News & Media releases

  • 17 Dec 2019 1:09 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    South Australian Branch SSA December 2019 Meeting

    The SA Branch was pleased to welcome Distinguished Professor Marti J. Anderson, a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and a recent recipient of a prestigious James Cook Fellowship, to give the tenth E.A. Cornish Memorial Lecture. Marti holds the Professorial Chair in Statistics in the New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study (NZIAS) at Massey University in Auckland. She is an ecological statistician whose research is inter-disciplinary: from ecology to mathematical statistics. Her core research is in community ecology, biodiversity, multivariate analysis, models of ecological count data, experimental design and resampling methods, with a special focus on creating new applied statistics for ecology that can yield new insights into global patterns of biodiversity.

    Her talk was based on a fundamental question in ecology – How do species respond to spatial or environmental gradients? To answer this question, one needs to think about how to best model these responses. A typical response is unimodal and a couple of classical models including generalized linear models (GLM) with one or more polynomial term(s) and a bell-shaped (Gaussian) curve were discussed to fit unimodal response patterns in ecology. However, there are problems with polynomial models because they are quite constrained and can generate unrealistic predictions (even yielding negative numbers). Meanwhile, Gaussian models don’t account for asymmetry.

    Instead, something more flexible like generalized additive models, e.g. splines may be considered, but these do not provide interpretable parameters. Such flexible spline-type models also have only previously been applied to binary-type data.

    Marti showed examples of real data of depth gradient distributions of different fish species in the NE Pacific. She explained her first principle of modelling is to re-visit data-types commonly encountered and re-visit genuinely observed patterns in such variables along large-scale gradients. The data were very messy and contained large numbers of zero values at certain depths.

    The goal was to decide on a flexible nonlinear parametric mathematical form to model the mean response of species to environmental gradients. This needs to be coupled with a suitable statistical distribution to model the error structure. Model frameworks were discussed and four mean functions were introduced: Beta (modified), Sech (modified), HOF (Huisman, Olf, Fresco) and Gaussian mixtures. Various error distributions which could account for excess zeros and overdispersion were coupled with these four mean functions and models were compared using the AICc. Marti showed an example of the best fitting model for the Shortspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus alascanus), which was the Sech function combined with a zero-inflated negative binomial (ZINB).

    Visualisations of these models for multiple species simultaneously were also discussed, including overlays of mean distributions, ordered ‘floating’ distributions and ordered ‘strip’ distributions.  A further example was given using data from the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) from the North Atlantic. Beautiful visualizations displayed northern shifts in the latitudinal distributions of plankton species, showing how these have changed between 1960 and 2005: a cold-water species has contracted polewards, while a warm-water species has extended its range northwards.

    Developments and extensions of these models are an area of current research and include cross-validation, estimation of variation in parameters, Bayesian approaches; extension of error distributions to include linked zero-inflated models, contagious distributions, under-dispersion, etc; modelling simultaneous responses of multiple species(Y), accounting for inter-specific associations; consideration of more than one gradient (X), including interactions; and ordination of species (modes, dispersions) in environmental space.

    For more information contact m.j.anderson@massey.ac.nz

    Yiwen (Wendy) Li

  • 17 Dec 2019 12:51 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    We're pleased to report that our two-day series of workshops in Nov 2019, covering both Python and R, was a success.  Our Python workshops proved to be particularly popular. 

    We started on 18 November with Machine Learning with Python, hosted jointly with Eliiza and delivered by a team of presenters from Eliiza led by Patrick Robotham.  This was the first time we have offered these workshops and they proved to be popular, with over 30 attendees.  For those who missed out, don't worry, we plan to run them again next year. There was a lot of interest particularly in image classification techniques, for which we plan to develop some more material for next time.

    We continued on 19 November with a repeat of our 
    R skills workshops, hosted jointly with MIG.  This year we were joined by Emi Tanaka from Sydney who delivered the R Markdown workshop, while Damjan Vukcevic presented on Building R packages.  We had almost 20 attendees for each one and many requests for more workshops, both at a more introductory as well as a more advanced level.

    Patrick Robotham & Damjan Vukcevic

  • 17 Dec 2019 12:44 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    VIC Branch final event for 2019

    The Victorian branch final event for 2019 was a series of short talks and panel discussion on current activities within Australia and globally to promote strengthening stats and maths through gender diversity.

    The first presentation was by SSA Vice President Dr Jessica Kasza on her work to establish a Safe SSA committee and updated code of conduct to prevent and respond to harassment within the statistics community. She led a response team (females and males from all career stages) at the joint meeting of the International Society of Clinical Biostatistics and Statistical Society of Australia (Melbourne 2019), a first for the SSA conference, where delegates could report to team members any unacceptable behaviour.

    Next up was Professor Claudia Czado from the Technical University of Munich who spoke about the Global Challenges for Women in Math Science program. Here awards for scientific and entrepreneurial achievements are given to female students and ECRs to promote them to continue in the mathematical sciences disciplines. Professor Jessica Purcell from Monash University then introduced the Women in Mathematical Sciences Special Interest Group (WIMSIG) which was established in 2013, and held a highly successful conference in Adelaide in 2017. WIMSIG has launched a pilot mentoring program and is running a conference at Monash University in 2020 to celebrate women in Australian Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. The last speaker was Anna Quaglieri, one of the former main organisers of R-Ladies Melbourne. The R-Ladies Melbourne meet up group has now over 1300 members, and as well as events, has an active discussion board. To finish off the evening all speakers contributed to a lively panel discussion regarding the initiatives/groups/awards that each speaker has established.

    Professsor Julie Simpson

  • 17 Dec 2019 12:20 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Western Australian Branch SSA Meeting article October 2019

    Dr John Henstridge (Chief Statistician and Managing Director of Data Analysis Australia) spoke on “Presenting Uncertainty and Risk” at the WA Branch meeting on Tuesday 8th October 2019. This was held in the Cheryl Praeger lecture theatre (named after John’s wife) at the University of Western Australia. He outlined areas where uncertainty is often misunderstood by non-statisticians and gave suggestions for statisticians to more effectively communicate uncertainty to non-statisticians. 

    John based his talk around work performed for a client that presented challenges as how to report uncertainty and risk. He outlined that most statistics is performed for the benefit of non-statisticians; while statisticians are good at handling uncertainty, many non-statisticians are not and may assume statistical methods give certainty. It is up to statisticians to communicate uncertainty clearly to others.

    In official publications, data is often presented as fact where the uncertainty is unquantified. This approach is often seen in accounting, where immaterial differences are allowed, when it “doesn’t make much difference” to the overall data. There may be uncertainty to the underlying mechanism giving rise to the numbers, but not the numbers themselves. 

    In some areas, it is argued that “there are too many numbers” such that it is impractical to represent the uncertainty. John stated the in reality this view is wrong, and uncertainty can be dealt with regardless of the complexity of the data. Where data can be generated, then you can almost always provide uncertainty estimates using bootstrap methods. John gave an example where he’d worked on the Western Australian Travel Survey. A jackknife (instead of the bootstrap for technical reasons) had been performed on the estimates produced by an automated report, where 10 sub-sampled reports were compared character-by-character to generate standard-errors. This was an extreme case, and not one he might suggest in the future, but it does illustrate that bootstrapped standard errors are virtually always possible. The issue is what to present and how to present it. 

    John then gave a brief history of error bars. Error bars have their origin in metrology (the science of measurement [1]) that interprets them as absolute limits, that is, the true value is always within the error bars. Statisticians later appropriated error bars, where they usually denote confidence intervals. Confidence intervals exist for mathematical convenience but are misinterpreted by most users. He suggested it would be worthwhile for statisticians to read standard texts from international metrology organisations. 

    John Henstridge showed the audience several XKCD webcomics. This webcomic, Error Bars, was obtained from https://xkcd.com/2110/

    In some publications it’s not always clear how this uncertainty displayed in error bars is derived. Examples were provided where the numbers were certain, but error bars were provided. When uncertainty is given without stating what the model is, it’s hard to know if the uncertainty has been calculated correctly. 

    Next, John questioned the practice of presenting an interval when we don’t mean it. While error bars have been borrowed from metrology, statisticians rarely think of error bars as giving the full variation, with the true value allowed to lie outside of the interval. When John Tukey invented boxplots, technological limitations enforced vertical and horizontal lines. We now have access to other ways of presenting variation with diamond, violin, fan and density strips plots. John Henstridge prefers representing variation with violin plots as these give a better idea of the full distribution and are more robust to display and printing methods. 

    Related to this is the “p-value problem”, where uncertainty is interpreted with certainty. This is in part the fault of statisticians in not effectively communicating the appropriate interpretation of p-values. Too often, significant/not-significant p-values leads to strict cut offs on the truth of the result. Similarly, confidence intervals are frequently misunderstood to have the true value within the range. Statisticians have some responsibility for these misunderstandings. 

    The American Statistical Association [2] provided a statement in 2016 on p-values, and although John Henstridge said it was technically correct and provided lots of things not to do, it was not clear what we should do. He felt that the statement may have missed the point, trying to have a formalism when presenting the results of analysis when there is a deeper problem of how to represent uncertainty. 

    Finally, John strongly recommended statisticians read “Communicating uncertainty about facts, numbers and science” [3] from the Royal Society Open Science initiative. This has lots of useful information on both types of uncertainty and communicating uncertainty. 

    A recording of the seminar is available on the Branch Seminar Videos page.

    John Henstridge is the Chief Statistician and Managing Director of Data Analysis Australia, a statistical consulting firm that he founded in 1988.  While his original specialty was time series applied to signal processing problems, as a consultant statistician he has worked across many areas of statistics.  He is an Accredited Statistician (of the Statistical Society of Australia) and a Chartered Statistician (of the Royal Statistical Society) and served as the national President of the Statistical Society of Australia between 2013 and 2016.

    Rick Tankard
    SSA WA Branch Secretary

    References:

    [1] See for example International Bureau of Weights and Measures or Bureau international des poids et mesures, https://www.bipm.org/en/publications/guides/#gum

    [2] Wasserstein, Ronald L., and Nicole A. Lazar. "The ASA’s statement on p-values: context, process, and purpose." The American Statistician 70, no. 2 (2016): 129-133.

    [3] van der Bles, Anne Marthe, Sander van der Linden, Alexandra LJ Freeman, James Mitchell, Ana B. Galvao, Lisa Zaval, and David J. Spiegelhalter. "Communicating uncertainty about facts, numbers and science." Royal Society open science 6, no. 5 (2019): 181870.

  • 16 Dec 2019 11:44 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)


    Special moments

    For a limited time only, a special interest rate^ of 2.80%pa (3.29%pa comparison**) is available on a UniBank Classic Home Loan with a minimum home loan application of $250k*.

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    Visit UniBank's online home loan resource centre for frequently asked questions or to contact a lending expert. 

    Owner occupiers only. Principal & interest repayments only.New Business Only. Membership eligibility, conditions and exclusions apply. Please see terms and conditions*.

    .Know more. 

    UniBank is a division of Teachers Mutual Bank Limited ABN 30 087 650 459 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238981. Membership eligibility applies to join the Bank. Membership is open to citizens or permanent residents of Australia who are current or retired employees, students and graduates of Australian Universities or family members of members of the Bank. Consumer Lending terms and conditions apply and are available online here. For further information call 1800 864 864 or go to unibank.com.au. 1. Redraw is subject to application and registration.

    ^Classic Special Home Loan.The interest rates shown are for new business only and for principal and interest repayments. Existing borrowers can find out their current interest rate by checking their statement, accessing their loan account in internet banking or by contacting us.

    The Special Rate of 2.80%pa (comparison rate 3.29% pa**) will apply for 12 months from date of first loan drawing. This offer is available only to members who apply during the ‘Special Rate’ period and excludes top ups, internal refinances and existing Teachers Mutual Bank Limited loans. Minimum loan amount is $250,000 with a maximum of $1,000,000. Maximum loan-to-valuation ratio of 80% applies. Principal and Interest repayments only. The Special Rate will cease 12 months from the funding date, at which time your home loan will revert to the then applicable Classic home loan variable interest rate. The Special Rate may be withdrawn or amended by the Bank at any time. Once the special interest rate applies, the interest rate will not alter during the relevant 12 month period.

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  • 25 Nov 2019 3:00 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    I am grateful to have received the NSW Statistical Society of Australia Travel grant to attend the Young Statisticians Conference 2019, held at Manuka Oval, Canberra, on 1-2 October. The travel grant helped cover all of my registration, dinner, accommodation and transportation costs to Canberra.

    After driving down from Sydney on Tuesday morning, it was straight into a keynote session by Teresa Dickinson from the ABS, which started the day off well with many other excellent presentations from contributed talks throughout the day, as well as another keynote by Calvin Hung from Quantum Black. To conclude the first day, I attended the conference dinner, which was held at the Kingston Hotel. A lot of fun was had, with good pub food, competitions to draw the best normal curve, and helping build Wikipedia pages for famous female statisticians.

    On the second day, after Alison Hill’s great keynote presentation, it was my time to present my work on generalised discriminant analysis, which was my last project in my PhD. I very much enjoyed presenting my work and had fruitful discussions about my work during lunch. For those who could not make it, my slides can be found here: http://bit.ly/SR-YoungStats.

    To finish off the conference, I was very fortunate to receive first place for the ‘Louise Ryan Award for Best Presentation’, which was a very welcome surprise!

    There were so many amazing talks and I was so humbled to be awarded with such an honour.

    I would like to say thank you again to the NSW SSA branch for this opportunity, as it was a very enjoyable and educational conference, with many friendships and ideas I will take with me throughout my career. I highly recommend any young statistician to attend!

    Sarah Romanes 

  • 25 Nov 2019 2:58 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    I attended the Young Statisticians Conference YSC2019 held in Manuka Oval Building in Canberra, Australia between 1-2 October 2019. For me, I can frankly admit that it was my first chance to attend such a conference. It was a great experience and magnificent opportunity for me to attend, present and exchange thoughts and ideas related to my research topic and other topics in statistics with my young fellow statisticians. 

    This conference involves a large scale gathering of young statisticians who are in the first 10 years of their statistical career, or currently studying for a PhD, MSc or BSc in statistics or a subject with statistical content and early-career professionals in statistics and data analysis from all around Australia and some keynote speakers from the world. Attending this conference allowed me to discuss the latest developments in statistics.

    In general, this conference aimed at:

    -          Establishing channels of communication between the young statisticians to stay in contact with the latest developments, research efforts and innovations in the statistics filed.

    -          Discussion of the latest research topics in statistics and outcomes.

    -          Highlighting challenges facing the career and how to overcome these challenges.

    This conference is considered a unique event that provide a serious opportunity for PhD students, around Australia to meet and exchange ideas and discuss plans to promote the role of statistics in the daily life aspects and in various industry fields.

    For me, I did present about fitting dispersed count data using mean parametrized Conway-Maxwell-Poisson model and talked about my new package mpcmp.

     This conference was organised and managed by a committee of young people mostly students, and that gave them the chance to improve their organisational and managerial skills and become leaders in their discipline in the future.

    Absolutely, I would like to attend this conference again and be part of the Conference Committee if needed. 

     At this conference, a number of keynote speakers delivered very important speeches and presentations related to latest research efforts and developments in statistical industry.

    Among those speakers, was Dr Alison Hill who presented on ‘The Art of Literate Projecting’ which  was a very good presentation that gave a positive energy for young statisticians. Also, how great was hearing from Teresa Dickinson, deputy Australian statistician from the Australian Bureau of Statistics about Big data and about the role of Australian Bureau of Statistics in providing official statistics to inform Australia’s important decisions.

    I am very graceful to Statistical Society of Australia of providing me with the Travel Grant and gave me the chance to attend this conference and deliver my presentation.

    Aya Alwan

  • 25 Nov 2019 2:55 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Thanks in large part to the travel grant generously provided by the SSA NSW branch, I was able to travel to Canberra for this years YSC2019 event. The conference is a biennial event for students and early career statisticians to talk about what they've been working on, as well as meet their peers from around the country. The program featured a wide range of topics from biostatistics all the way to computer science, and this was my first time presenting in such a formal setting. The venue was a function room in Manuka Oval with round tables and seats facing the stage for the speaker. We had sweeping views of the green grass of the cricket ground through the floor to ceiling windows.

    I listened to all the talks first day and left impressed by the variety of the research projects on display, and the engaging way in which they were presented by the delegates. I was able to give my talk on likelihood asymptotics for Normal mixtures on the second day. While I was nervous at first, I took this it as a rare opportunity as it's not everyday having a captive audience listening to limit theorems in statistics. I was able to enjoy my short time on the podium and walked off with a big smile.

    The event also featured keynote speakers Dr. Calvin Hung from Quantum Black, who spoke about his experience working in consulting and how the advent of big data has changed the scope of data analytics, citing applications from tracking racers in Formula One to improving efficiency of mining operations in central Australia. Dr. Allison Hill from RStudio spoke about her idea of 'literate projecting', advocating researchers to broadcast their own personal projects in an accessible manner via personal websites and social media.

    The conference dinner was held at the Kingston Hotel where we all enjoyed delicious pub food and enjoyed each other's company over drinks. Overall, this was a greatly memorable few days and I'd like to congratulate the SSA for organising such a wonderful event. I'm keenly keeping an eye out for the next SSA event that I can attend!

    Haruki Jeremy Osaka 


  • 11 Nov 2019 6:12 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The secret to good debt

    It may seem like an oxymoron - however borrowing money may be a key strategy in building a stronger financial future.

    While living in the black means your bank accounts are never diminished with debit interest - there is a role that debt plays as we progress through our lives and careers.

    Like most Australians, you probably have the dream of one day buying your own home…. which invariably comes hand-in-hand with a mortgage. In today’s market it’s not enough to simply ensure you are able to demonstrate a regular savings commitment to reach a required deposit.

    Key to securing the best finance deal is a good credit history - which is built over time and reflects your financial behaviour in meeting bill and loan payments.

    Most recent figures show that Australians are burdened by
    more than $2 trillion in household debt - with the average household owing $250,000. However, research shows that most of this debt is categorised as “good debt.”

    What is good debt?

    Before whipping out the credit card for a shopping frenzy, first take stock of your needs versus your wants.

    The rule of thumb is that good debt is a borrowing that helps you access or leverage financial value or longer term income. For instance, a student loan finances your education which will present longer term professional and higher income opportunities.

    Given that student loan repayments are directed through the Australian taxation system, they are not reflected in your credit history. There are however other options you may consider, such as borrowing for a vehicle or for investment.

    For most Australians a car is an essential tool for you to reach your workplace destination - therefore helping you secure your income.

    What is bad debt?

    If your long term goal is to have the financial freedom to choose the life you want, smart decisions about the debt you take on are critical. Bad debt diminishes your financial position over time and is usually not attached to an asset that appreciates in value over time.

    Before collecting a deck of credit cards and buying against the full balance available be aware that it is all too easy for the interest payments to cut deeply into your weekly budget. The automation of credit transactions through subscriptions, direct debits and memberships means it’s more important than ever before to
    keep track of purchases and the outstanding balance you hold each month.

    Think carefully before taking on debt and ensure you position yourself for financial success. This all begins with
    a realistic budget you can stick with.

    Bad debt may include taking on debt to buy clothes, gadgets, entertainment, nights out and holidays. Before each purchase ask yourself how it will build your financial future. For instance there’s no sense putting the purchase of a new outfit on your credit card, if you can’t afford to pay for the night out in cash.

    Manage your debt and create wealth

    Borrowing to build wealth is a solid strategy when you plan well and use the approach to build your credit rating and access purchases that will add to your asset pool.

    In some cases - depending on your tax rate - there may be additional benefits in borrowing for property and share market investment - known as gearing. When calculating the overall implications of this strategy, consider the possible tax deductions, interest rate, income risk, fees and charges and the flexibility of the investment should you need to exit.

    ASIC nominates
    5 steps towards financial security, beginning with having a full picture of your financial starting point. When entering into the lending market, it’s not only important to borrow within your means, but towards something that will add value to your life.

    Before committing, make sure to always seek professional advice and to research your lending options - what are the market interest rates, the different terms and conditions, penalties, fees and charges?

    Most importantly, borrow to succeed in ways that meet your needs into the longer term.  

    UniBank is a division of Teachers Mutual Bank Limited ABN 30 087 650 459 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238981. Membership eligibility applies to join the Bank. Membership is open to citizens or permanent residents of Australia who are current or retired employees, students and graduates of Australian universities or family members of members of the Bank.

    This article provided by an external writer. Tracie Sanim is a former finance editor and senior journalist with News Corporation. With a communication career spanning three decades in private industry, the not for profit sector and all three tiers of government, Tracie holds qualifications across journalism, project management, business management, innovation and entrepreneurship and business research. She is the founder of the award winning agency Splash Marketing and PR - a venture that focuses on strategic communication, business innovation and market engagement.

  • 11 Nov 2019 4:24 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    South Australian Branch SSA Meeting Article October 2019

    Dr David Baird is a biometrician with 35 years’ consulting experience. David did his MSc in applied statistics at the University of Reading on the nearest neighbour analysis of field trials and a PhD in Statistics at the University of Otago on the design of experiments. David worked with AgResearch for 25 years as a statistical consultant and developed their two-colour microarray analysis suite. David was the statistical consultant on 4 biosecurity eradication programmes and has been the statistical consultant for the NZ Earthquake Commission for the last 8 years. David has been one of the main developers of the Genstat statistical package for over 25 years. So, it wasn’t surprising that David had some very interesting cases to present in a very entertaining way.

    One of the first project’s David worked on was a sheep starvation project where sheep were given different levels of food and then killed so their organs could be weighed, and growth rates measured. Such an experiment is unlikely to pass ethics standards of today. Unfortunately, the data was never kept or published. David emphasized the need to include good data management practices and store data in readable formats.

    David’s talked about his experiences with experimental designs for animal and field trials, eradication programs on introduced moths, biocontrol program for weevils, impacts of pasture endophytes on animal performance and analysis of two-colour microarrays. Like many statistician’s problems such as lack of randomization, data cleansing, inability to replicate results, differences between statisticians and scientists meant solutions were needed to provide data driven results.

    The most interesting work was on financial estimates from the Christchurch earthquakes in order to estimate the EQC Liability so that settlements for damaged houses could be expediated. An initial survey gave an NZ$2.86 billion estimate of total property damage. However, there were multiple earthquakes which meant new surveys, resulting in a final cost estimate of NZ$8 billion. An estimate of the total reimbursement to EQC from reinsurers using nearest neighbour methods was developed and another validation survey was used reach agreement between the two parties.

    For more information contact david@vsn.co.nz .

    By Paul Sutcliffe 

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