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  • 22 May 2024 1:10 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    SSA's Executive Officer, Marie-Louise Rankin, has been the central hub around which the SSA has rotated for the best part of 16 years.  Her faithful service, cheerful demeanour and strong commitment to the SSA are familiar to anyone who has worked with her, on the Executive Committee, Central Council or in other ways. 

    I decided to interview her, so we can all find out more about her life, and also to harvest views she has about the Society she has so faithfully served.

    Ian Gordon
    SSA President

     1.    I assume not many young people leave school with the intention of working for an association. What career path brought you to SSA?

    In my last year of high school, I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do career-wise, so I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and entered the German diplomatic service. I obtained a Bachelor of Public Administration (International Relations) and subsequently enjoyed postings to the German embassies in Paris (France), Yaounde (Cameroon), Riga (Latvia) and finally Canberra. During my Canberra posting I met and married my husband who was with the Australian Defence Force, making further postings impossible.

    I resigned from the German Foreign Ministry and, for the first time in my life, put down roots. The next few years were dedicated to homelife duties and raising our two children. By the time they were in preschool/school respectively, a good friend of mine, who worked for the Independent Scholars Association of Australia (ISAA), was about to go on parental leave, and asked me to fill in for her, just for a few months. In the end she decided not to return to the job. As I had enjoyed my stint in association work, I decided to continue in the position, which was a relatively small role. When I was advised that SSA was looking for an Executive Officer in late 2007, I saw that as an opportunity to step-up, applied for the job, and the rest is history

    2.    When people ask you about your work, do you sometimes get asked “What’s it like working with a bunch of nerds?” (or a similar question)?  If so, how do you answer?

    I can’t say that anyone has ever asked me that! When I tell people where I work, I find that they are generally impressed, and assume that I’m a statistician as well. Sometimes I bask in the admiration for a moment before coming clean, explaining that I’m the office manager with no statistical expertise. 

        Tell us about your history with the SSA. I believe you’ve had a long period of service, with a brief interlude at some point where you did something else … is that right?

    I started to work for SSA in 2008, when the office was still located in Braddon. Every workday started with a trip to the local post office to get the mail from the PO Box. It would be brimming with mainly membership payments and bills. In 2010 the SSA office moved to ABS House in Belconnen. There, I actually got to see some of our members in person and to enjoy the café serving excellent coffee right on the premises!

    After three years with SSA, I thought I was ready for full-time employment and applied for a job with the Australian Crime Commission (ACC). However, the work wasn’t as glamorous there as I had hoped. After a demanding job with SSA I found the work with the ACC not as varied or challenging as I was used to. When I heard that my successor at SSA was also not happy with her new job, and SSA was keen to hire me back, I resigned from the Crime Commission and returned to my previous position at SSA. I had lasted four weeks at the ACC.

        You’ve worked from home now, for some time; what has that been like, for you?

    When I worked from the SSA office on the ground floor of ABS House, I rarely had visitors to the office, so it was a bit like working from home already, but without the benefits. In 2015 I made the transition to work remotely (from the Sunshine Coast), and it has been fabulous. I love not having to commute every day, not having to worry about finding a car park or about what I’m going to wear. My husband feeds me cups of tea (during some of our Zoom calls you may have seen his arm pass through, as he hands me yet another cup) and when I need to rant (yes, I do that sometimes!) he lends a willing ear and gives me his perspective, which is usually more measured than mine. 

        What are the big changes that have affected your role, over the period of your employment with the SSA?

    Where do I start? I recently overhauled the SSA Office Manual, last updated in 2011, and I basically I had to start from scratch. In 2008, when I started to work for SSA, or SSAI as it was called at the time, we mailed out membership renewal notices by post! We had about six hundred members then and the renewal date was the same for everyone: 31 December. Imagine folding six hundred renewal letters and sticking six hundred postage stamps on the envelopes! Most members paid by cheque then. Thankfully, I have not had to bank a cheque in a long time. These days, renewal notices and reminders are emailed automatically, and 95% of our 1,100+ members renew their membership without any input from me directly through our website.

    In 2008, the SSA website was static. Updates required knowledge of how to write code, so they were outsourced and had to be paid for. Since then, I have overseen the implementation of two new websites for SSA, allowing me to do the updates myself. In 2008 I would not have dreamed that I’d be capable of doing that one day!

    When I started working for SSA, our monthly Executive Committee meetings were held by teleconference. I had to learn very quickly to distinguish the voices to ensure that I was attributing decisions and comments to the correct committee member when writing the minutes. Long before Zoom was a thing we changed to videoconferencing, and it wasn’t cheap at that time. However, apart from being able to see the committee members during meetings, it allowed me to launch our first ever webinar series in 2013.

    In 2008 the SSA newsletter was published in hardcopy, four times a year. Over time it changed to hardcopy plus digital copy and from there to digital only. The newsletter then morphed from quarterly to monthly and from there to weekly. It developed from a publication looking back to past events to a bulletin listing upcoming events.  Somewhere along the line we lost our newsletter editors, and the role was absorbed by the Executive Officer.

    Another major change was the employment of our Event Coordinator, Jodi Phillips in 2020. Suddenly I had a colleague, available most days of the week, to share the workload with, and to bounce ideas off. We had wonderful office administrators in the past: Liz Jermyn when I first started, later Peng Xu, Sonia Cowdroy and finally Irene Kiely. They provided wonderful support, and I always looked forward to the day of the week when I would have a colleague in the office, but a single day wasn’t often enough. 

        What’s been the most enjoyable aspect of the SSA job?

    I  really enjoy the flexibility that working for SSA offers, and being able to work on my own, in my own time, only answering to myself, most days. That’s a luxury you generally only get if you are self-employed.

    I love compiling the weekly newsletter, and forever foraging the internet for interesting topics. I enjoy writing and I’m particularly proud of the fact that I’m doing this in English, which is a second language for me.

    And then there are the people, of course: I work with some great individuals and have made special connections with many of our members. 

    7.    You must have some advice, specific or general, for the SSA, as you approach retirement. Now’s your chance to let us know!

    Over the past few years, I have listened to the many discussions on the emerging field of data science and to me, as a non-statistician, it often sounds like statisticians and data scientists are being pitted against each other. I feel that the Society should embrace data science, making data scientists feel welcome in this community. In fact,  I would recommend that SSA change its name to “The Australian Society for Statisticians and Data Scientists (ASSDS)”.  That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Or let’s go one step further: Why not make it the “Australasian Society for Statisticians and Data Scientists”? Why limit yourselves to Australia?

    More income is needed to be able to implement all the initiatives outlined in the SSA strategic plan. The revenue is right there: broaden the membership base to include data scientists. Otherwise, another association will. Or the data scientists may start their own association.

    Many years ago, Scott Sisson suggested holding “Joint Southern Statistical Meetings”, as our answer to the “Joint Statistical Meetings” in the Northern hemisphere. We sent out requests for expressions of interest to statistical associations in the region and got a terrific response. Plans were underway for such an event to be held in Darwin, when the pandemic put an end to this ambitious attempt. I hope that down the track someone else will pick things up again where we left off.

    And finally: SSA’s accreditation program is a valuable asset to the organisation.  I think that SSA should try to market it more within the region, beyond Australia, and target the universities especially. 

        You must have thought about how you hope to spend your time in retirement, even if it is sipping cocktails by the pool. Do you have some general plans that you can share?

    Actually, sipping cocktails by the pool sounds great! On top of my list is doing more exercise – getting out for a walk most days and continuing my passion for pilates and line dancing. Then there’s travel. My mum, who lives in Germany, is 93 years old, and I want to be able to spend as much quality time with her as I can  over the next few years. I’m also looking forward to getting busy in the kitchen as I love cooking.

  • 20 May 2024 4:01 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    About the job

    Are you a people leader and able to build strong relationships?

    Do you have an understanding and appreciation of data, data science and statistics?

    Are you up for the challenge of leading a membership-based organisation through positive growth?

    Your opportunity

    The Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) has a vision to amplify the power, use and practice of statistics and data science across Australia. It was founded in 1962 as a national organisation. The SSA offers an accreditation program, events and conferences and discussion forums to members. It also supports “The Random Sample” podcast and publishes an international magazine (in collaboration with statistical associations in the UK and USA) and an academic journal (in collaboration with the New Zealand Statistical Association).

    We are looking for a General Manager to provide leadership to a small, specialised team and to support the Executive Committee in achieving positive growth. This role will have a transition period wherein operational requirements will be seen to before driving the growth agenda.

    Your primary focus will be to:

    • Identify and drive membership growth through quality products and services.
    • Establish diverse revenue streams based on what is valued by members and the community.
    • Create partnerships, sponsorship opportunities and undertake advocacy to position SSA for growth.
    • Manage governance requirements and ensure suitable financial management and compliance is in place.
    • Lead and shape a team of 3 staff and volunteers to deliver all functions including marketing and communications, event management and IT and Privacy.

    To be considered for the opportunity you will bring

    • Experience as a Senior Manager or equivalent.
    • Marketing, commercial, governance and risk management experience.
    • Strategic and critical thinking, change management, communication and people leadership experience.
    • Experience working with Executive Committees / Boards. (desirable)
    • Experience working within a professional membership association. (desirable)
    • Familiarity working with statisticians, mathematicians or data scientists. (desirable)
    • Tertiary qualifications in a relevant field.
    • Australian Work Rights.

    A bit more about us

    We offer great flexibility and the opportunity to permanently work from home for the right Australia-based candidate. As the team grows you will be able to recruit and build a team around your leadership style.

    SSA is governed by an Executive Committee with whom you will work closely and there are a number of other committees you will partner with and support. Our committee members are diverse and driven. This is a great opportunity to elevate the services and products SSA provides to ensure the statistics profession is valued and understood. To thrive in this position, you will have the skills and mindset to strengthen our organisation, the team and bring a proactive and collaborative approach.

    To apply send through your resume and cover letter to Renee Barnes of "The People Paradox".

  • 20 Dec 2023 9:28 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The article entitled “Bare bones, or a rich feast? Taking care with context in a data rich world”

    by Sue Finch and Ian Gordon has been awarded the C. Oswald George prize for 2023 for best article in Teaching Statistics.

    For many decades, those teaching statistics have had great thirst for data for teaching, student learning experiences and assessment both formative and summative. Desirable features of such datasets have typically been potential interest for students, types of variables and data for exploration and analysis, any interesting results and potential for diagnostics, that is, for critiquing analysis assumptions. In past eras, finding a sufficient range and number of such datasets was always a challenge. As commented in this paper, datasets which “demonstrated important pedagogical principles and supported applied practice of statistical methods” were regarded as “gold”. Textbooks and other publications were some sources of data. Statistical computing packages such as Minitab, SPSS and R provide an extensive library of datasets. Such datasets tended to be clean and already organised by variables and subject in worksheets and spreadsheets, reinforcing the emphasis on the available variables and their types.

    As the emphasis on authentic student experience of the whole statistical investigation process increased, many programs included students collecting, observing or sourcing their own data, with instructors then able to use such data in current and subsequent teaching, with the permission and acknowledgement of the students who collected the data. The what, how, when, where, who and why of such datasets were, or should have been, an inherent part of the student reporting. With the increasing proliferation of data available and the growing emphasis on data science and students considering available data, there is now much attention on the provenance and contextual issues of data, as well as on the original data in all its complexity and messiness.

    This paper reports on an overview of the “contextual information provided in 41 data sets suitable for introductory tertiary statistics teaching, available in the R datasets package, and investigates the source information for four data sets” which on the surface appear relatively simple, with a continuous response and just one or two categorical explanatory variables. The work involved in fully investigating the provenance of data demonstrates the importance of full disclosure of context and origin of all datasets. The investigation shows how what the authors call “sanitisation” leads to impoverished data and potentially misleading or incorrect context for analysis and/or interpretation, diminishing “integral parts of the statistical investigation process”. In contrast, full contextual information and data provenance provide a ”rich feast” for teaching and learning of authentic statistical thinking, investigating, analysing and interpreting.

    The investigation, presentation and discussion in this article are themselves rich with points that build bridges between the variety of desirable criteria of datasets for teaching. Perhaps there are also current messages of the ever-present dangers of “sanitisation” of contexts, issues and data, and what Stark [1] calls “quantifauxcation”.

    Congratulations to the authors for a thoughtful and challenging investigation and discussion.


    Dr. C. Oswald George was an eminent government statistician in the UK; one of the founders of the UK’s Institute of Statisticians who served as Chairman and President. He donated a sum of money for the ‘best paper, especially submitted by younger authors, in the field of applied statistics’. The prize was subsequently attached to the Institute's own professional exams. After the formation of Teaching Statistics in 1979, the Institute made the prize money available for the best article in Teaching Statistics, and this prize has continued to be made available following the merger of the Institute with the Royal Statistical Society. Dr. C. Oswald George died on 6 January 1974, but we are pleased to be able to honour his legacy each year through the award of this prize to the ‘best’ article in Teaching Statistics.

    Helen MacGillivray, Editor

  • 20 Dec 2023 7:59 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    SSA Canberra congratulates three winners of its 2023 “rego grant” prize, Santiago Marin, Xian Li, and Zhi Yang Tho, all of whom share their recent experiences of attending the 2023 ASC & OZCOTS conference at Wollongong.

    Santiago Marin

    “I am immensely grateful for the enormous support provided by the Canberra branch of the Statistical Society of Australia, which helped me to attend the 2023 Australian Statistical Conference through a “Rego Grant”. I spent five remarkable days in sunny Wollongong, where I was able to meet and socialize with new people, catch up with old friends, and have constructive discussions with fellow Statisticians and Data Enthusiasts, especially with other Ph.D. students working on truly amazing projects!

    This year, the theme for the conference was ‘Statisticians in Society’. Through a wide variety of Keynotes, oral presentations, and informal chats in the halls of the University, I realized the vast impact that Statistics has on our societies. From theoretical and methodological advances to effective data communication—and everything in between—Statistics plays a key role in how we make decisions, which ultimately will affect all of us.

    Additionally, I was able to present my research on Scalable Bayesian Posterior Sampling in the form of a rapid oral presentation and a poster. As a Ph.D. student and an early career statistician, sharing my work with a broader academic audience and hearing their comments and suggestions is crucial to produce high-quality and significant research. Thus, I would also like to express my most sincere gratitude to everyone who stopped by my poster, asked challenging questions, or provided meaningful feedback.

    Before wrapping up, I would also like to recognize the hard work of the Organizing Committee. They truly pulled off an amazing event! All in all, I am looking forward to the 2025 ASC conference in Perth!”

    (The credits of the photo go to Dr. Swen Kuh) 

    *Santiago Marin is a first-year PhD student in Statistics at the Australian National University.

    Xian Li

    “First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the generous support provided through the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) Canberra registration grant. This grant played an important role in facilitating my active participation and engagement in the Australian Statistical Conference, Wollongong 2023.

    The four-day conference was exceptionally well-structured, featuring a diverse range of sessions covering topics such as ecology, network/graph theory, spatial statistics, and Bayesian computations, etc. There are keynote sessions and contributed sessions.

    The keynote sessions, particularly those delivered by Professor Xiao-Li Meng, Professor Andrew Mangion, and Professor Julie Simpson, provided fascinating insights into the integration of statistics with other fields, significantly enriching my understanding of statistical methodologies and their applications.

    In the contributed sessions, I presented my work on “subbagging variable selection” in a parallel session on “Big Data”; This marked my first formal presentation to an audience of more than 30 individuals. I received many friendly and constructive feedback on my work from both academic and industry researchers. Additionally, I was impressed by the other three presenters from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) who covered topics such as anomaly detection, survey design and estimating equations, and network analysis on consumer data for estimation of household expenditure. Their presentations provided informative and inspiring aspects of the application of statistical methods in real-world big data problems. After the parallel session, I had the opportunity to chat with the other presenters during lunchtime, gaining more insights into their works and understanding the daily tasks and working environments of the ABS in different divisions and teams. They also provided their advantageous advice on my career development.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the conference, and I am confident that such precious experiences will significantly contribute to my future academic endeavors and professional career. I will continue to be passionate about statistics with gratitude to SSA Canberra. The continued support from SSA Canberra has been helpful in having a positive impact on Canberra-based students and researchers alike. I extend my heartfelt thanks once again for the invaluable opportunity afforded to me through this grant. I believe this journey will be very memorable in my future study and career.

    *Xian Li is currently completing his PhD in Statistics at the Australian National University, while also undertaking an internship at the Australian Public Service.

    Zhi Yang Tho 

    The ASC & OZCOTS 2023 conference was held on the beautiful campus of the University of Wollongong, and it has been an amazing experience to be part of the conference. The conference consisted of talks from a wide range of topics in Statistics e.g. spatial statistics, causal inference etc., which allowed me to stay up to date with the ongoing work of other researchers. For instance, I learnt about a new idea of visual inference that involves conducting statistical inferences with the help of statistical graphics. I also enjoyed the keynote speeches, particularly the Joint ASC/OZCOTS Keynote by Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter FRS OBE, who presented an insightful talk on the importance of presenting balanced information to improve the trustworthiness of statistical communication. I was impressed by the work presented in the Horizon Lecture by Associate Professor Andrew Zammit Mangion, who discussed the idea of amortised inference by applying neural networks to large spatial datasets.

    By presenting my work in the session ‘Spatial Statistics and the Environment’, I was able to obtain useful comments from other researchers in similar field to improve the project. It was also my first time to co-chair a session in an academic conference. Specifically, I co-chaired the session 'Training the Next Generation of Statisticians', where the great discussions in the field of statistical education reminded me of the importance of developing students’ statistical thinking as an educator. Throughout the conference, I met many new people from a wide variety of backgrounds, and it is amazing how the conference was able to bring together everyone who shares the same passion for Statistics. Various social events were also held during the conference. The ECSS Network ASC Social was one of my favourite events as I had the chance to not only talk to early-career peers about the challenges that we face as a researcher but also discuss with more senior statisticians on their advice to overcome these difficulties.

    Finally, I would like to thank the organisers of the ASC & OZCOTS 2023 conference for their immense effort in putting up such a great event, and the Canberra Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia for sponsoring my registration of the conference.”

    *Zhi Yang Tho is a completing PhD in Statistics at the Australian National University and will commence a postdoctoral fellowship in Statistics at the ANU at the start of 2024.

  • 15 Dec 2023 1:36 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    A Society Service Award is awarded to a member in recognition of sustained and significant service to the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA). Four members of the Society were awarded this prestigious award in 2023: 

    Brenton Clarke  

    The Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) is proud to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of Brenton Clarke, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry and Physics, College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Murdoch University by awarding him the Society’s Service Award. 

    Since commencing his academic career at Murdoch University in 1984, Brenton has been a cornerstone of the statistical landscape in WA. Over the past 35+ years, he has dedicated himself to the advancement of the field, both academically and within the SSA.  

    Brenton's involvement with the local branch committee of the SSA has been nothing short of remarkable. His tenure includes taking on the roles of Vice President in 2004, 2005, and 2021, and President in 2006, 2007, 2019, and 2020. Beyond these official capacities, Brenton has been a steadfast member of the Branch Council, contributing to its growth and success.  

    A key achievement in Brenton's illustrious career was the establishment of the Frank Hansford-Miller Fund. As the chair of the Frank Hansford-Miller Fellowship committee since its inception in 2012, Brenton has played a pivotal role in fostering connections between British and Western Australian statisticians.  

    His leadership skills stood out as the Chair of the program committee for the 2010 Australian Statistical Conference in Fremantle. Under his guidance, the conference catered to a diverse range of statisticians, making it one of the most successful events organised by the Society.  

    Brenton's influence extends beyond formal roles. His consistent attendance at monthly branch meetings for nearly four decades, his engaging talks, and his participation in discussions have been invaluable. Notably, his encouragement of students at Murdoch University to engage with the statistical community, including urging them to join the SSA, attend events and apply for awards and scholarships, particularly the WA branch honours scholarship, has been legendary.  

    A passionate supporter of the SSA and its mission, Brenton's contributions have been fundamental to the growth and success of the statistics community in Western Australia.  

    The SSA extends its heartfelt thanks to Brenton for his enduring commitment and congratulates him on this well-deserved recognition. 

    Stephen Horn 

    Stephen served the SSA as Treasurer from 2001 until 2022. He guided the Society through difficult times, including the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. His stewardship of the Society’s finances left the Society with a healthy buffer of funds. During his tenure, Stephen provided Society Presidents with calm and measured advice on the use of Society finances. Thanks to his efforts over the past two decades, the Society is now in a position where it has a surplus to be deployed for the benefit of SSA members. 

    As a statistician and member of the SSA, Stephen has always been a strong proponent of the Society’s Sections. From 2011 to 2016 he was Chair or Co-chair of the Survey and Management Section, and from 2017 to the present he has been Chair of the Official Statistics Section. In this capacity, he organised several events with the Canberra Branch, and contributed to bringing the SSA and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) closer together. 

    The Society is delighted to be able to recognise Stephen with this award. 

    Karen Lamb  

    A/Prof Lamb has served the SSA since 2018, when she took up the position of Co-Chair of the Society’s Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section, modernising that Section of the Society, forming a strong, active committee. During this time, she also served on the Local Organising Committee of the Society’s Australian Statistical Conference in 2018, held jointly with the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics, in Melbourne.  

    In 2020, Karen established the Society’s Mentoring Program. The initial program was a pilot run through the Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section. Following its popularity, in 2021, Karen launched the full Mentoring Program for SSA which is still running with great success.  

    In 2022, Karen was appointed co-Chair of the Scientific Program Committee (SPC) for the 2023 Australian Statistical Conference.  

    Karen was awarded the inaugural SSA/CSIRO Betty Allan Travel Award to visit Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, UK. This award is in recognition of her dedication to supporting the development of communication skills in statisticians.  

    A/Prof Lamb also represents the Society on the Significance Magazine Editorial Board. In this role she has not only ensured that that the Society’s interests are well-represented, but she also looks after a fair representation of women in the authorship of the magazine, pledging to seek out greater diversity in their authors.  

    The SSA warmly thanks Karen for her consistent dedication and celebrates this much-deserved recognition with her.  


    Damjan Vukcevic  

    The SSA awards A/Prof Vukcevic with the Society’s Service Award in recognition of his implementation of innovative changes and initiatives designed to enhance the engagement, diversity, and strategic direction of the Society.  

    Damjan played a key role in modernising the SSA brand, chairing the committee that commissioned the design of the Society's logo and visual identity with which we are familiar today. He also contributed substantially to the subsequent overhaul of the website, including the adoption of a new, integrated membership database and event management system.

    During his tenure as Vic Branch President, Damjan ’s initiatives contributed to membership growth within the branch of about 25%. Event attendance nearly doubled.   

    Damjan has been instrumental in organising branch presentations and seminars, often collaborating with like-minded partner organisations. He has been a champion for diversity, ensuring a gender-balanced selection of speakers and including frequent contributions from non-statisticians.  

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, Damjan introduced new events such as trivia, comedy shows and escape rooms, to provideways for members to interact in the absence of in-person events. Even before the pandemic, he was pivotal in hosting the SSA’s first hybrid online and in-person event, the 2019 Belz Lecture, which significantly increased engagement, especially among non-metropolitan members.  

    Damjan's tenure on the Council has been marked by his ability to guide new members with grace and a keen eye for administrative processes. His leadership facilitated a shift from traditional formats to more inclusive and engaging approaches.  

    Following his tenure as President, Damjan now continues to serve the Society as SSA Treasurer. He is also a representative on the Editorial Board of Significance magazine.  

    The SSA expresses its sincere gratitude to Damjan for his dedication and offers congratulations on this well-earned award. 

    Images provided by Jodi Phillips

  • 15 Dec 2023 12:57 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) awards the Pitman Medal in recognition of outstanding achievement in, and contribution to, the discipline of Statistics.

    Image: John CarlinProfessor John Carlin has a PhD in statistics from Harvard University and over 35 years of experience as a research biostatistician, collaborating widely across many areas of clinical and public health research while also pursuing independent methodological research on missing data problems and causal inference, among many others.

    For much of his career he was the Director of the Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics Unit at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne.   He has published prolifically, with several hundred publications, many with high numbers of citations; included in these is the famous “Bayesian book” well-known by generations of statistics students.

    His leadership was crucial in the creation and maintenance of two very influential entities of high impact in biostatistics in Australia and the world: the Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia and the Victorian Centre for Biostatistics (ViCBiostat). 

    All this and more make up a very considerable and highly valuable contribution to the statistical community in Australia and it is with great pleasure that the SSA awards the Pitman Medal to John Carlin.

  • 7 Dec 2023 5:33 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    This week a review initiated by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) and the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) was released. Focusing on the role of mathematics and statistics in data science education in Australian universities, the review highlights several key points:

    Rapid growth of data science: Data science is among the fastest-growing occupations in Australia, with a high demand for skilled data scientists in academia, research, and industry.

    Importance of mathematics in education: Senior secondary school mathematics is crucial for preparing students for data science courses, essential for building the future data science workforce.

    Need for industry-university collaboration: There is a need for better connections between the industry and universities to support data science growth. This includes internships, work-integrated learning, research training, career education, and building a professional community.

    AMSI Director, Professor Tim Marchant, emphasised the significance of this review, noting the official recognition of data science as an occupation in Australia. It is ranked among the top in-demand and high-paying jobs, with a global market projected to grow significantly in the next five years. The review underscores the vital role of mathematical sciences in developing data science skills.

    Chaired by Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, Director of the QUT Centre for Data Science, the Review suggests that university data science courses should be recognised as a separate field of education. “It’s time we treated data science like a grown up. It needs to go out on its own. It needs to move out of the house, especially when you consider it lives in many different houses, or in its case, schools depending on which university you’re talking about,” she said. The report also advocates for the inclusion of a significant level of statistical content in data science degrees. Professor Mengersen stresses the importance of statistics in data science education, likening it to a critical skill set for data scientists.

    Read the Review here.

    Read AMSI's Media Release here

  • 21 Nov 2023 6:00 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    After four stellar years as Science & Technology Australia’s CEO, Misha Schubert has announced her resignation in the new year to take up another major CEO opportunity. 

    STA President Professor Mark Hutchinson said it was with deep sadness that the Board of STA had accepted her resignation. 

    “In her four years as CEO, Misha has taken STA to new heights as an influential policy advocacy voice that is highly respected across the breadth of the Parliament and policymaking,” he said. 
    “She has doubled STA’s membership and revenue, diversified its income streams and strengthened its financial security, developed crucial Indigenous partnerships with deep trust and reciprocity, and built and nurtured an inspiring staff team of talented, hard-working stars.” 

    “We are deeply grateful to her for all she has done to take STA to its next scale of success – and are excited for her personally as she takes this next step in her career.” 

    Ms Schubert said it was with a heavy heart that she had shared the news with the staff and Board of STA today – and it was a wrench to leave this role that she has loved deeply. 

    “It has been a constant inspiration to serve in this pivotal leadership role for Australia’s science and technology sectors, and to have the privilege of speaking with and for the nation’s science and technology leaders, experts and entrepreneurs every day.” 

    “Australia’s remarkable scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians are crucial to our country’s future, its prosperity and social cohesion – and it has been such a privilege to serve them and our nation in this role.” 

    “I am so grateful to our staff, members, Board and the STEM community for what we have built together – and the shared legacy we have forged over these four years – and am so looking forward to seeing the next chapter of success for STA as a continuing champion of the organisation.”   

    “I especially want to thank the two Presidents I have served – Professor Mark Hutchinson and Professor Jeremy Brownlie – and our Boards for their transformative leadership, and every one of our remarkable staff team which I have led with our terrific Deputy CEO Dr Sandra Gardam.” 

    A formal recruitment process to appoint the next CEO will begin in the coming weeks. 

    About Science & Technology Australia 
    Science & Technology Australia is the nation’s peak body representing more than 115,000 scientists and technologists. We’re the leading policy voice on science and technology. Our flagship programs include Science Meets Parliament, Superstars of STEM, and STA STEM Ambassadors.   
    Media contact: Martyn Pearce, STA: 0432 606 828 

  • 6 Nov 2023 3:10 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    At the very end of September, the NSW Branch hosted 6 industry speakers and just over 40 students at the Courtyard Café at the University of Sydney. Once everyone arrived and food and drinks were flowing, the atmosphere was alive with conversation. This was until everyone started to hear from the guest speakers, and all attendees were listening with great interest. This event was partially sponsored by the Susquehanna International Group.

    The event was opened by Yunwei Zhang and Jeffery Kwan, who were both instrumental to the organisation and realisation of this year's event.

    Dr Kerry Roberts spoke about her journey into the banking world, one that she expressed as unexpected but enjoyable. Many questions were sent her way and the responses broke down some preconceptions and demonstrated the different interesting problems that are faced and also solved. Her talk also provided some nice insights into the transition towards more managerial positions. Olga Yevtushenko shared her journey so far with infectious excitement. We have no doubts that many attendees felt this as well. Her journey to SEEK through banking involved a wide range of data science projects and her recent success in Databricks LLM Cup gave insight into other exciting opportunities that are available.

    Dr Chen Chen gave insight into what statistics looks like in NESA (NSW Education Standard Authority) and how statistical methods in their workflows help monitor and drive student achievement. He shared his journey into this role, promoting the quality of the work environment and attempted to convince many of the ECR at the event to sign up for a statistical role that was available at the time. Jordan Hedi shared some great perspectives on his involvement with the NSW public sector at HealthStats NSW. His role as Senior Biostatistician helps to shape the interactive, web-based applications that provided by HealthStats NSW.

    Dr Marcel Keller shared his world travel experiences that eventually led to him working for CSIRO’s Data61. His journey into the more computational aspects of statistics and the insights into the differences between what is considered a “programmer” and a “scientist” helped to develop peoples understanding. His work with MP-SPDZ provided a glimpse into the practical connections between developing, deploying, and sharing software to further development in a range of different areas.

    Dr William Tong captivated our audience by recounting his remarkable journey through a multifaceted career. Beginning with a stint as a postdoctoral researcher in health analytics within the academic sphere, he then ventured into the corporate world, making significant contributions at prestigious organisations such as the REA Group, Amazon Web Services, and his current role at Canva as a data science manager. Dr Tong’s diverse trajectory serves as a compelling testament to the boundless possibilities and versatility that a statistical degree offers.

    After all the panellists had spoken, the event continued with networking between all SSA members, panellists and SIG representatives present. Catering was provided for the event, with everyone staying to chat until we were politely asked to leave as the venue was closing. Overall, It appeared that everyone there attended because they were interested in what a “journey into the workforce through statistics” looks like and left with many new ideas and understandings.

    by Connor Smith and Jeffrey Kwan

  • 2 Nov 2023 12:38 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    This year I was the lucky recipient of the SSA & CSIRO/Data 61 Betty Allan Travel Award. I am a very grateful recipient of this award, as it supported me to attend the 30th Anniversary Cochrane Colloquium in London, where I had the opportunity to showcase my research in-person to an international audience.

    Pictured left to right: Matthew Page, Lizzie Korevaar, Simon Turner, Joanne McKenzie

    Pictured left to right: Matthew Page, Lizzie Korevaar, Simon Turner, Joanne McKenzie

    My area of research is in the statistical methods for evidence synthesis, primarily focusing on the meta-analysis of results from interrupted time series designs. For a researcher in evidence synthesis, the Cochrane Colloquium is the primary international forum for the dissemination of research on methods for evidence synthesis. I was able to present my work to a broad and global audience including systematic reviewers, editors, methodologists (e.g., statisticians, information specialists), stakeholders, users of reviews, policy makers, software designers. Held over a jam-packed 4 days, the Colloquium provided space for 413 presenters, over 1000 attendees to participate in a range of activities, including up to 12 parallel sessions consisting of meetings, plenaries, oral sessions, workshops, networking and social events. Needless to say, it was a very busy conference!

    My contribution to the conference program included an oral presentation (a lightning quick overview of an empirical study I conducted during my PhD to compare statistical methods used to meta-analyse results from interrupted time series studies) and two workshops, one of which I lead (Introduction to analysis and meta-analysis of interrupted time series studies) and the other I co-facilitated (Advanced meta-analysis 1: Random-effects methods to be implemented in RevMan). Having completed my PhD during the pandemic, the oral presentation was my first in-person presentation in front of such a large international audience – a thrilling experience. Also, to my delight, both workshops were well attended (in fact, the room for the ITS workshop was full!) and we received excellent feedback both during and after the conference, with plenty of requests for material and interest in our future work.

    So, what were the highlights?

    • This was the first time I’d developed and delivered material for a workshop. While it was a lot of work to prepare everything, it was very rewarding to have a full room of people engaged with our work and interested in hearing our expertise. It was great to feel that our research will have an impact.
    • This was also the first time I’d had the opportunity to meet many of my international collaborators, some of whom I’ve worked with for several years.
    • A conscious and continual focus of the colloquium was on the inclusion of end users in research, right from the early to late stages of the projects. I was particularly impressed with the work of Anastasia Koch who spoke during the plenary titled Building trust through co-creation: re-imagining evidence, about her development of a public engagement non-profit organisation that focuses on involving those living in TB-prevalent districts of Cape Town with education, advocacy and science communication about the disease. Again, it was really exciting to see the impact of research. For those interested, the plenaries can be found online, discussing i) Global health, equity and trust, ii) Ensuring integrity in biomedical research, and iii) Building trust through co-creation: re-imagining evidence (Koch’s talk is introduced at 31:45).
    • Of course, a major highlight of the conference was hearing from other statistical methodologists. In particular, the awardee of the Thomas C. Chalmers award for best presentation addressing methodological issues related to systematic reviews given by an early career investigator, Peter Godolphin (from UCL in the United Kingdom), gave a brilliant talk about handling aggregation bias in subgroup analyses of a meta-analysis, and accurately estimating interactions between treatment and covariate subgroups.
      Lizzie Korevaar introducing the Workshop: Introduction to analysis and meta-analysis of interrupted time series studies with continuous outcomes

    Lizzie Korevaar introducing the Workshop: Introduction to analysis and meta-analysis of interrupted time series studies with continuous outcomes


    What next?

    • Our packed-out workshop demonstrated to us that there is a need and an appetite for guidance on analysing and meta-analysing ITS studies. This has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for my projects and I’ve enjoyed getting back into the research after the busy-ness of conference.
    • The workshops also injected new ideas into our plans for future research. Talking to attendees of our workshops, we were able to hear about the situations encountered in practice or areas that they find most difficult. I’ve also enjoyed discussing these areas since our return from the conference, and prioritising which pieces of the puzzle to study next.
    • It was also a great chance to discuss the projects already underway with current collaborators but also, importantly, to hear about and discuss possible future projects with potential new collaborators! I look forward to getting started on these!

    Finally (and most profoundly), one of the major highlights of the conference was coming away with a fresh sense of hope. I often find I feel overwhelmed by the sensation that the pile of problems is constantly growing (statistical, political, health related etc), and this was enhanced during the last few (particularly difficult and isolated) years. However, I found that it was incredibly heart-warming to meet so many passionate researchers and hear of their hard work and triumphs.

    Dr Lizzie Korevaar

    Research fellow in the Methods for Evidence Synthesis Unit,

    School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University

    Pictured left to right: Nat Strobel, Tari Turner, Miranda Cumpston, Simon Turner, Steve McDonald, Lizzie Korevaar, Jeremy Grimshaw, Sue Brennan, Joanne McKenzie

    Pictured left to right: Nat Strobel, Tari Turner, Miranda Cumpston, Simon Turner, Steve McDonald, Lizzie Korevaar, Jeremy Grimshaw, Sue Brennan, Joanne McKenzie

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