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  • 15 Jun 2020 11:03 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Science and Technology Australia MEDIA RELEASE

    10 June 2020

    "Today our colleagues in the STEM community all around the world speak as one in support of equality, respect and justice – and we raise our voices with theirs.

    In recent weeks, we have drawn hope from seeing so many people globally support the goals of the #BlackLivesMatter and #AboriginalLivesMatter movements to end racism, injustice and inequality.

    The science, technology, engineering and maths workforce in Australia joins our colleagues worldwide in the STEM community to express our support for these defining values.

    This movement has called attention not only to Indigenous deaths in custody in our country and abroad, but also to racism, exclusion, disrespect and a lack of safety for people of colour.

    This historic moment offers all Australians an opportunity to ask ourselves and our leaders what more can and should be done to end inequality and injustice.

    STA members Deadly Science and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance work daily to celebrate Indigenous excellence, create opportunity and tackle inequality.

    We stand together to say there is no place for exclusion, inequality or injustice anywhere – including in the STEM community.

    Throughout today, Science & Technology Australia will use our social media channels to highlight the sophisticated STEM expertise embedded in Indigenous knowledge systems across this country.

    We invite members of our own communities across Australia to share this content, along with their own messages of hope, respect, dignity, and strong support for equality."

    Joint statement from:

    Science & Technology Australia President Associate Professor Jeremy Brownlie

    Science & Technology Australia CEO Misha Schubert

    Deadly Science founder Corey Tutt

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance Chair Professor Chris Matthews

    Science & Technology Australia EDI committee co-chair Tanya Ha

    Science & Technology Australia EDI committee co-chair Associate Professor Sumeet Walia

    For media enquiries, contact STA on 02 6257 2891 

  • 11 Jun 2020 1:06 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Media Release - 11 June 2020 - Science & Technology Australia

    Expert scientific evidence should guide every element of Australia’s bushfire prevention, mitigation and recovery efforts, the nation’s peak body for science and technology has urged.

    In a submission to the Senate inquiry on the devastating 2019-2020 bushfire season, Science & Technology Australia says the strong embrace by Governments of science evidence to stop COVID-19 should be a model for bushfire prevention.

    Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the devastating fire season of the past summer had turned the predicted effects of climate change into a stark reality.

    “These fires were unprecedented, but not unpredicted,” she said.

    “In NSW, fires burned for 240 days – from mid-winter all the way through to the following autumn. In south-east Queensland, rainforests thought to be immune from fire burned for the first time.”

    “The work of our scientists can help limit climate change and the risk of terrifying megafires of new scale and ferocity - and help us to fight bushfires and recover from them more effectively.”

    Science & Technology Australia has also pointed to the long-run effects of toxic smoke and the mental health challenges for firefighters and emergency services personnel as areas for action.

    The submission urges a new monitoring system be developed to monitor particulate hazards, similar the published UV index readings.

    “The Australian Government has worked side-by-side with the scientific community during the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing on this deep expertise to save lives,” Ms Schubert said.

    “Australia’s vast scientific expertise should also guide our national response to the devastating bushfires of the past summer, and the recovery, mitigation and prevention work that has begun.”

    Scientific advice is also needed to help Australia’s fragile ecosystems recover– to rebuild and protect our unique habitats, to save native animals, threatened species and avoid extinction of species.

    The submission notes there is much scope to draw expert knowledge in Indigenous fire and land management practices into Australia’s bushfire prevention and preparedness work.

    “The science and technology community will continue to work closely with Government on the recovery task and on preparation for future fire seasons.”

    STA’s submission makes a series of recommendations on how Australia can better prevent, mitigate and aid recovery from bushfires, and draws on insights from STA member societies about the impact of the 2019-20 bushfire season.

    “Our national scientific and technology workforce is a crucial part of our firefighting defence, and we think there’s potential for an even greater role to deliver evidence and research to help fire chiefs in rapid real-time responses during bushfire seasons,” Ms Schubert said.

    “Where there are gaps in knowledge, we could seek to fill them through direct investment in a research translation fund that could leverage additional private sector R&D.”

    “Strong investment is crucial to ensure the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of all Australians, to boost Australia’s capacity to innovate and adapt, and to outsmart future threats.”

    For media comment: Science & Technology Australia CEO Misha Schubert 02 6257 2891


  • 10 Jun 2020 1:24 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    It has been a terrible few weeks watching the events precipitated by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in the USA. Australia urgently needs to confront its own issues with police brutality and institutional violence, with 437 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991. This statement is to express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign. The Statistical Society of Australia is committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion.

    I was heartened to read the strong statements from the presidents of the American Statistical Association and Royal Statistical Society. I echo their sentiments that a key thing we can do is educate ourselves about the problems in our own borders. Another positive step statisticians can take is to use our knowledge of statistics to work with our colleagues in health and social sciences who research the areas of health, justice and equity. Data can make a difference and we have the power to help bring about positive change.

    You might have seen the campaign to rename the Fisher lecture after the African American David Blackwell. I support this change and I have signed the petition. David Blackwell was a remarkable talent and it is important that our field can tear down the statues of our past, as happened literally in Bristol this week.

    As a Society we recently made changes to our code of conduct, to include personal as well as professional conduct. We want to make it clear that our Society will not tolerate racism. Codes of conduct are now mandatory at our conferences and large events: these Codes explicitly state that racist behaviour will not be accepted at our events.  Promotion of equity and diversity are now key criteria in Society awards.

    There is undoubtedly more that our Society can do to become the safe and welcoming place for everyone that we want it to be. We want our Society and our country to be free from racism and disrespect.  We recognise that we are working and living on Aboriginal land, and that there is much work to be done towards reconciliation.

    Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss these issues or have any ideas about how the Society might support the Black Lives Matter campaign.

    Adrian Barnett
    President of the Statistical Society of Australia

  • 3 Jun 2020 12:46 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The Statistical Society of Australia offers several awards to its members, honouring their contributions to the statistical community. Honorary Life Membership honours outstanding contribution to the profession and the Society. A Society Service Award may be awarded to a Society member in recognition of sustained and significant service to the Society.

    The SSA is pleased to announce the following awards for 2020:

    Honorary Life Membership:

    Dr Alison Harcourt AO

    Alison Harcourt, a lifelong supporter of the Statistical Society of Australia and contributor to the statistical discipline, was nominated for Honorary Life Membership in recognition of her inspiring career, remarkable achievements, and dedicated service. She was the founding secretary of the Victorian Branch of SSA in 1964 and served in that role for four years. Alison continued to support the VIC branch ever since, regularly attending branch events and contributing to discussion of important topics at our meetings.

    In her career, Alison made important advances to mathematics and statistics, and their application to informing government policy. 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).

    Alison was working at a time when there was much less support for women. It is only in recent times that her achievements have received proper recognition. In 2018 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by the University of Melbourne, and in 2019 she was named Victoria’s Senior Australian of the Year and an Officer of the Order of Australia.

    Although she formally retired in 1994, Alison continues to work as a sessional tutor at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne, where she is known as a passionate and knowledgeable teacher of statistics. Indeed, she has been a mentor to many great statisticians who have long-since retired!

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    Honorary Life Membership:

    Professor Annette Dobson AM

    Annette Dobson was the inaugural Chair of the Medical Sciences Section of the Statistical Society of Australia when it was formed in 1983. She held that position until the AGM in 1986 and actively lobbied for greater involvement of statisticians in refereeing for medical journals (eg, via the Newsletter). At the 1984 and 1986 Statistical Conferences, Annette organised a Medical Statistics session. During this time she also supported the Compstat-Medstat ’85 symposium held at Macquarie University jointly with the Statistical Computing Section.  Throughout the years Annette has been an active participant in the activities of many of the Society’s Sections, including being an invited speaker at DATA ’86 and one of two speakers at the first Statistical Education meeting held in NSW in 1987.

    In 1986 Annette Dobson became the first President of the NSW Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia who was not based in Sydney. She was based at the University of Newcastle and commuted to Sydney for Branch meetings and events. Annette was on the NSW Branch Executive as President for 1986-88 and Past President until 1990.

    In 1998 Annette became an Accredited Statistician, serving on the Accreditation Committee from 2000-2003. She was also a member of the Data Science Accreditation subcommittee from 2019 to 2020.

    Annette Dobson has had a major influence on the standing of the statistics profession within Australia through outstanding leadership in the area of medical statistics. She is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Queensland in the Centre for Longitudinal and Life Course Research. She was the founding Director of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health and held the post from 1995 to 2013.

    In 2012 Annette was awarded the Moyal Medal for her contributions to biostatistical methodology, practice and education. In 2013 she was made a Life Member of the Australasian Epidemiological Association for having contributed significantly through research or other involvement in epidemiology to the international reputation of Australasian epidemiology and the advancement of public health in Australasia.

    Annette was the inaugural Chair of the Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia (BCA) that coordinates training provided by seven universities to deliver the Master of Biostatistics degree, producing the next generation of medical statisticians in Australia. This is a highly successful program that has been operating since 2000. The BCA is regularly referred to as the model for university cooperation in delivering postgraduate training and it has provided a template for other cross institutional collaboration schemes such the Australian Technology Network’s Industry Doctoral Training program. The BCA was acknowledged in the 2016 Decadal Plan for the Mathematical Sciences and was awarded the Statistical Society’s Presidential Award for leadership in statistics in 2019.

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    Service Award

    Professor Scott Sisson

    Scott was an active Chair of the Bayesian Statistics Section from 2009 to 2014, and the NSW Branch President from 2012 to 2013. He was Scientific Program Chair for the ASC/IMS joint conference in Sydney in 2014. In August 2016 Scott became the President of SSA for two years, and served as outgoing president until mid- 2019. The Presidency had been vacant for a year prior to Scott accepting the position, so he did not have the benefit of a year’s experience as Vice President before taking on the new position. Nevertheless, he did an excellent job as national President and brought great energy and vision to the role. He was passionate about increasing the membership and visibility of the SSA, and his ideas are still bearing fruit now. In particular it was Scott Sisson’s idea to create the Vice President roles in membership, media and Finance to provide the Executive with focus on key strategic issues for SSA.

    Scott began the work on increasing equity and diversity in the Society which led to an updated Code of Conduct. It was also Scott Sisson’s idea to create a southern version of the Joint Statistical Meeting and this will happen in Darwin in 2022. He is an active member on the program committee for JSSM.

    Scott represented the Society nationally on the National Committee for the Mathematical Sciences and on the methodology advisory committee for the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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    Service Award

    Professor Ian Gordon

    Professor Ian Gordon of the University of Melbourne has a long history of service to the Society. After 11 years of service on the Victorian Branch Council, he stepped down in 2019. Ian led the Victorian Branch as President from 2009 to 2010, taking on the role in the wake of the 2008 conference debacle: his steady leadership helped to ensure that the Victorian Branch, and the Society as a whole, was able to recover. For example, Ian was instrumental in carrying out a survey of Victorian Branch members to canvas opinions about strategies for recovery, and he led the Branch in a resurgence of activity: increasing the number and variety of Branch activities, thereby increasing the participation of members. In 2012 the Victorian branch was incorporated; during his tenure as President, Ian oversaw the process of revision of the Constitution and application to achieve this important outcome.

    Ian’s ability to gently guide new branch council presidents, vice-presidents and members, and his exhaustive knowledge of the Branch Constitution and Regulations made him an incredibly valuable member of the Council. Since stepping down from the Council, he accepted an invitation to join the newly convened Advisory Committee for the Branch, and thus he has continued to provide advice to the Council on important and strategic matters.

    Further to this formal service for the Branch, Ian supported archiving the history of the Branch; for example, as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations in 2014, he accessed the archives to provide the SSA with insights from the very beginnings of the Vic Branch. He has regularly accepted invitations to present monthly branch seminars and was named the Belz Lecturer in 1995.

    Ian has contributed more broadly to the Society and the statistical community as a whole. He was on the SSA’s Accreditation Committee from early 2008 to late 2013. In addition to his keen mentorship of junior statisticians, in 2018 he chaired the E. J. G. Pitman award prize committee at the Australian Statistical Conference (joint with the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics Annual Meeting) in Melbourne.

    Ian is passionate about promoting the value of quality statistical science to the broader community. For example, he has played an important role in the resolution of high profile issues, including legal cases, such as the landmark class action over transvaginal mesh implants (Johnson and Johnson, and Ethicon, 2019), Hazelwood mine fire enquiry (2015), and the Haile-Michael case against Victoria Police (2013).

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    Congratulations to these outstanding members of the Statistical Society of Australia, who, through their tireless work, have helped to steer and shape the Society into the vibrant community that it is.

    The names of all SSA Honorary Life Membership recipients are available here. A list of Society Service Award recipients can be viewed here.

    Remember that any member of SSA can be nominated for an award. SSA has awards for service, contributions to statistics, and outstanding achievement in statistics.

    For more information, see our Awards page on the SSA website.

  • 28 May 2020 12:58 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Email received Misha Schubert, CEO of Science & Technology Australia on 28 May 2020:

    "The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone. But now the early evidence of its impact on the STEM sector reveals women in STEM have been disproportionately hard hit.

    Australia’s scientific and technical services industry recorded job losses of 5.6% from mid-March to mid-April 2020, with jobs down 6.3% for women compared with 4.8% for men.

    Science & Technology Australia and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering partnered to gather evidence for the report for Industry and Science Minister Karen Andrews.

    It was prepared by the Rapid Response Information Forum chaired by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel. The report’s lead author is Professor Emma Johnston.

    It shows us the impact of the pandemic has been particularly acute for women in STEM with children under 12, given their greater share of caring responsibilities and domestic work. The combination of juggling working from home while supervising distance learning for children has made women’s double burden even greater again.

    Further, there are early signs that women’s submission rates for publishing research may have declined. With publication records being a factor in career promotion and grant funding, a reduction in research publications is likely to harm women’s job and funding prospects.

    STA has worked hard to help advance greater representation of women in STEM. Now we fear the pandemic will reverse some of the hard-won gains of recent years.

    The impact of this uneven burden could be felt for years to come – with potential long-term consequences for Australia’s social and economic future.

    So our plea to all STEM employers is to keep a very close eye on and mitigate the gender impact of the pandemic on jobs and careers – or the hard work over many years to recruit and retain more women in STEM could be undone.

    We cannot afford to go backwards. 

    Until next time, Misha"

  • 27 May 2020 10:26 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Are you/do you know a young statistician or data scientist from the ACT or regional NSW interested in presenting their recent research and winning some prize money?

    Then luckily for you, SSA Canberra has extended nominations for the 2020 Dennis Trewin prize until 19th June! The Dennis Trewin prize, named after the former Australian Statistician Dennis Trewin, seeks to award young statisticians from the ACT and regional areas of NSW outside Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong for outstanding research in the fields of statistics and data science. It is open to postgraduate students in their final year of study, or who have graduated in the last 12 months.

    If you are interested in applying, please submit an abstract of your research work to ssacanberra@gmail.com by 19th June. You will also need to demonstrate that you are undertaking/undertook a research degree from a university with a campus in the ACT or in a regional area of NSW outside Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong.

    If you know someone that would be interested in the prize, please get in touch with them about this prize!

    Applicants who are shortlisted will be invited to record a 15-20 minute talk on their research. The winner of the Dennis Trewin prize will receive a $1,000 cash prize + invitation to present their research as part of SSA Canberra's branch meeting in October. Dinner will also be provided, along with travel + one night's accommodation costs if the winner cannot travel from their current address and return on the day of the meeting.

    If you have any further questions regarding the nature/format/scope of the prize, please contact ssacanberra@gmail.com.

    Regards,

    SSA Canberra Council DT prize committee 

  • 14 May 2020 1:52 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    From SMRI Executive Director Anthony Henderson (smri.exec@sydney.edu.au):

    The current application round of the International Visitor Program of the University of Sydney Mathematical Research Institute (SMRI) closes on Wednesday 26 August 2020 (at 11.59pm Sydney time). This program provides funding to support visits to Australian universities by international researchers in the mathematical sciences. The current application round is for visits of at least 1 month taking place within the period April - December 2021 and including at least 2 weeks spent at SMRI. For full terms and conditions, selection criteria and the application form, and for the current list of SMRI visiting researchers, see the website.

    Applications from female and gender-diverse researchers, from researchers employed in developing countries, and from researchers belonging to other groups which are underrepresented in the mathematical sciences, are particularly encouraged. In cases where an arranged visit cannot go ahead as planned because of disruptions to international travel or other unexpected factors, it is generally possible to reschedule the visit for a later period subject to consultation. Please direct questions about the conditions to the Institute's Executive Director Anthony Henderson at smri.exec@sydney.edu.au

  • 13 May 2020 11:52 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a lot of interest from the statistics / data science community. On the 28th of April, we invited two Melbourne based statisticians/epidemiologists who actually advise the government on the coronavirus pandemic to share their work with us.  

    The first half was presented by Prof. Allen Cheng, who is both an AStat as well as an infectious diseases physician. Allen first described several models that have been used to inform the policy makers around importation risk, transmission risk, and potential load on the health care system — this underpinned the discussion around ‘flattening the curve’. Allen also discussed some ‘unhelpful models’ that are being used elsewhere, as well as other on-going analyses/investigations around the next step to combat the pandemic. A key perspective that Allen brought to us was the fact that the modelling work is just ‘one piece of the puzzle’, and that the policy makers have to weigh up many other factors into the decision making process. Allen ended his presentation by commenting on the feasibility of sampling the population for the virus — a proposal that got some attention within the statistics community.

    The second half was presented by Dr. Freya Shearer, an epidemiological modeller at PRISM. Freya and her colleagues were instrumental at developing the framework that quantified the importation risk from various countries. This framework helped uncover countries that have a high likelihood of under-reporting their cases, and by extension their risk posed to Australia. This ultimately helped the policy makers to decide on international travel bans during the early stage of the pandemic.

    An equally well-engaged session was the Q&A at the end, where the presenters were asked to comment on issues such as the reliability of data sources, school closure, practices in other countries, and sensitivity of some key model parameters, to list a few.

    Overall, the event was extremely well attended. We had 223 attendants (9 from overseas), which is a record for a non-named lecture.

    The recording and other resources (e.g. slides) can be found here.

    Kohleth Chia

  • 11 May 2020 10:38 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The big event in environmental statistics for the year is coming up June 22-26 – the virtual International Statistical Ecology Conference (vISEC2020), an exciting opportunity (and affordable) opportunity to catch up on the latest innovations in statistical ecology, and to explore the virtual conference format.  The SSA Environmental Statistics section has also started a seminar series, inviting excellent environmental statisticians worldwide to present virtually to our members.

    The virtual International Statistical Ecology Conference (vISEC2020) was going to be hosted in Sydney, the first time it was to be held in the Southern hemisphere.  But the virtual move means that while the organisation is still being done mostly out of Sydney, you can watch from anywhere (Phillipp, right, will watch from his kitchen!).

    vISEC2020 has a huge program, with over 250 presenters, and activities focussed around two sessions, 8-11am & 9pm-12am GMT (in Australia, this corresponds to early morning and early evening).  As with any conference there is excitement around the plenary talks, including Christl Donnelly, a leading statistical epidemiologist and member of the influential Imperial College COVID19 response team.  The conference has a focus on training, networking, and generating ideas – e.g. we will use a conference discussion forum to generate and refine ideas for a Special Issue proposal to Methods in Ecology & Evolution, and expect the virtual format to turbo-charge this conference component.  Another exciting aspect of the virtual format is its accessibility and breadth of engagement – low cost, the capacity to pre-record your talk, and to watch session recordings later, means anyone anywhere can contribute.  Many excellent researchers (especially early career) will now participate who otherwise could not due to family commitments, including some who are expecting during the week of the conference!  We are expecting over 500 attendees.  Registration is only $50, if you are curious about the virtual format, register now!

    In the Environmental Statistics committee, Scott Foster (CSIRO) has stood down, we thank him for his contributions over the last couple of years.  If you are interested in joining the committee, e-mail David, the more the merrier!

    Environmental Statistics Seminars- With everyone working at home, and physical seminar programs on hold, there has never been a more opportune time to connect environmental statisticians nationally through virtual events.  We have started a regular Environmental Statistics seminar program, aiming for monthly talks, from researchers world-wide.  Our May talk was by James Thorson (NOAA), “Forecasting nonlocal climate impacts for mobile marine species using extensions to empirical orthogonal function analysis” with 38 attendees from around the country.  If you have ideas for someone you would like to hear speak – from any continent – send them to David, and keep an eye on SSA announcements for future talks.

    the Environmental Statistics Committee

    David Warton (chair), Andrew Zammit-Mangion, Denny Meyer, Gordana Popovic, Joanne Potts, Robert Clark.

  • 11 May 2020 10:31 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)


    Registration now open! (and it’s only $50!)

    The International Statistical Ecology Conference is a biennial meeting of researchers at the interface between ecology and statistics.  At vISEC2020 we have planned an exciting list of keynote speakers that bridge these two disciplines, as well as training opportunities for attendees, a forum for interdisciplinary collaboration, and a healthy dose of fun - all online!

    Home base for the conference will be a Slack workspace, where registered participants can mingle, watch live-streamed talks (and recordings of talks you missed, or want to watch again!), browse poster presentations, interact with presenters and other attendees via text or video chat, plan papers for our Special Issue proposal, check our Twitter stream, or compete at trivia night!  There will be two conference sessions each day, no more than three hours in length, set at opposite ends of the Sydney day to better align with timezones around the world (8-11am & 9pm-12am GMT).

    Prior to the conference opening, you can enrol in interactive short courses (20-21st June) to train up in a specific area, registration for these is $75AUD each.  Each short course will be delivered using video conferencing tools, across two days, in one of the two regular conference session times (8-11am GMT or 9pm-12am GMT).

    The first day of the conference (22nd June) is a Skills Showcase, with hands-on tutorials run in parallel on topics as diverse as high-dimensional data visualisation, hidden Markov models, deep learning, passive acoustics and more.

    The remaining four days (23-26th June) will be an exciting mix of plenary talks, contributed and speed talks, poster sessions and discussions, and social mixers.

    Registration for the conference is just $50AUD, giving you access to the Slack workspace where talks and discussions are stored for the duration of the conference and for two weeks following the conference close. 

    If you are experiencing financial hardship, conference registration fees can be waived, by selecting the appropriate item during registration.  Please contact us if unsure whether this applies to you.

    For further details, see the vISEC2020 website.

    Questions?  Send us an email at isec2020@unsw.edu.au

    See you in June,

    the vISEC2020 Local Organising Committee.

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