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  • 17 Sep 2020 3:14 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The annual 'MathsADDS' careers guide published by AMSI in collaboration with La Trobe University informs and inspires students with maths-based career successes, and insights into the breadth of professions and industry sectors that can be entered with an undergraduate mathematics-based degree. 

    The 23rd (2020-21) edition of MathsADDS is available to download here.

    Students often ask: “how will I use maths in the real world?”  MathsADDS provides students and careers advisors with an array of real job advertisements reinforcing the opportunities available. 

    Changing perceptions of the value of mathematics, this 23rd edition of MathsADDS highlights career possibilities in ten industry sectors.  It inspires students with profiles of practitioners, emphasising women excelling in careers requiring mathematical skills including a financial analyst, a civil engineer working on Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel project, and a robotics engineer at the Department of Defence utilising unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). 

    Introduced again by maths teaching icon, Eddie Woo, MathsADDS includes endorsements by science luminaries including former Australian of the Year, Professor Michelle Simmons, the nation’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, and Australia’s ambassador for STEM, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith.   

    This year has presented significant challenges to universities in staging traditional Open Day activities.  Whether your insitution's event was on-campus or virtual, forwarding a copy of MathsADDS (either online using the link below, or by sending a soon to be available print copy) enables your recruitment team to follow-up with your prospective students. 

    Could I ask you to please forward this email to your Faculty's / University's recruitment management? 

    Print copies are in production and will be delivered to your School / Department.  Again (if possible) you may care to send copies to your Recruitment Office.  

    With best regards, 

    Clint Rodgers

    AMSI Marketing and Communications Manager


  • 17 Sep 2020 9:27 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Julie Simpson, Head of the Biostatistics Unit and the Melbourne Clinical and Translational Sciences Platform, has been awarded the 2020 Australasian Epidemiological Association mentoring award. The award was announced at the AGM on 16th September.

    In their speech to award Julie, nominees David Price and Karen Lamb said “Julie is truly an inspiration to us and to the many biostatisticians, epidemiologists and public health researchers that are fortunate enough to know her. Julie is a fantastic role model; she sets the example for the type of researcher that so many of us aspire to be. She is always focussed on promoting and supporting others around her by assisting with fellowship applications, nominating people for prizes, extending invitations to provide workshops and seminars to junior members of staff, and offering opportunities for more junior members of her team to be on projects with collaborators in her place. She is always available for a chat, whether it be for technical queries or to provide help managing a difficult collaborator. It is the selflessness that Julie offers in mentoring and supporting her team that really stands out. She will gladly provide assistance on applications or publications regardless of whether she is involved or will personally benefit from the outcome. Julie is so invested in being a good supervisor that the success of her peers and team is the reward. We know of no one more deserving of this award."

    Congratulations from all of us at SSA!

  • 15 Sep 2020 12:19 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)


    Higher education legislation must be amended to 
    avert cuts to STEM

    In its submission to a Senate inquiry on the higher education legislation, Science & Technology Australia has proposed key amendments to avert damaging cuts in funding for STEM degrees.

    In June, the Australian Government announced its Job-Ready Graduates plan. It proposes to make major changes to how university education is funded.

    The Government has said it wants to see more graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses – and wants more humanities students to acquire STEM literacy and skills – because these are areas where Australia expects strong future jobs growth.

    STA strongly supports this goal - however, this legislation as drafted would cut the level of funding for universities to teach students in STEM courses by $690 million in 2021 alone.

    STA President Associate Professor Jeremy Brownlie said it was important for people to understand the magnitude of the proposed cut to STEM degree funding in the legislation as currently drafted.

    “While the Government’s stated goal is to boost STEM places, this proposed legislation would actually cut base funding by 17% for maths degrees, 16% for science and engineering degrees, and 29% for environmental sciences.”

    “Our members in STEM faculties have analysed this very carefully and concluded the practical effect of the proposed cuts would actually limit the STEM places universities can afford to offer - which is the opposite of Education Minister Dan Tehan’s stated intention.”

    “These cuts would also lower base funding into STEM faculties which has supported staff to teach but also to do some research and supervise training of our next generation researchers.”

    “That’s especially important in crucial STEM fields such as mining, engineering, agricultural science and advanced manufacturing - vital fields to build greater sovereign capability for Australia.” 

    “As a result, we urge the Senate to ask the Government to avert the proposed cuts in the legislation to STEM as a condition of Senate support to pass the Bill.”

    “If the Senate is unable to secure amendments by the Government or from a Senate majority to keep the current resourcing level for STEM, it would be better if the legislation did not proceed.”
     
    As a constructive way to avert the proposed cuts to STEM, STA recommends the Senate add a “science loading” clause to the legislation to ensure funding for STEM education does not fall.

    “Our proposed amendment would essentially ensure base funding for STEM degrees remains the same – meaning universities don’t reduce the number of places they can offer in STEM courses.”

    “The proposed cuts to STEM are being proposed when universities are reeling from the colossal economic hit of the COVID-19 pandemic including the loss of international student income.”

    STA members have also highlighted cautions, caveats and gaps in the assumptions on which the Deloitte report – which was used to design the package – sought to model the costs of teaching.

    Australian Council of Deans of Science President Professor Brian Yates said: “The strong view of the Deans of Science is that the legislation under consideration is extremely damaging to STEM and should not be passed as is.”

    “Given the funding incentives in the legislation and the proposed fall in STEM resourcing, universities are likely to enrol more students in the better funded disciplines and fewer in STEM.”

    Australian Council of Engineering Deans President Professor John Wilson said: “We think the funding levels in the legislation could see smaller and regional universities struggle to fund the costs of teaching engineering courses.”

    “It would also make it hard to deliver the ‘heavy engineering’ disciplines – which involve expensive large-scale facilities and infrastructure – such as mining engineering, petro-chemical engineering, electrical engineering, heavy mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing.”  

    Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors President Professor Dianne Gleeson said: “The cuts to STEM education are largest of all in the environmental sciences - with a 29% funding cut proposed in this legislation.”

    “That is likely to see a sharp drop in places in courses that equip students for careers in bushfire prevention, recovery and resilience; water management in our arid continent; helping farmers with soil improvement and weed eradication; and managing our unique State and National Parks.”

    Professor Brownlie said: “We appreciate the complexity of this legislation. STEM degrees feature across the proposed new funding clusters in a way that makes it hard to adjust the references to cluster funding rates in the legislation cleanly and simply.”

    “We have therefore proposed a way forward that would ultimately align with the Government’s objectives while protecting STEM faculties from cuts to current funding.”

    “We also seek an amendment to the legislation to uncap places for Indigenous students from all parts of Australia, not just regional and remote communities. Extending that access would help the Government to meet its own Close the Gap targets in education and employment.” 

    STA’s full submission is available here. For interviews, please contact STA Communications Manager, Zoya Patel on 0406 249 786.


  • 15 Sep 2020 10:03 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The speaker for the August meeting with the Western Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia and the International Biometrics Society Australasian Region was Dr Smaila Sanni. Currently, Dr. Sanni works at SAGI-West as a biometrician, and has been in that role since October 2019. His talk discussed the research that Dr. Sanni conducted with the Applied and Industrial Mathematics group from the University of New South Wales for a chapter in the book 'Advances in Forest Fire Research 2018' (Jovanoski et al., 2018). The work considered methods in stochastic differential equations to describe the rate of spread (ROS) of fire. Interest is in how the fire develops within the initial minutes of a fire starting. The method used in this work can be applied to numerous fields, including cellular dynamics, animal genetics, disease spread in crops, and yield response to changes in growth factors.

    The accelerated phase of fire ROS is incredibly important to know as it can inform first responders of how rapidly a fire may develop, and what resources they will therefore need to handle that situation. While undoubtedly an important topic, the majority of studies in wildland fire science have been dedicated to the development of models after its initial acceleration phase, when the fire has reached a quasi- equilibrium rate of spread. Comparatively little attention has been given to the development of models that specifically account for the growth phase of a fire's development.

    The findings put forward by Dr. Sanni and his research team presented interesting relationships in fire dynamics. One key finding was that the probability that the fire would self-extinguish was found to be governed by the ratio between the equilibrium fire ROS and the variability of the fire ROS. Another notable outcome was that the confidence interval for the stochastic differential equation model used in the research was found to be narrower than that used in nonlinear regression models. This means that the stochastic model gives a higher level of precision for its predictions than that found for the nonlinear regression model. Finally, the stochastic model is also advantageous as it provides a way to generate statistics such as the mean, variance, containment probability and the distribution of fire ROS.

    As mentioned above, the use of stochastic differential equations can be applied to other fields, and Dr. Sanni sees potential for the use of the modelling in areas such as crop disease spread which undoubtedly has stochastic elements. He hopes that this can be integrated into his work done at SAGI-West to improve their current outcomes.

    Due to the nature of the online talk, no dinner was planned afterwards but one was offered for Dr. Sanni in the future.

    Jordan Brown

    References

    Jovanoski, Z., J. J. Sharples, A. M. Gill, S. Watt, H. S. Sidhu, I. N. Towers, and S. Sanni. 2018. "Modelling the rate of spread of fire: An SDE approach." In  Advances in Forest Fire Research 2018 VIEGAS, D. X., 555-565: Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra.


  • 14 Sep 2020 10:14 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Last week we lodged STA’s submission to the Senate inquiry on the higher education legislation. As soon as the committee publishes it, we will be able to circulate it. You can read all the submissions as they are published on the committee’s website

    We share the Government’s goal of having more STEM graduates – however the proposed legislation would cut resourcing for STEM degrees. We have done some careful thinking about constructive ways in which the Senate could amend the legislation to avert the proposed cuts to STEM. It has been so important to be able to hear from many of you about the likely impact of the proposed legislation as we crafted this important piece of work. Having the collective voice and information conduit of STA becomes even more valuable at times like this. Our thanks to each of you who helped with insights and expertise. 

    At the end of this month, we will host the next webinar in our skills series. This one is on how STEM organisations can continue their equity, diversity and inclusion work amid COVID-19. Our presenters are STA Vice-President Tanya Ha and Corey Tutt from Deadly Science. You can register here: Diverse By Design: tips and resources to enhance equity in STEM (Webinar).

    A final call as well today for Victorian applicants for Superstars of STEM. Amid the lockdown in Victoria, we extended the deadline in that state until 5pm today. If you know a woman in STEM in Victoria who is a potential Superstar, please encourage them to apply.

    As always, we’re conscious of the continued pressure of COVID-19 on the sector. Last week the nation marked R U OK Day, and STA is here to support you. Please always feel free to be in contact if there are additional ways in which we can help support you and your members. 

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 

    NEW REPORTS AND POLICY CHANGES OF INTEREST TO STA MEMBERS 


  • 10 Sep 2020 3:33 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    I know it continues to be a very hectic time for us all. Thank you for the important work each of you are doing across our STEM sector. 
     
    Among the many policy issues we are all currently navigating, helping policymakers to understand the importance of international research collaborations is a continuing priority. 
     
    We are therefore looking to collect some great examples and case studies to highlight global research collaborations between Australian STEM researchers and counterparts abroad.
     
    We are looking for the following information:

    • What (types of) research are you and your members currently collaborating on with international partners?
    • What research and products/services/insights/jobs have come from your or your members international collaborations (links or pdfs to papers and websites would be excellent)?
    • What countries are your research partners in?
    • Are you collaborating with international businesses or industry and, if so, who and how?
    We are looking for as much specificity in examples as possible – although we understand that some research might be commercial in confidence. 
     
    STA intends to use this research as public case studies however if requested we will not include your name or research institution. 
     
    We would like to gather this information before September 21. If you could email it to our Policy Manager Peter Derbyshire – peter.derbyshire@sta.org.au – we would be most grateful.
     
    Many thanks in advance for your engagement as always.
     
    All the very best,
     
    Misha

    Misha Schubert
    Chief Executive Office
    r
    P: 02 6257 2891 M: 0421 612 351
    PO Box 259, Canberra City, ACT 2601
    E:  misha.schubert@sta.org.au


  • 8 Sep 2020 11:33 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Dear AMSI members and friends,

    The 'Securing Australia’s Mathematical Workforce' (SAMW) program is a significant initiative by AMSI and the Australian Government through our partners in the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.  

    Since 2012, SAMW funding has further enabled AMSI to grow the nation’s future public and private-sector workforce with advanced skills in the mathematical sciences, whilst also providing opportunities for increasing participation by female and Indigenous students.  The overarching objective is to contribute to the preparation of a world-class mathematical sciences workforce in Australia.

    I am delighted to inform you that following an independent review of the SAMW program (2016-20) and the AMSI Vacation Schools and Scholarships Grant program (2012–16), funding has been secured for another 12 months, continuing the success of our highly important partnership with the Department.  

    This enables valuable events including BioInfoSummer 2020, Vacation Research Scholarships 2020-21, Summer School 2021, our Scientific Workshop Program and Winter School 2021 to be sustained.

    I would like to recognise and acknowledge the collective contribution of our Deputy Director, Professor Mat Simpson, and the members of the working committee he chaired, together with our wonderful RHED team of Angela Coughlin, Anna Muscara and Francesca Hoban Ryan -- and of our former program manager, Chloe Pearse -- to successfully securing this vital funding enabling this great work by AMSI to continue.  

    Congratulations and thank you!

    Asha Rao

  • 3 Sep 2020 11:42 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Canberra Branch SSA, Victorian Branch SSA & Statistical Consulting Network, August meeting

    Over 120 SSA and NZSA members joined online to hear from four statistical consultants, in a webinar jointly hosted by the Canberra and Victorian Branches, and the Statistical Consulting Network. 

    Elyse Corless (Data Analysis Australia) drew on her commercial experience in dealing with the challenges of An abundance of data where quantity should not be taken to imply quality.  While large amounts of data can be overwhelming, they can also draw the inquisitive consultant in and be potentially distracting.  Commercial consultants often need to juggle multiple projects each with their own time and budget constraints, while considering the client’s knowledge and understanding of statistical methods and concepts. Elyse emphasised the importance of careful project scoping and planning, and of understanding the value of the project to the client facilitated by regular communication.  She provided tips for improving data quality including inspecting and visualising data, sampling snippets of very large data sets, and using coding in the data review process.  Routine use of coding should be used to support reproducibility of both data checking processes and subsequent analytics.  Elyse shared examples from a range of her recent projects.

    Graham Hepworth (Statistical Consulting Centre, University of Melbourne) discussed The art of the possible.  Among important qualities of a statistical consultant is being able to make a judgement of what is needed by the client; this also requires judgement about the capacity of the client to deal with the complexity of the analysis provided.  Graham shared some findings of a client-consultant survey from the Statistical Consulting Centre, and showed that within generally good levels of satisfaction, clients tended to be more satisfied when the problem involved was less complex.  However clients’ perception of the quality of service (overall very positive) varied little in terms of their statistical competence.  Graham suggested that this reflected good judgement on the part of the consultant in adapting to client capacity; he illustrated the range of options a consultant might consider in the analysis of an ordinal outcome variable and discussed his experience in weighing up these options.

    Hwan-Jin Yoon’s (Statistical Consulting Unit, Australian National University) contribution focussed on Statistical consulting in the university: some challenges.  Jin contrasted problem-minded versus solution-minded focus, and characterised four different types of roles that might be adopted by a consultant depending degree of activity and engagement on the part of both the consultant and the client.  These roles were helper, leader, teacher and collaborator.  Jin shared examples of how clients’ questions can shape expectations about the statistician’s role, and he discussed the drawbacks inherent in some roles.  Ideally the consultant takes on a collaborative role, with learning on both sides; this is Jin’s “joy of statistics”.  In addition to dealing with client expectations, challenges in academic statistical consulting included the variability in the type of statistical questions and client background in statistics, and the need to deal with the human side of the interactions.  Ultimately, the success of the consultation come down to the human side – the empathy on the part of the consultant.

    Doug Zahn (Professor Emeritus, Florida State University) invited participants let him know What is your most troublesome stumbling block?  This elicited a very generous response from over 50 people, and so Doug focussed on four stumbling blocks that resonated with many of the examples provided.  These were:

    • When the data have already been collected and can't answer the question of interest.
    • Being left out of the study design, taken in too late.
    • Eliciting the actual research question from the researcher.
    • What to do when I don't know what to do Knowing how to say “I don’t know!”

    An effective 21st century consultation relies on open communication that is co-operative and collaborative. It results in an agreed plan of shared work that is robust to scrutiny, and that is carried out in a timely way.  Seeing value in a consultant’s skills and contribution, the client identifies a resource for future work.

    It results in an agreed plan of shared work that is robust to scrutiny, and that is carried out in a timely way.  Seeing value in a consultant’s skills and contribution, the client identifies a resource for future work.

    In a wanted conversation the consultant endeavours to find out what the client wants from the consultation, rather than making assumptions or, worse, guessing.  Doug emphasised the expanded wanted conversation where a consultant strives to elicit all that the clients wants, in an iterative process. Importantly, there should be agreement about the final list of all wants, and this should reflect consideration of relevant stakeholder requirements and application of the project results.

    Consultants need to be honest about their capacity to meet client needs, and about the limitations of a client’s project; Doug advised we look for velvet gloves in delivering these messages!

    Doug will be the Keynote Speaker in December at the Statistical Consulting Network 2020 meeting.  This is a virtual event where statistical consultants can connect, present their ideas, discuss best practice and more.  You can find more information here and you can register via the SSA website.

    There was a lot of lively discussion in the chat during the webinar.  In brief, here is a summary of some contributions.

    On negotiating authorship, or the offer of co-authorship in lieu of payment

    • Every university in Australia has an authorship policy. Consultants working in unis should be aware of it and make sure their clients are aware of it.
    • For students I would be referring them to various guidelines about what warrants authorship... there are a lot of resources available and education is key.
    • The SSA Statistical Consulting Network could also come up with a statement on co-authorship specific to statistical consultants to publish on the website.  Will let you know plans as they develop.
    • We find it helpful to have a policy document on co-authorship that can be produced.
    • Even if co-authorship is not on the table, appropriate acknowledgement of consulting support should be explicitly discussed.  We also have statements around this when clients come to our service.
    • Here is the Australian code of conduct around research authorship.
    • ICMJE guidelines on co-authorship can/could also be applied to other substantive areas of application

    Is it better to do something wrong (at client's direction) and get paid or do nothing and not get paid?

    • Sometimes an older, stubborn client may be persuaded with issues of reputation; that is one thing they are concerned about.  "The technique you want to use is no longer respected." (expressed politely)
    • If you can walk away then you may have to do so - otherwise you may suffer reputationally
    • I think Dunning (a psychologist) had studied on why older/ specialised client/people refused to take in advice, I cannot remember the exact study sorry. only thing I can remember is that they did trials with London taxi drivers and proved that when someone knew something very well, they tend to question new/conflicting information strongly.
    • When I was early in my career in medical/hospital consulting, I put in my mind that often these people came in with an offsider. So, in that situation I convinced myself that they were more scared of me than I was of them (helped me relax with a bit of an internal smile to myself)
    • Other
    • This could be useful re correct versus useful reporting of frequentist results: https://discourse.datamethods.org/t/language-for-communicating-frequentist-results-about-treatment-effects/934

    SSA members can watch the recording of this webinar here.

    Sue Finch
    Co-chair Statistical Consulting Network

  • 3 Sep 2020 11:29 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The SA branch’s annual young statisticians career event was held successfully on August 14th, 2020 via Zoom. This event aimed to help statistics students or early career statisticians, less than five years in the field of statistics, to meet their potential employers.

    A young statisticians career event e-poster was created and sent out to all guest employers, mathematics and statistics students from three universities: University of South Australia, Flinders University and the University of Adelaide, a few weeks before the event. A rsvp was required before students were able to gain access to the zoom meeting.

    For this event, we were pleased to have invited senior statisticians from the Biometry Hub, the University of Adelaide; Advance Clinical; Adelaide Health Technology Assessment (AHTA), the University of Adelaide; Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and SAHMRI to give formal presentations. These presentations included information about introduction of the organisation; roles of statisticians; analyses/software; future opportunities/career paths and opportunities/support for continued professional development.

    After the presentations, in the Q&A session, students asked questions to our presenters regarding their talks or general questions regarding the career opportunities. Some questions were directed to a specific employer representative and some were directed to all employer representatives. This section went smoothly and there was good interaction between our employers and our students.

    Finally, Wendy Li, the young statistician representative from SA branch, closed the event with great thanks to all employers presented and all students attended the event.

    By Wendy Li

  • 1 Sep 2020 3:02 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    JOANNA WANG SHOWS USE OF STATISTICS FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE (AUGUST 2020)

    University of Technology Sydney senior lecturer Joanna Wang describes statistical evaluation of a prison alternative.

    About 50 society members logged into Zoom on 27th August 2020 to hear about Joanna Wang's work with the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. This bureau has lots of publicly available data on crime and prison populations. An example of its objectives is to identify factors that affect the frequency and distribution of crime.

     Most of Joanna's presentation was on a case study concerning evaluation of a prison alternative known as an intensive correction order. If a judge gives you an intensive correction order then, rather than sending you to Long Bay, Goulburn or Grafton Gaol, then you have to do at least 32 hours of community service work a month, participate in programmes and submit yourself to regular drug and alcohol testing. New South Wales gaols are filling up at an unprecedented rate so there is a great deal of interest in this non-prison alternative.  The research aim that Joanna presented to us was:

    "to examine the risk of re-offending on those who receive an intensive correction order, relative to those who received a short (less than 2 years) prison sentence".   

    Randomised clinical trials to are not an easy, or ethical, option in this case and so propensity score and instrumental variable methods were used instead. One analysis of this kind led to a 31% reduction in the odds ratio of re-offending for intensive correction order offenders, with a reasonable degree of statistical significance.

    As advertised by Joanna towards the end of her talk, the details of the case study are in a 2017 paper by J.J.J. Wang and S. Poynton in the "Crime and Justice Bulletin" (No. 207).

    Matt Wand

    University of Technology Sydney


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