the data, Dr Aulike uncovered the hidden figure in this dataset of numbers, an image with a message, “Data Should Be Seen”. In her interview, Dr Aulike highlighted the need for statisticians with strong technical background and consultancy skills to meet the challenges in Big Data. She credits online courses such as Statistical Learning with Hastie and Tibshirani, Andrew Ng’s Deep Learning and Bill Howe’s Data Science at Scale courses on Coursera as professional development opportunities for statisticians to upskill to address the needs and challenges of Big Data. Congratulations to Dr Aulike.

Jeeva Kanesarajah, PhD Candidate,
SSA-QLD Newsletter correspondent,
The University of Queensland, School of Public Health

        The hidden figure revealed


QLD Branch Annual General Meeting

SSA-QLD branch held its annual general meeting on the 2nd of April 2019 at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Gardens Point Campus. Current president Ms Lee Jones reflected on 2018 for SSA-QLD as President of the Branch. Key achievements include the Young Statistician Careers seminar, and the award of three student travel scholarships for ISCB-ASC 2018. She thanked outgoing branch members Dr Susanna Cramb and Dr Nicole White for their continued support to the SSA and its QLD branch, and welcomed Dr Miranda Mortlock to the post of President of the Branch for 2019. Ms Jones will step into the vice-President role for the 2019 QLD branch council. She thanked Ms Carmen Lim for her successful year as QLD Young Statistician representative for 2018, for organizing and hosting the well-attended Young Statisticians Career Seminar, and welcomed Ms Ming Zhu Sun as the Young Statistician representative for 2019. Ms Jeeva Kanesarajah steps in to the Branch council as Newsletter correspondent.


QLD Branch Seminar

Dr Dan Pagendam, Senior Research Scientist, with CSIRO Data61 spoke about his work on Statistical Modelling to Support Successful Mosquito Biocontrol Programs. He described the use of and challenges in modelling the Wolbachia infected mosquitos interaction with the landscape as part of the Sterile Insect Technique to control the mosquito population. He used the Advection-Diffusion equation and Advection field parametric models to describe and visualise mosquito movement through the landscape. This work lead to applications to predict population overflooding.  He demonstrated RShiny as a tool to integrate and visualise data from multiple sources, for use by geographically dispersed collaborators. Further details available here.

Jeeva Kanesarajah, PhD Candidate,
SSA-QLD Newsletter correspondent,
The University of Queensland, School of Public Health

Caption: Photo L to R, Ms Lee Jones with the speaker Dr Dan Pagendam


Efficient development of clinical-grade prediction models of cancer treatment outcomes

South Australia Branch Meeting, April 2019

The speaker for the April meeting of the SA Branch was Professor Michael Sorich, a clinical epidemiologist, biostatistician, and pharmacist from Flinders University. His current research primarily focuses on evaluation and evidence development with respect to precision medicine approaches informing the use of cancer medicines. His talk “Efficient development of clinical-grade prediction models of cancer treatment outcomes” mainly covered the barriers that exist to developing prediction models that may be used to guide clinical practice and decisions, and emerging data platforms that may help overcome many of these issues.

Please read full article here.


Vic Branch meeting: Reproducibility and Open Science

On 30 April, the Victorian Branch hosted three short talks on Reproducibility and Open
Science, attended by about 40 people. Read more here.


'Woo, NEW, and You!'  - hosted at The University of Newcastle 7 March 

You know an event has been well-received when a side-kick academic statistics presenter also gets asked for autographs by scores of students!

Australian mathematician, mathematics teacher and awarded Australia’s 2018 Local Hero Award (and Woo Tube sensation), Eddie Woo was the main attraction, engaging and enthusing 800+ Year 6-8 students across two 1.5-hour sessions, and 80 teachers in a separate master class session to make mathematics memorable.

Eddie was well-supported by industry and UoN speakers.

Eddie also appeared on NBN news, and entered to the 400-strong crowds chanting ‘Eddie Woo, we want you!’, egged on by MC and UoN STEMM Ambassador A/Prof Peter Howley.

Comments from Wirreanda Public School, Medowie, Year 6 students after the event included:

“Amazing”, “Inspiring”, “It really opened up my eyes for my future career paths so I’m really thankful for the opportunity”, “Enjoyable”, “An incredible experience”!

Significantly, the event made mathematics and statistics accessible and enjoyable; enabling participation and understanding of the true interdisciplinary nature of, and career opportunities through, mathematics and statistics!

Peter Howley, Statistical Education Section  – Chair


NSW Branch Lancaster Lecture now available online

Last month SSA reported on the NSW Branch Lancaster Lecture with Kerrie Mengersen, Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Queensland University of Technology. Kerrie's lecture, titled "`Expectations of Life': from Past to Present", which incorporated the title of a Lancaster book, is now available online:


Obituary: Associate Professor Jeff Wood, Canberra Branch

It is with great sadness that we communicate the death of Associate Professor Jeff Wood who passed away last month from Motor Neuron Disease. Jeff was  a member of SSA since 1974, a former SSA Canberra president, Honorary Treasurer from 1989 - 1992, Circulation Manager for the Journal from 1995 – 1998, and a regular and enthusiastic meeting attendee. 

His contributions to the wider statistical community in Canberra and nationally were substantial to say the least. They were recognised with a Service Award  in 1999.

Jeff will be sorely missed. He remained active right up until his death, assisting many post-graduate students with statistical analyses as a Visiting Fellow at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society. Apart from his research contributions, Jeff will be remembered as one of life’s true gentlemen who graced us with his kindness and humour.

A private funeral will be held in the near future. 


From ISI President Helen MacGillivray

In the latest ISI newsletter, SSA Honorary Life Member and ISI President Helen MacGillivray reported on four meetings she had attended in four countries in the past six weeks. Three were ISI and the fourth, although not ISI, touched on matters of importance to ISI and its Associations.

The first meeting was the 50th meeting of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), where ISI is an observer, on 3-8 March in New York.

The second meeting was a non-ISI publishing and editorial meeting but on topics of immediate and long-term importance to ISI, namely the open access movement in publishing, and the development and teaching of data science curricula.

The third group of Helen's meetings was the ISI Executive Committee (EC) meeting in The Hague. These are intensive meetings ranging over all the practical details, strategic, short-term and long-term planning for a highly diverse and scattered global professional association with many responsibilities and expectations worldwide.

The last meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur in preparation of WSC 2019 (18-23 August 2019). The ISI Director, Associate Director and Helen met with all the relevant organisers for the conference. Read more about Helen's meetings here.


Science Meets Parliament 2019

Science meets Parliament will once again be taking place in 2019 and Science & Technology  Australia will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the event.  The date for this year's SmP is 13-14 August. 

Science meets Parliament’s program features national and international experts and practitioners from across the spectrum of political engagement. The event will allow them to connect directly with parliamentarians helping them to enhance their understanding of how science contributes to Australia’s health, environment, wealth and wellbeing. For more information please click here.

As a member of SSA, if you are an early career statistician who is 0 - 9 years post PhD or equivalent and you would like to represent SSA at this two day event held in Canberra, please send an email with your CV to, and let us know in a few words why you would like to attend Science Meets Parliament 2019. Past and ongoing service to the Society will be considered. Applications close on  31 May 2019.

Alternatively, Science & Technology Australia is offering six scholarships as well:

Two (2) Scholarships are open to STEM practitioners in each of the following categories:

  • Indigenous STEM Scholarships for people with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage
  • STEM Pride scholarships for people who identify as LGBTQI+
  • Regional STEM scholarships for STEM practitioners who work in remote or regional Australia (>150km from a major capital city)

Scholarships will cover full registration including the gala dinner in the Great Hall at Parliament House, as well as travel, accommodation, meals and transfers. Financial assistance for childcare is available upon application. For more information please click here.


Federal Election - Have you decided yet?

In the last few weeks announcements were made from the major political parties around the environment, equity in STEM and defence. To help you make an informed decision, Science & Technology Australia have compiled a range of relevant links. They also invite you to be in touch if you would like their support work to get science on the agenda during the Federal Election. For more information please click here.


AMSI: No room for politics when it comes to STEM

A commitment to increased investment in STEM education and research on all sides of politics is essential to secure future prosperity, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) warns.
AMSI director, Professor Tim Brown called for bi-partisan recognition of the economic importance and value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics backed by long-term funding and initiatives attached to targets not aspirations.
“STEM capability, particularly mathematics, is essential to our future security and capacity to compete as a global innovator,” Brown said.
National leadership was needed on STEM education, research training and research-industry engagement, as well as gender equity and diversity, according to Brown.
“There is no room for politics when it comes to our nation’s future prosperity and tackling issues such teacher supply and quality, university mathematics prerequisites, STEM gender equity and industry-university research collaboration." Read the complete media release here.


Canberra Branch: Geostatistics in the fast lane using R-TensorFlow and GPUs

SSA Canberra is running a special joint event with R-Ladies Canberra in May. Dr Andrew Zammit-Mangion will present an interactive seminar with many opportunities of hands-on exercises. Andrew is a senior lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics of the University of Wollongong. He is interested in spatial-temporal statistics and is currently running a R workshop with Professor Noel Cressie. Please come to join us, and bring a computer device with R.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 28 May. Details will be available in due course on the Canberra branch meeting website.

Pauline O’Shaughnessy
On behalf of SSA Canberra 


The National Schools Poster Competition is on in 2019. 

i.       Engaging over 1000 students annually, the project-based learning activity involves teams of 2 to 5 school students creating an informative e-poster communicating an investigation on any topic from any field as determined by the students, utilising the collection, presentation and interpretation of data. There are 5 divisions, Stages 2-6.

ii.     Please promote to schools, teachers, school-aged students, friends, families with school-aged students, etc. using the 1-min overview video and NSPC website.

iii.    Submissions are due online by 10 November annually

iv.    The 2018 Year 10 and Year 12 winners have been submitted to the International Statistical Literacy Project 2018-19 competition. Winners of this international competition expected to be known mid-year.

Peter Howley, Statistical Education Section – Chair


And the winner is … Sydney!

CEOs, Presidents and National Leaders of Australia’s major mathematical-based societies* united in a consortium through 2018 to submit (October 2018) a bid for Australia’s hosting of the 15th International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME15), 2024, at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, Australia, and then hosted the ICMI delegates’ site visit in April 2019; at the time we were one of two shortlisted locations, the other, Prague.

ICME is run once every four years and was last hosted in Australia in 1984. I have been representing the Statistical Society of Australia in this consortium.

As a member of the national consortium, I’m delighted to share the exceptional news that our collaborative bid for Australia (Sydney) to host the International Congress on Mathematical Education in 2024 has been successful.

A wonderful team effort that united Australia’s leading mathematical and statistical associations* - thank you to those who supported the consortium’s bid.

Please help spread the good news as we continue the cooperative initiative and begin preparing for 2024 and ensuring that the national Mathematical/Statistical and broader STEM agenda are further capitalised upon on the international stage.


Peter Howley, Statistical Education Section – Chair


YSC2019 – Time to register!

With the Federal Election looming, everyone’s focus is very much on Canberra at this time, but there is another reason our minds should turn to the nation’s capital: The Young Statisticians Conference 2019 is just around the corner!

There is so much to look forward to! For starters, we are just delighted with this year’s choice of venue: Manuka Oval. With a rich and diverse history, stunning views across the lawns and being close Canberra’s popular restaurant strip Manuka, this iconic meeting place will be sure to impress.

As it happens, this year the conference coincides with Floriade, Canberra’s annual flower show - a colourful celebration of Spring.Click here to see what it’s all about.  Be careful though – there will be so much on that you may get too distracted from attending the conference!

The YSC2019 Committee is doing an excellent job of getting everything ready for you and they now have four wonderful key-note speakers lined up.

Read more here.


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:

Fast algorithms and modern visualisations for feature selection, Sydney, 16 May 2019 
Registrations now closed.

Gaining skills in biostatistical consultancy, Melbourne, 4 July 2019
This workshop is filling up fast!  Book now or miss out.

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to SSA member Kevin YX Wang,  PhD Candidate at the University of Sydney ,winner of SSA’s 2019 Golden Jubilee Travel Grant. Kevin just won $1,000 towardshis trip to the International Conference on Econometrics and Statistics (EcoSta) conference in Taichung! We look forward to hearing all about it, Kevin!


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