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  • 10 Sep 2021 1:00 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    One of STA’s greatest strengths is the breadth and diversity of our membership. While other policy and advocacy organisations represent segments of this sector, the STA community’s unique role and reach enables us to bring together a combined STEM sector view. This breadth and our role as the key connector for the STEM sector has been powerfully in evidence in recent months.

    One of the issues of greatest concern across the sector is the continuing toll of this pandemic on jobs and job security. Next month, Science & Technology Australia and Professional Scientists Australia will release the 2021 results from our annual workplace survey of scientists’ working conditions. In member catch-ups, we’ve heard further examples of closures and cuts in STEM departments and disciplines. We are gathering these examples to highlight these issues further as part of our advocacy around the release of the survey. Please get in touch if you have further examples you can share - especially if they could be referenced in our media pitching for the survey release.

    We’re also supporting and coordinating with member organisations providing input to the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure roadmap process. And we continue to engage over the Australian Research Council policies on pre-print citations. Yesterday the Audit Office also released its report on the Medical Research Future Fund. We were pleased to see the Department of Health agreed to implement all of the report’s recommendations. STA’s submission on further steps to improve MRFF transparency are here - we will continue to advocate for them.

    The diversity and breadth of our membership is also crucial in STA’s governance. Nominations have opened for election for three roles on our Board - covering Aquatic Sciences, Medical and Cognitive Sciences, and General Sciences. Nominations also open today for Executive Committee roles. We strongly encourage candidates from a wide diversity of demographics and disciplines to nominate. In particular, noting our commitments under our Reconciliation Action Plan, we especially encourage nominations from First Nations people in STEM. Here’s how to nominate.

    A final call for you to send superb candidates our way for STA’s influential Director of Policy and Engagement. Applications close on Monday at 10am AEST - so please encourage any truly outstanding people in your networks to apply.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 


  • 7 Sep 2021 12:19 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference 2021 (ECSSC 2021) was an enjoyable and memorable experience for me. The event took place virtually for the first time ever due to the pandemic and it was the first statistics conference I attended since I became a PhD student early this year. At the conference I met some passionate young statistics researchers and learnt a lot throughout the whole event.

    A large varieties of topics were discussed from the presenters in the fields of Data Science, Biostatistics and Economics, for instance. Lots of PhD students and early career researchers showed their fantastic work and this gave me some ideas to try for improving my own projects which I would have never thought of before! All the posters were well designed and had a high level of detail.

    The keynote presentations were instructive and useful. I enjoyed the one by Prof. Tran from USYD the most. He gave a clear comparison between Variational Bayes (VB) and MCMC approaches, and explained why he thinks VB can be preferred to MCMC in certain situations. The career panel sharpened my view about what statisticians can do in the future and described career pathways alternative to academia.

    I would like to thank the Statistical Society of Australia and all the sponsors for organising ECSSC 2021. Despite the fact that the event took place online, some social events such as the Trivia Night and Bingo still ran and were successful. The organisers definitely put a lot of effort in the organising and I would like to express my deepest gratitude to SSA for sponsoring my attendance at ECSSC 2021.

    Hanwen Xuan

  • 30 Aug 2021 11:58 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Many of us in the New South Wales branch will remember the winter of 2021 for being locked down due to a stubborn COVID-19 Delta variant outbreak. As of late August, the lockdown was still in place and the August branch meeting was carried out totally using the Zoom tele-meeting application. We have some bright spots: spring is around the corner and accelerating vaccination rates are pointing to gradual returns to normality. Another bright spot was a pandemic-era seminar by Dr Nancy Briggs, who is a manager and senior statistical consultant at Stats Central, University of New South Wales. Around 30 people signed in for the event.

    A major theme throughout the talk was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with how it has changed where we work, how we work and the kind of work that we can do. Statistical issues concerning, for example, conclusions in a COVID-19 world compared with those pre-pandemic were discussed.

    A running example throughout the talk concerned a randomised clinical trial on parenting of children aged between 14 and 24 months. The trial had three treatment arms: parent-child interaction therapy-toddler, circle of security-parenting and waitlist control. Some of the outcomes were parenting sensitivity and stress. The writer of this article was pleased to see that generalised linear mixed models played a central role in the analyses. The study was designed before anyone knew that a pandemic was about to occur, but the analyses were carried out in the early 2020s. After it was clear that the pandemic was having a big effect on the many randomised clinical trials going on, authors Cro et al. published a 2020 paper titled "A four-step strategy for handling missing outcome data in randomised trials affected by a pandemic". Speaker Briggs told us that she found this paper very useful for her recent research. One issue was whether data, missing or observed, should be treated differently depending on whether participants are directly affected by COVID-19 (either by infection or changes in treatment). Pandemic-related papers by Degtyarev et al. (2020) and Meyer et al.(2020) were also mentioned.

    The main body of the talk was a detailed look at the toddler parenting randomised clinical trial by following the four steps recommended by Cro et al. (2020), as well as advice in Degtyarev et al. (2020) and Meyer et al. (2020). These latter papers recommend that, for trials that started pre-COVID-19, a pandemic-free estimand be chosen since this is what the trial was established to do. The Cro et al. Step 2 is "Establish what data are missing for the chosen estimand". For the toddler parenting clinical trial Nancy explained that there are missing data due to ceasing data collection. An example of a recommendations from these references is to summarise study population characteristics before and after pandemic onset.

    Even though we are all looking forward to getting this pandemic behind us, it was interesting to see how it is impacting applied statistics.

    Matt Wand University of Technology Sydney 

  • 27 Aug 2021 10:35 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)


     

    Our deepest thanks to all of you who have engaged over the past week on the ARC pre-prints matter. We have had a lot of conversations - and we are especially grateful for your generosity in sharing key insights across the disciplines as we’ve worked on your behalf. It has been terrific to see our STA member professional societies respond to this issue with deep thought and care - with the important message of support to our early career researcher community. We’ll continue to do our part of this work in the days ahead.

    As we head into a federal election year, STA will convene the leadership of our member organisations at our annual President and CEO Forum. We hope you can join us for this key STEM sector leadership conversation on our shared priorities and STA’s further growth and development. Registration is essential. Please join us via Zoom on Monday October 11 at 1pm AEDT.

    We are thrilled to welcome powerhouse STEM innovator Western Sydney University and two of its world-leading STEM institutes - the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development and the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment into the STA community this week. We’re inspired by the brilliant work you are doing - and by their impressive STEM talent led by PVC-STEM and MARCS Institute Director Professor Kate Stevens and HIE Director Professor Ian Anderson. A warm welcome to you all.

    In the first week of October, STA will farewell Peter Derbyshire after three fabulous years when he heads to his next role as Director of Policy at ATSE. We will miss him greatly. I know you have deeply appreciated Peter’s skilled work on policy issues in his tenure here, his grasp of policy and the political landscape, support and excellent humour. We thank him for it all!

    STA has begun our search for our next Director of Policy & Engagement. This senior strategic role is key to our influential advocacy - we need a skilled policy developer, writer and networker with a deep understanding of the STEM sector. Please send any great candidates from your networks our way.

    Finally, Happy Wear It Purple Day. This day was created to help foster environments that are safe, supportive and inclusive every day for LGBTQIA+ young people. So, to all our rainbow young people, today and every day, we say: we see you, we value you, and we celebrate who you are.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 


    SAVE THE DATE: STA PRESIDENT & CEO FORUM

    As the nation heads into an election year, STA invites the leadership of our member organisations to join us at our annual STA President and CEO Forum. We will discuss shared policy advocacy priorities for the STA community, and the approach to the next year of policy engagement. We will also seek the input of our member leadership as we consider the next stage of STA’s growth and development as an organisation, and a process to review our legal structure and governing documents. Join us via Zoom on Monday 11 October at 1pm AEDT. Registration is essential.

    2021 ANNUAL MEMBER SURVEY

    Our annual membership survey is used to collect ways to improve STA's activities, programs and the advocacy support we provide. We endeavour to ensure our programs and initiatives are effectively supporting your organisation goals, while also supporting your members, staff, and stakeholders. Please do the survey if you can – it will only take around 10 minutes, and will provide enormously valuable input for STA. Complete the survey now.

    NEW REPORTS AND POLICY CHANGES OF INTEREST TO STA MEMBERS

    Opportunities for submissions:

    There are three opportunities to provide feedback on the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap:

    Further information: Peter Derbyshire, STA Policy Manager - peter.derbyshire@sta.org.au

    STA MEMBER EVENTS OF INTEREST

    • Join a community of impact-focused researchers atCruxes Innovation’s Impact Pathfinders event. This community will gather to inspire, support, and encourage one another on their journeys to impact, and to hear from leaders in the field. Cruxes are offering free tickets to this event to the first 10 STA members who sign up to attend the event. Please click here to sign up to the event, and use discount code HISTA to get your free tickets.
    • Join the Australian Psychological Society for a two-day event ‘Unpacking trauma’ to learn about the latest research and best-practice approaches in the treatment of trauma. All health professionals are welcome to register.
    • Register now for the 11th National AeRO Forum Identifying the gaps - Digital Research Infrastructure on Tuesday 14 September.
    • Thursday 9 September is ruokday. This year, the theme is #aretheyreallyOK? Exciton Science will host a panel discussion on understanding mental health and the important role of conversations and positive approaches. Register here.
    • AMOS, with the NZ MetSoc, are holding an international conference on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography in February 2022. Submit your abstracts by 19 September.

    To add a conference or event: contact STA Events & Membership Manager Lucy Guest – lucy.guest@sta.org.au

    GRANTS, FUNDING AND OPPORTUNITIES 

    • ANSTO FutureNow and FutureNow Plus Scholarships – open to graduates or early career researchers working on industry-focused research projects that support developments in health, defence, aerospace engineering and nuclear technologies.
    • Entrepreneurs' Programme - Accelerating Commercialisation – Ongoing.
    • The Kenneth Myer Innovation Fellowships support breakthrough solutions to Australia’s most pressing challenges. Fellows are funded to take 12 months away from their current role to pursue big ideas that have the potential to achieve positive outcomes in the areas of poverty and disadvantage, sustainability and environment, human, civil and legal rights. EOIs are open until 5 September.
    • The Volvo Environment Prize is open for nominations for the 2022 Laureate. The prize covers all fields of environmental and sustainability studies and initiatives.
    • Women & Leadership Australia is offering partial scholarships to women in STEM areas wanting to undertake leadership training.

    STA MEMBER STORIES 

    Do you know of a terrific STEM idea, technology, innovation, product or program that has been successfully commercialised? Then we want to hear from you. STA is launching a new project where we’ll aim to highlight research translation and commercialisation success stories. Get in contact with our Communications Manager, Martyn Pearce.

    Get in the picture: Are you following STA on Instagram? If you’re a member organisation using Insta as one of your communication channels, please follow us and we’ll follow you back!


  • 19 Aug 2021 2:50 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference (ECSSC) 2021 was held online over 26th July-1st August. As an early career quantitative researcher at Monash Rural Health, Bendigo, I was excited to hear about ECSSC 2021 and to receive funding from SSA Vic to attend. This conference provided me with opportunities to share my pharmacoepidemiological research, refine my presentation skills, meet and interact with fellow ECSSs, and learn about multifarious topics from inspiring keynote speakers and ECSSs. Topics of particular interest to me included causal inference, multicentre trials, psychometrics, spatial modelling, social media analytics, consulting, communication, and the sociology of statistical expertise.

    From my perspective, while I enjoyed and learned from the relatively specialised, technical topics covered at ECSSC 2021, I feel that I personally derived greater benefit from the more human-centred presentations. This includes presentations emphasising qualitative approaches and the personal narratives of statisticians, as exemplified by:

    • Atousa Ghahramani’s poster presentation ‘Use of social media analytics for raising awareness of cardiovascular diseases risk factors in the female population of Australia’ (a mixed methods study)
    • Taya Collyer’s oral presentation ‘What is statistical expertise?’ (a qualitative study)
    • Cameron Patrick’s oral presentation ‘Tales from the trenches of statistical consulting: five tips for early career statistical consultants’
    • Sharm Thuraisingam’s oral presentation ‘Surviving a PhD with a toddler during a pandemic’.

    It was also helpful to hear the personal experiences and insights conveyed through panels and information sessions, including the experiences shared by my fellow Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia (BCA) alumni during the BCA information session. I agree with this sentiment expressed by one of the delegates: all statisticians are statistical consultants, be it informally or formally. I found it refreshing to attend a statistics conference with such a strong emphasis on the human side of the profession. The human side of statistical practice is rarely formally taught in statistics courses yet, in my experience and opinion, is of paramount importance to us statisticians and our collaborators.

    I thought that technology was employed to great effect by the ECSSC 2021 Committee. The use of a solitary Zoom link for all presentations, panels, information sessions, and social events simplified attendance from an end-user perspective. Breakout rooms were well utilised during social sessions to encourage interaction and networking among delegates. The Zoom sessions were complemented by the conference’s Slack workspace—a dedicated online communication platform for conference updates, reminders, Q&As, comments, and conversations. As a first-time Slack user, I was impressed by the user-friendliness and effectiveness of this software solution. Slack facilitated many fruitful conversations about varied topics while providing a place for delegates to share helpful resources and information, such as statistics-related videos and the Twitter handles of statisticians who regularly tweet (including advanced R users). Furthermore, thanks to the sharing of recorded presentations through the ‘post-conference’ Slack channel and electronic posters through an online exhibition, my fellow delegates and I have been able to revisit particular presentations or view any that we may have missed. The ECSSC 2021 YouTube video competition was a terrific accompaniment to ECSSC 2021, further exemplifying the conference’s effective use of technology.

    Overall, I found attending ECSSC 2021 to be an informative, interesting, and inspiring experience. I offer my congratulations and thanks to the ECSSC 2021 Committee as well as all conference presenters and attendees. In a contemporary world full of so much uncertainty, I feel confident about the bright future of statistics—and statistics conferences—in Australia.

    Dr Michael Leach
    Senior Lecturer (Education and Research)
    Rural Health, Monash University


  • 8 Aug 2021 2:46 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The IBS Travel Awards Program (hooray, travel!) will launch its pre-International Biometric Conference travel funding campaign very soon. More information may be found here.   Those who reside in lower and middle-income countries may apply. Funding of up to $3,000 USD per applicant is to be used to attend the 2022 International Biometric Conference in Riga, Latvia, taking place from July 10-15 at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Conference Center.

    Related to the conference, there is no membership requirement to join the new IBC online Community, which was recently launched . Obviously, those eventually planning to attend the 2022 IBC will find this more useful than others. Updates related to local travel restrictions and much more will be posted there, as well as full session information.

    And speaking of sessions, just a reminder that submissions from a broad range of perspectives are encouraged during our IBC Call for Contributed Sessions. Click here to view an list of the methodological topics and application areas that have been covered at previous conferences and which likely will also be covered at the next conference. This is not an exhaustive list by any means.

    Submissions for oral presentations and poster sessions must be submitted online through the ScholarOne abstract portal, and will be accepted through 30 September 2021. Click here to get started.

    And finally, it might be helpful to know that new rates for online advertising have just been posted online. Click here to view them:.

    As always, we are happy to answer any questions you have at ibs@biometricsociety.org. Thanks for your interest!

    Peter E Doherty, CAE

    Executive Director

  • 4 Aug 2021 2:32 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The Early Career Statisticians and Students Conference (ECSSC) kicked off a full week of keynote speakers, panel discussions, abstract and poster presentations, and social events on the 26th of July, 2021.  The event, previously known as the Young Statisticians Conference, is a forum designed to connect statisticians who are in the early stages of their careers. This year it was entirely virtual for the first time.

    Delegates were treated to talks on a wide range of topics covering innovative academic research, solutions developed for industry, and tips for navigating the rigors of study and life on the job.

    Keynote speakers with a wealth of experience in their respective fields generously shared their work and wisdom. Peter Taylor of the University of Melbourne discussed modelling the Bitcoin Blockchain. Minh-Ngoc Tran of the University of Sydney made the case for Variational Bayes. Kendra Vant took us through the machine learning techniques she uses to create products at Xero. Paola Oliva-Altamirano shared the lessons she and her team at Innovations Lab (Our Community/ SmartyGrants) have learned in creating text classifiers for machine learning models. And finally, Helena Jia presented an inside look into the complex world of educational survey assessment design and analysis.

    Talent and enthusiasm were on full display during the delegate presentations. The line-up of fascinating and conversation-provoking talks provided tough competition for the Louise Ryan award for best oral presentation. Elena Tartaglia ultimately secured first prize for her talk “Understanding the role of causal inference from observational datasets in developing government policy”.  Second prize went to Sharm Thuraisingam for “Surviving a PhD with a toddler during a pandemic” and third to John Warmenhoven for “A non-conventional entry into the world of statistics.”

    The newly created Alison Harcourt award for best poster went to Josh Jacobson. Puxue Qiao snared second place and Vanessa Pac Soo was awarded third. Parinaz Mehdipour won the Sue Finch Data Visualisation award for the presentation of data in her talk “Bayesian Within-host Modelling of Red Blood Cell Dynamics and Primaquine-induced Haemolysis in G6PD Deficiency”.

    Shawn Lew Wei Hwa won the video competition for his presentation of “Project Guide Me”, an analysis of how well the visually impaired have been able to integrate into Singaporean society.

    Despite the virtual setting, there was an abundance of opportunities to connect with other attendees and perhaps even win some prizes. The virtual pub was open for casual chats at the close of the last presentation each day. Delegates networked in breakout rooms, competed in trivia games, and even watched a movie together.

    The youngest generation of future statisticians took centre stage during the high school engagement day. Participants got a rundown of the basics of R during an introductory workshop. They heard about the exploits of statisticians working at the ABS, Data61 and NSW Health, and got the chance to win books about statistics and other prizes.

    Throughout the conference, there were also panel discussions, information sessions from our sponsors, and a conversation about how the SSA and the ECSSN could better meet the needs of members. All the while, delegates chatted in the slack channel, punctuating posts with an increasingly creative use of emojis.

    An inspiring video interview with the incomparable Alison Harcourt concluded the event.

    The ECSSC 2021 could not have been put together without the generous support of our sponsors: ABS, ASMI, ACEMS, BCA and Survey Design. Special thanks to the SSA, in particular Marie-Louise Rankin and Jodi Phillips, whose tireless efforts ensured the event’s success.  Special thanks also to the keynote speakers, panelists, and delegates whose contributions motivated discussions, provided insight and encouraged connections and collaborations between members of the statistics community in Australia and beyond.

    We look  forward to seeing you at the next ECSSC!

    Sherri McRae

    ECSSC2021 Committee Member

  • 30 Jul 2021 11:49 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    With just a fortnight until National Science Week, please join us on 12 August for the official national launch. You can register here for this free virtual event - and we’d love you to extend this invitation to your networks. STA is honoured to deliver the launch in partnership with Questacon on behalf of the Australian Government. We’ll bring you an inspiring array of experts to speak on The Science of Recovery, Resilience and Renewal - and unveil some fascinating new insights on how Australians value science and the work of our scientists.

    Our thoughts are especially with all of you and your members in New South Wales right now as this lockdown continues. We’re acutely conscious of the impact for those juggling working and caring responsibilities at home, and those facing an uncertain outlook in their employment. Please know the rest of the nation sends love and support - and wishes you every strength. 

    STA has been busy on your behalf over the past month with a raft of engagements across Government and with Parliamentarians, public service departments and agencies. This includes promoting our new STA policy vision. In an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review last week, we made the case for further investments in research translation, commercialisation and R&D. We’ve published our recent submissions on the Australian curriculum review - here’s the write-up in Campus Morning Mail - and on mitochondrial donation law. We’ve also been concerned about the timing of the latest round of Australian Research Council funding grants.     

    To wrap up the fortnight, STA is delighted to welcome another great STEM education organisation to our membership. The Victorian Space Science Education Centre inspires students in scientific learning and literacy, and supports teachers and schools with high quality education resources. Please warmly welcome VSSEC, its Director Michael Pakakis and its External Relations adviser Dr Brett Biddington to STA.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 


  • 29 Jul 2021 3:47 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    by MALINDRIE DHARMARATNE

    The Australian and New Zealand Statistical Conference 2021 (ANZSC 2021) was held online from the 5th to 9th July, where this conference brought together a broad range of researchers across a variety of statistical disciplines.  The conference’s theme this year was “Modelling Data for a Brighter Future” and the conference program included presentations by both international and national keynote speakers, including experts in the statistical arena, mini tutorials on trending research areas of statistics, as well as oral and poster presentations.

    I had the opportunity to participate and present at ANZSC 2021, where I received a scholarship covering my registration fee from the SSA Qld. One of the main highlights of the conference was the panel of keynote speakers, and how they each represented a variety of statistical disciplines. The keynote presentation by Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, (Not) Aggregating Data, was particularly of interest as she discussed how different statistical models can be used to bring together cancer data from different registries around Australia, and how they can be combined with GIS/location details and digital earth technology.

    I also had the opportunity to give an oral presentation during the Biostatistics session and my talk was titled, “scShapes: A statistical framework for identifying distribution shapes in single-cell RNA-sequencing data,” where I presented the work from my PhD research. I particularly enjoyed presenting my work to such a diverse audience, and for receiving valuable feedback. However, the biggest highlight of the conference for me was the opportunity to be part of the panel at the Women in STEM session, since I felt extremely privileged to talk about my PhD journey in my talk “Pursuing a PhD: Journey so far,” and to be on the same panel as Professor Melanie Bahlo; who’s at the forefront of statistical bioinformatics both nationally and internationally.

    I would like to thank the SSA Qld for providing me with financial support to attend ANZSC 2021, as I was extremely pleased with my conference experience since I learned new statistical methods, and applications in the field which I believe will be very useful in my career. Although this year the conference was online, the organisers ensured that participants had the full conference experience through platforms like Zoom and Slack, as we had the opportunity to ask questions and network with other presenters and participants. Attending ANZSC 2021 was a fantastic experience because students and experts working in a variety of statistical disciplines came together to share their research and provide feedback to each other.  

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    by MOHOMED ABRAJ MOHOMED HASEEM MOHOMED AMSAR

    The ANZSC2021 conference began with an inspiring keynote presentation by Professor Frauke Kreuter, as her presentation on combining data from different sources for social media was useful, and quite new to me. Afterwards, I enjoyed the wonderful talk about randomized trials by Hon. Dr Andrew Leigh, MP. However, I need to highlight the talk by Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen about The Australian Cancer Atlas, since this talk helped me to understand geological based cancer data in Australia, and I hope to use this data in my research. Noel Cressie, one of my favourite authors, presented an interesting talk on the comparison of global geophysical models, and all the talks were useful for my research career, but specifically for my area of research in copula modelling, spatial modelling, and spatio-temporal modelling. The sessions for environmental statistics, modelling, statistical theory, and methods were useful, because they provided numerous insights to my PhD project.

    I presented my conference talk on Day 3 titled, “Copula modelling for spatial data: a new approach to model multivariate spatial dependency,” although I was quite nervous before the talk began since this was my first experience at a virtual conference. However, I presented well and answered all the questions from the audience, and Noel Cressie’s question was especially helpful in improving my methods. Also, other members of the audience had positive feedback on Slack, which encouraged me to progress well with my research.

    Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to my principal supervisor Associate Professor Helen Thompson, who suggested I attend this conference and helped me in preparing the conference talk and abstract. Secondly, I sincerely thank my Associate supervisor Professor You-Gan Wang, who also reviewed my abstract and gave me valuable suggestions. Finally, I must thank QUT, ACEMS, and SSA Qld for their financial assistance.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    by OWEN FORBES

    Extending Bayesian model averaging methodology for application across multiple unsupervised clustering methods

    A variety of methods have been developed to combine inference across multiple sets of results for unsupervised clustering, within the ensemble and consensus clustering literature. The approach of reporting results selected from the “best” model out of several candidate clustering models ignores the uncertainty that arises from choosing the model, and results in inference that is sensitive to the chosen model and parameters, especially with small sample size data. Bayesian model averaging (BMA) is a popular approach for combining results across multiple models that offers some attractive benefits in this setting, including intuitive probabilistic interpretation of an overall cluster structure integrated across multiple sets of clustering results, with quantification of model-based uncertainty.

    Previous application of BMA for clustering has been developed in the context of finite mixture models, using the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) to approximate model evidence for weighted averaging of results across selected models. In this work we proposed an extension to BMA methodology to enable weighted model averaging across results from multiple clustering algorithms, by using a combination of clustering internal validation criteria in place of the BIC to weight results from each model. We presented results exploring the utility of this approach with a case study applying BMA across results, from several popular unsupervised clustering algorithms, to identify robust subgroups of individuals based on electroencephalography (EEG) data. We also used simulated clustering datasets to explore the utility of this technique to identify robust integrated clusters.

    Personal Highlights

    Overall, I was amazed at how smoothly and seamlessly this online conference ran, and massive kudos to the organisers for making everything run without hiccups across Slack and Zoom! Some talk highlights for me included: Professor Renate Meyer's plenary about Bayesian Time Series Tools for Gravitational Wave Astronomy; Dr Karen Lamb's talk about Obesogenic Environments and the Health Effects of Residing in 20-minute Neighbourhoods; and Dr Edgar Santos-Fernandez's talk about Spatio-Temporal Models for River Networks. I was also helped by Dr Nicole White's mini tutorial on implementing mixture models for unsupervised clustering, since this tutorial really helped bed down my familiarity and confidence with these methods, and I am grateful for Nicole's expertise and clear explanations. There were so many interesting talk titles and abstracts, that it was hard to choose which parallel session to attend live, and I’m looking forward to watching recordings of some more great talks over the next couple of weeks!

    Thank you very much to the SSA Qld branch for funding my attendance, as I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I had an awesome time at ANZSC2021.



  • 22 Jul 2021 6:11 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Dr Emi Tanaka* from Monash University gave a talk to members of the South Australian Branch on Programming paradigms x Statistical software design.

    Emi started off by illustrating 5 computer programming paradigms in terms of drawing faces which was a very useful analogy.

    Imperative programming is when your code to draw a face is lines of code that instruct the computer to do something. Functional programming where you gather your code together and generalize it in a ‘function’, so you can repeatedly apply the same code but with different attributes.  Syntactic sugar where functions are designed to make it easier to express for humans- this may be as simple as giving a function a sensible name representing what it actually does, for example instead of calling it “face1” it could be called “face_angry”. Rethinking functions arguments -separating the parts of the function into sensible parts. In terms of the face, instead of having a function that creates the whole face, breaking it down into face parts (eyes, mouth, face shape)- each of which can be altered individually and also added to eg. Adding a mole or eyebrows.  Object -oriented programming where the previous arguments of function are now objects. Now anyone can add a new object to add to the available options.

    Emi recognized that software implements a mix of paradigms- and illustrated how they related to statistical programming. She looked at the ‘Grammar of graphics’ and illustrated with ggplot (a function from the R package ggplot2) which uses object-oriented programming style. ggplot follows the equifinality principal where there is more than one approach to the same thing. This allows users which may have different mental models to approach the same graph in different ways. Emi gave examples using a data set of the agridat R package, where the plot can show either infection rate or treatment, how easy it is to add captions, titles labels, change colours. ggplot allows the user to draw publication ready graphics.

    Next was the ‘Grammar of data manipulations’ illustrated with the R library dplyr which combines element of syntactic sugar but has the disadvantage that the user may not understand the nuances of what is happening. dplyr is essentially a pipeline – consistent in terms of input and output, where both are ‘data.frames’.

    Emi finished with the ‘Grammar of experimental design’ and touched briefly on some standard experimental design- from completely randomized design to split-plot designs. For the R package there is a CRAN task view of design of experiments with 112 R-packages, with the top downloaded packages in 2020 being AlgDesign and agricolae. Emi noted that Python another popular software language doesn’t have a lot of experimental design tools- R is really the best for experimental design and has the latest tools available in this space. In the grammar of experimental design space Emi has been developing her own package in R called edibble. Emi had taken the 3 components of experimental designs: Experimental units, treatments, allocations to treatments along with potential constraints for example blocks and created an interactive approach to generating an experimental design using ‘edibble’ which maps the 3 components using a sequential pipeline with ‘syntactic sugar’, complementing other experimental design tools.

    Emi has made her slides available, and they can be found at: emitanaka.org/slides/SSA-SA-2021

    Emi is hoping to expand to designs for clinical trials next year in collaboration with Andrew Forbes- so watch this space!

    On behalf of those attending the talk – thanks Emi for an insightful look into programming and your new R package.

    Helena Oakey

    *Dr. Emi Tanaka is a lecturer in statistics at Monash University whose primary interest is to develop impactful statistical methods and tools that can readily be used by practitioners. Her research areas include data visualisation, mixed models and experimental designs, motivated primarily by problems in bioinformatics and agricultural sciences. She is currently the President of the Statistical Society of Australia Victorian Branch and is an avid programmer in R, HTML/CSS and other computational languages.


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