SSA November 2018 eNews

Welcome to the November edition of the SSA newsletter. You’ll notice that it looks a bit different from the last editions, because we wanted to try out the software that comes with our new website, which is built on the Wild Apricot platform.  And while we’re on the subject of the new website, I am pleased to advise that we will go live with it in early December. Before this can happen all the SSA Website Committee members and I are busy tweaking things here and there to give you a good experience when you finally get to browse through the new webpages. You’ll receive an email from me prior to the launch where I’ll explain how you’ll be able to log into your membership profile and change the preferences of your settings (for example making your profile visible in the directory, choosing special interest groups, etc.).  Personally, I am very excited about things to come. Not long now!

Kind regards

Marie-Louise Rankin

Executive Officer


Vic Branch 2018 Belz Lecture:
Professor Di Cook and the rise of the machines

On October 16, 124 statisticians/data scientists gathered to hear from Professor Di Cook, of Monash University, deliver the Victorian Branch’s 2018 Belz Lecture. With a talk titled “Human vs Computer: when visualising data, who wins?”, Di’s lecture urged us to ponder whether we can be replaced by machines when it comes to assessing the fit of models using data plots. Read more here.


AMSI Choose Maths Awards 2018     

The CHOOSEMATHS Awards celebrate mathematical achievement, creativity and excellence in Australian schools. The teacher awards recognise Australia’s most inspiring educators of mathematics, those who go beyond the classroom and encourage and inspire the next generation of mathematical leaders through creative and innovative practice and mentorship. The CHOOSEMATHS Student Awards encourage students to get creative and explore real-world applications of Maths. Collaborating in teams, students bring their understanding of mathematics to life on film around this year’s theme ‘OUR WORLD NEEDS MATHS’. Read all about this year’s CHOOSEMATHS Awards here.


Statistics Without Borders 
An American Statistical
Association Outreach Group

Statistics Without Borders (SWB) is a volunteer Outreach Group of the American Statistical Association (ASA) that was established by four ASA members approximately ten years ago. These four volunteers (Gary Shapiro, Fritz Scheuren, Steve Pierson, and the author) recognized that a large segment of the ASA’s membership wanted to use their understanding of statistics to assist with initiatives intended to improve the quality of life. They designed an organization that would provide opportunities for statisticians to collaborate with professionals, researchers, and other volunteers worldwide. Read more about SWB here.


Vic Branch September event report 

On the 25th of September, the monthly Victorian branch hosted University of Melbourne professor and AustMS president Kate Smith-Miles. In her talk titled “Optimizing in the darkness of uncertainty”, Professor Smith-Miles discussed how statistics can help to find optimal solutions to industrial problems when the costs of testing are high. She described statistically-informed procedures for selecting new parameter values to test, allowing users to maximise the expected reduction in uncertainty resulting from a costly test.
By Georgia Tsambos


NSW Branch October meeting with Kelly Tall

The NSW Branch hosted Kelly Tall as our speaker for the October meeting. Kelly has a background ranging from experience in art theory, working with marketing and insights agencies, to data visualisation and information design. Befittingly, the title of her talk was ‘using data visualisation as an effective communication tool’, in which she provided guidance and examples of how to use data visualisation appropriately for different projects. A template of approach was to use the design thinking process to methodologically tackle the problem. She emphasised that to become highly skilled you need to ‘try’ and ‘practice’. The final reminder was to ‘ask questions to yourself’ to explore if objectives were met, or if any clarification is needed.

Kelly encouraged us to practice our creativity with different data visualisations and go beyond the ‘default’.

Ardalan Mirzaei, NSW Branch councillor


Young Statisticians and Data Scientist Careers Networking Evening

On the 19th of October the NSW Branch held the latest instalment of our ever popular careers evenings. We had highly informative talks from Dr Steph de Silva, Lucy Snowball, Dr Joshua Ching, Dr Stephen Bush and Dr Wilson Chen, covering the role of statisticians in consulting, public service, insurance, banking, non-profits and what it is like to work as a researcher. Over 60 guests were told about what our speakers day-to-day jobs involve and given tips for how to start their careers in statistics. Our attendees were very excited to learn about the opportunities in the field and enjoyed talking and networking with the speakers after the talks.

Hamish Lavery, NSW Branch councillor


Well-deserved recognition for Alison Harcourt’s tireless dedication to mathematics and statistics 

In the last newsletter, SSA reported on the ABC 7.30 program which featured SSA member, Alison Harcourt, and her inspirational career in mathematics (see also the accompanying story on ABC Online). 

We are delighted to hear that since then Alison has been named Victoria's 2019 Senior Australian of the Year. This award recognises Australians in Victoria aged at least 65 years who are still actively contributing and achieving in their work; this is certainly true of Alison. To this day she continues to train new generations of mathematicians and statisticians and has been a mentor to many great statisticians who have long-since retired! 

The accolades continued for Alison who was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by the University of Melbourne. In addition to her dedication to training and mentoring, these awards recognise Alison's remarkable achievements. The most visible ones include her seminal paper on the "branch and bound" method, her contributions to quantifying the extent of poverty in Australia and her work that led to the introduction of the "double randomisation" method in allocating positions on ballot papers (still in use today). Given that Alison was working at a time when there was much less support for women, this sort of recognition is well overdue. 

Finally, we must mention that Alison was the founding secretary of the Victorian Branch of SSA, back in 1964.  It is great to see her still attending our branch meetings regularly and supporting the society.

The Australian of the Year Awards are awarded to “leading citizens who are role models for us all”. Alison is definitely one of those. Congratulations Alison!

Damjan Vukcevic and Karen Lamb


Peter Howley named as one of 10 inaugural STEM Ambassadors

Leading University of Newcastle statistician, Associate Professor Peter Howley, has been named as one of ten inaugural ambassadors who will help strengthen the understanding and importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at a federal level. Read more about Peter's appointment here.


David John Finney 1917-2018

We were sad to hear that Professor David Finney, British statistician and Professor Emeritus of Statistics at the University of Edinburgh, passed away on 12 November 2018. David’s achievements in statistics included pioneering the development of systems monitoring drug safety. His reports and papers on the subject have greatly influenced the monitoring system now in place. He worked alongside many notable statisticians of the 20th century, including Ronald Fisher and Frank Yates. His two most widely known books, Probit Analysis (1947) and Statistical Method in Biological Assay (1952), both redefined those subjects. Read more about David’s life and achievements here.


Vic Branch event: Careers Night for young and early-career statisticians

-Save the date-

27 November, 6pm, at the University of Melbourne in Old Geology Lecture Theatre 1.

Victorian-based early career statisticians/data scientists should keep the night of Tuesday the 27th of November free: the Victorian branch is hosting a Careers Night for young and early-career statisticians (although all are welcome!). The event is targeted at people with statistical/data science backgrounds who have recently finished, or are nearing the end of their tertiary education.

The first part of the evening will be a panel discussion with speakers representing a wide range of career choices: from the actuarial arts to the depths of data science. Confirmed speakers include:

  • Amanda Aitken (actuary, Actuarial Edge);
  • Steve Bennett (data viz freelancer);
  • Nick Husek (statistician, ABS);
  • Karen Lamb (biostatistician, MCRI);
  • Linda McIver (teacher and director, Australian Data Science Education Institute); and
  • James Wilson (CEO, Eliiza).

After the panel discussion, SSA members will have the opportunity to get to know the panellists over drinks and food. We look forward to seeing you there!


J.B. Douglas Awards, Annual Lecture and Dinner

The last event of the year for the NSW Branch will be held on Wednesday, 28 November. It will begin with the 19th Annual J.B. Douglas Awards, with presentations from postgraduate statisticians from universities across NSW. In the evening we are delighted to have Professor Ray Chambers (University of Wollongong) present the Annual Lecture, on “Nudging a Pseudo-Science Towards a Science”, followed by the Annual Dinner, which will (as always) feature some great entertainment. Tickets for the dinner can be booked via Eventbrite now.


Winners of SSA's photography competition announced!

Congratulations to Michael Leach, Petra Kuhnert and Amanda Clarke for taking out first prize in the respective categories of SSA's first photo competition. You'll see their wonderful work when we launch SSA's new website in early December. Thank you to everyone who entered the competition.  

Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Section - Please join our mailing list!!

This section brings together medical statisticians and health scientists from academia, government, and industry. The Section supports and hosts events including seminars, workshops, courses, and networking opportunities relevant to its members.

If you are interested in joining this mailing list, please click here where you will be taken to the sign up page. We hope to hear from you!

Statistics in the Capital: Knibbs Lecture

The Knibbs lecture this year in SSA Canberra will be given by Professor Eric Stone, who holds a joint position at the Research School of Biology and the Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics at ANU, as well as being the director of the newly formed ANU-CSIRO Centre for Genomics, Metabolomics and Bioinformatics. The Knibbs lecture is scheduled for Tuesday 11 December. Details available in due course on the Canberra Branch website.  

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

Should you believe what the #Survey says?

The latest episode in the ACEMS podcast series, "The Random Sample" is now out. ACEMS' and SSA’s Scott Sisson @ABC_Research explores what you need to know about when you hear the latest survey or opinion poll on the news .

SSA Career Centre

Looking for a change? The SSA Career Centre may have options for you.

See current positions available here.

Are you an employer? Click here to see resumes of potential candidates.                                                            

SA Branch September meeting and Adelaide symposium on Ranked Set Sampling

Professor of Statistics Amer Al-Omari, Vice Dean of Academic Research at Al al-Bayt University, Jordan, presented the talk at the September meeting of the South Australian Branch. He outlined several ranked set sampling (RSS) techniques, including Extreme Ranked Set Sampling (ERSS) and Multistage Ranked Set Sampling (MRSS), which both yield unbiased estimators, and can be shown in certain circumstances to provide very large efficiency gains over simple random sampling.
Professor Al-Omari was in Australia for a two-day symposium on RSS (, which was followed by a field trip. These events provided an opportunity to promote not only RSS, but sampling techniques in general.