News & Media releases

  • 6 Jun 2019 6:46 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Young Statisticians talk – May 2019

    Each year the WA Branch offers a scholarship worth $1,000 to a Young Statistician completing honours in that year at a Western Australian University. This year’s 2019 winner was Emily Whitney from Curtin University.  The prize comes along with a request to deliver next year’s May address to the WA Branch.

    President of the WA Branch, Dr Brenton Clarke, delivers a $1,000 “digital handshake” to Emily Whitney, this year’s winner of the WA Branch Honours Scholarship.

    The May meeting of the Western Australia Branch also heard talks from two young statisticians, Michael Dymock and Connor Duffin, both PhD students from the University of Western Australia. Michael talked about his current research with Group Based Trajectory Modelling with Monotonicity Constraints, which aims to better quantify the uncertainty in three-dimensional geological interpolation models and geophysical models through Bayesian inversion. Connor talked about his research on Modelling site-specific Australian daily rainfall with Bayesian mixture models which aims to model monthly rainfall across four different areas in Australia.

    Group Based Trajectory Modelling with Monotonicity Constraints- Talk by Michael Dymock

    Michael started his undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics degree in 2014 at the University of Western Australia, before completing his honours degree in 2018. Along with being awarded first class honours for his research project, Michael received honours scholarships from both the Statistical Society of Australia and the International Biometric Society (Australasian Branch). Through his work Michael has taken first place in both the 2017 Woodside Hackathon and the 2018 Worley Parsons Hackathon, and second place in the 2017 Visagio Hackathon.

    The understanding and modelling of developmental trajectories in longitudinal data are of fundamental importance across many areas of research with applications ranging from the health and social sciences to that of marketing. Group based trajectory modelling, an application of finite mixture modelling, is often the first choice in approaching the naturally complex task of modelling these trajectories. The group-based strategy acknowledges the possibility of a heterogeneous population by fitting several groups to the data and subsequently treating each group as a distinct entity or sub-population.

    In his talk, Michael explained that existing methodology for group-based trajectory modelling, implemented through the SAS procedure TRAJ, has been developed over the past two decades with the addition of numerous extensions such as the ability to jointly analyse multiple trajectories as well as the handling of missing data. However, there is no methodology currently in place to impose constraints of any kind on the trajectories, in particular, monotonicity constraints. Monotonicity constraints on polynomials play a role in data analysis, when it is known, from the underlying physical theory that the response behaves monotonically. In other words, if we know that the response must progress in the one direction (either increasing or decreasing) over the explanatory variable, it is useful to constrain the model to represent this trend accurately. However, due to a multitude of possible reasons such as data entry error and missing data, in these situations, sometimes unconstrained models fail to capture the monotone behaviour, and thus monotonicity constraints are required.

    In his work, Michael implemented a new methodology for fitting group-based trajectory models with monotonicity constraints by using the Expectation Maximisation (EM) algorithm. The structure of the EM algorithm allowed him to separate the optimisation routine into two smaller optimisation sub-routines (one that computes the group membership probabilities and another that maximises the likelihood function). Furthermore, to illustrate the effectiveness of his methodology, he demonstrated the use of his implementation on a real-world example in the statistical programming language R. In his example he aimed to model the developmental trajectories of individuals' lung function, in particular, Forced Expiratory Volume measurements, over a period of approximately forty years. This example is of particular interest to us because we know from underlying theory that the response trajectories will be monotonically decreasing. However, Michael showed that this unconstrained model fails to capture the required monotone behaviour. After re-running the same analysis under monotonicity constraints, Michael was able to show that the implementation is able to effectively capture and model the required monotonic trajectories.


    Modelling site-specific Australian daily rainfall with Bayesian mixture models- talk by Connor P. Duffin

    Connor completed an Honours degree in Mathematics and Statistics from UWA in 2018, under the supervision of Edward Cripps. Connors research was in the field of Bayesian computational statistics, on modelling Australian daily rainfall. Having stayed in this field, Connor is currently pursuing a PhD at UWA, focussing on quantifying and explaining uncertainties in numerical oceanographic models.

    Daily rainfall has a large impact on the social behaviour of human beings, and also has wide agricultural, biological, and economic effects. Being able to model location-specific daily rainfall, across the country, is therefore of utmost importance. There are three principal complexities in modelling daily rainfall at a single location: temporal evolution, zero and missing days, and extreme tail behaviour.

    Connors work aims to investigate models that are able to capture these complexities across 151 individual rainfall measurement locations (sites) across Australia. Connor used the finite mixture model as a framework to model the discrete and continuous data that comprise these measurements. There were four main features of the data that Connor had to work around; the seasonality of rainfall, missing data when no measurements were taken, zero-days when there was no rainfall and fat-tails when there are days with intense rainfall. Taking this into account, Connor used the Finite mixture model incorporating temporal evolution model, which captured data with no rainfall and also for days with rainfall. The varying intensities of rainfall were captured through the gamma distribution.
    Some notes:

    • 1.      Dirac delta to capture zeroes.
    • 2.      Mixture of gamma PDFs to capture non-zeroes.
    • 3.      Gamma PDFs analogous to rainfall amounts? Difficult to interpret for K > 3 though.
    • 4.      Connors approach: Use variation in K = 2, 3, 4, and 5 gamma densities to see how well the model captures tail behaviour.

    Temporal evolution is incorporated through the use of a mixture-of-experts structure on the mixture weights. Connor used the Markov chain Monte Carlo to estimate the model.

    The results were then analysed through posterior predictive checking, and optimal models where decided on through formal model diagnostics. Connor is eager to continue working on the model and has plans to further investigate if there are other factors that might affect the choice of the model.


    After the talks, Michael and Connor where joined by fellow Statisticians for dinner at Tiamos restaurant, where they talked about their future plans and how eager they are to continue to optimise and implement their research on a more broader scale. 

    Deneegan Subramanian

  • 6 Jun 2019 6:41 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Statistical Journal of the Assocation of Official Statistics - June preprint edition out

    A Pre-press edition of the June issue of the SJIAOS has been released: see,

    Kirsten West is retiring as editor after 5 years. Her closing editorial is at: . The incoming editor is Pieter Everaes

    Measuring Indigenous Identification

    The March Issue of JIAOS is dedicated to this topic; the editor-in-chief reminds readers of past contributions by the journal and the Association on improving statistics of indigenous people. Australian contributiuons to this effort are conspicuous, from then- editor Fritz Scheuren's 2014 editorial leading with an Australian paper "Measuring Indigenous Populations Across Nations: Challenges for Methodological Alignment",by Bradley Petry and Erica Potts, to the three papers in the March issue drawing on Australian experience.

    Australian contributors to the topic since 2014 include Kalinda Griffiths, UNSW; Richard Madden and Clare Coleman at the University of Sydney; Ching Choi and Len Smith, Australian National University; Ian Ring Elias, Brenda Lee, Vanessa’ Smylie, Janet Waldon, John Hodge, Felicia Schanche; University of Queensland; and Maggie Walter University of Tasmania. That Australian experience has been prominent in the international debate reflects a foundation in long collaboration between key ABS officers and academic demographers in the enumeration of the indigenous population, against the grain of national collection strategies of the time.


    The March Open Access issue of the SJIAOS

    In particular, its guest editorial by Michele Connolly:

    Anderson, I, Robson B, Connolly M, Al-Yaman F, et al., “Indigenous and tribal peoples’ health” (the Lancet-Lowitja Institute Global Collaboration), Lancet, London, England. 2016: 388(10040):131–57.

    Stephen Horn, Chair Official Statistics Section 

  • 6 Jun 2019 6:34 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Causal inference in epidemiology through Mendelian randomization & Mendelian Randomisation-Phenome Wide Association Studies: Opportunities and Challenges

    The two speakers for the SA Branch May meeting were Dr Beben Benyamin and Dr Ang Zhou, both from the Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia. This was a joint meeting with the South Australian Epidemiology Group. Dr Benyamin uses statistics applied to large-scale ‘omics’ data to dissect the genetic mechanisms underlying human complex traits and diseases. Dr Benyamin’s talk “Causal Inference in epidemiology through Mendelian randomization” described Mendelian Randomization (MR), a statistical method that provides a framework to mimic a randomised controlled trial, providing an estimate of the causal effect of a risk factor on disease. Mendelian randomization analyses (MR) use genetic variants as proxy markers for the risk factor of interest. This approach exploits the fact that the assignment of genotype is random with respect to confounders. MR studies have increased due to the discovery of potential genetic variants from genome wide association studies. The talk covered the origin of the method, basic principles and some applications to infer the causal effect of the risk factor on the disease.

    Dr Ang applies methodologies in genetic epidemiology to understand causal associations between modifiable lifestyle factors and health outcomes. His research also involves understanding the gene-environment interplay on health outcomes. His talk “MR-PheWAS: Opportunities and Challenges” followed on from Dr Benyamin’s talk by describing phenome-wide association studies (PheWAS), an extension to Mendelian randomization. MR-PheWAS is a hypothesis-free approach to screen for diseases/phenotypes associated with the risk factor of interest, which has the capacity to capture novel associations and provide insights into disease mechanisms. Dr Ang used the example of BMI genetic associations to highlight the opportunities and challenges of the method.

    A dinner was held after the meeting at Jasmin Indian Restaurant, 31 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide.

    Lan Kelly

  • 6 Jun 2019 2:53 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    SSA’s Committee for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has created a survey to find out how the Statistical Society can support you, your work or study and your CPD requirements. Please click here to participate in this five-minute survey and let us know what kind of workshops you’d like us to organise for you, or even what workshop you can present yourself! The deadline for this survey is Wednesday, 27 June 2019.

    Thank you in advance!

  • 6 Jun 2019 9:50 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Remember that the Statistical Society is your society. Your opinions are important to us and your colleagues, and they can help shape national policy and thinking on statistics. For example, our members’ opinions helped us lobby the government to get “statistician” added to the skilled migration list.

    There are many ways you can get involved. For example, we recently formed a committee to examine Data Science Courses, and we may soon be looking for volunteer members to write a viewpoint on the opinion polls after this year’s election.

    We also love to amplify our member’s successes, such as the recent successful bid to host the 2024 International Congress on Mathematical Education in Australia.

    If there’s a statistical issue that you are passionate about but need help with, then please get in touch. We can offer support and advice, and can put you in touch with like-minded members. We know that there’s a power in numbers, literally and figuratively, so let’s use our combined skills to give statistics the national profile it deserves. 

    Adrian Barnett, President

  • 7 May 2019 11:37 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    CEOs, Presidents and National Leaders of Australia’s major mathematical-based societies* united in a consortium through 2018 to submit (October 2018) a bid for Australia’s hosting of the 15th International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME15), 2024, at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, Australia, and then hosted the ICMI delegates’ site visit in April 2019; at the time we were one of two shortlisted locations, the other, Prague.

    ICME is run once every four years and was last hosted in Australia in 1984. I have been representing the Statistical Society of Australia in this consortium.

    As a member of the national consortium, I’m delighted to share the exceptional news that our collaborative bid for Australia (Sydney) to host the International Congress on Mathematical Education in 2024 has been successful.

    A wonderful team effort that united Australia’s leading mathematical and statistical associations* - thank you to those who supported the consortium’s bid.

    Please help spread the good news as we continue the cooperative initiative and begin preparing for 2024 and ensuring that the national Mathematical/Statistical and broader STEM agenda are further capitalised upon on the international stage.


    Peter Howley, Statistical Education Section – Chair

  • 6 May 2019 6:48 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    With the Federal Election looming, everyone’s focus is very much on Canberra at this time, but there is another reason our minds should turn tothe nation’s capital: The Young Statisticians Conference 2019 is just around the corner!

    There is so much to look forward to! For starters, we are just delighted with this year’s choice of venue: Manuka Oval. With a rich and diverse history, stunning views across the lawns and being close Canberra’s popular restaurant strip Manuka, this iconic meeting place will be sure to impress.

    As it happens, this year the conference coincides with Floriade, Canberra’s annual flower show - a colourful celebration of Spring.Click here to see what it’s all about.  Be careful though – there will be so much on that you may get too distracted from attending the conference!

    The YSC2019 Committee is doing an excellent job of getting everything ready for you and they now have four wonderful key-note speakers lined up:

    Teresa Dickinson
    Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics

    Dr Margarita Moreno-Betancur
    Senior Research Fellow, VicBiostat

    Dr Felicity Splatt
    Lead Consultant, Quantium


    Dr Alison Presmanes Hill
    Data Scientist & Professional Educator, RStudio

    Alison will arrive a day early and present a pre-conference workshop.

    Not coming to the conference? Don’t worry – you still get to participate if you want to. We are pleased to invite anyone who can’t be there in person to share their research through the YSC2019 Video Competition. This competition ran for the first time at YSC2017 and it was so successful that of course we had to organise it again!  Click here to see the winning entries from YSC2017. 

    To throw your hat in the ring, just present your research in a three-minute video and submit the link through the online registration form.

    For those of you who are planning to be there in person, why not combine your trip to the conference with a little holiday? You’ll have the chance to explore one of Australian’s most beautiful cities, and to experience Australian culture and history at superb monuments and galleries. Canberra is a city surrounded by parkland and native bush and Spring is the perfect time for a visit. If this hasn’t convinced you, Channel Nine’s “Travel Guides” might do so.

    Some key dates to keep in mind:

    Abstract submission closes -1 June 2019

    Notification of conference abstract acceptance – 1 July 2019

    Early bird registration period ends – 16 August 2019

    Three-minute video competition submissions due – 15 September 2019

    Conference registrations close – 17 September 2019

    Monday 1 July

    Saturday 1 June

    See you in Canberra in October!

    Marie-Louise Rankin
    SSA Executive Officer

  • 4 May 2019 7:05 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 30 April, the Victorian Branch hosted three short talks on Reproducibility and Open
    Science, attended by about 40 people.

    The evening began with a talk by Hannah Fraser (University of Melbourne) who presented the findings from a survey of 800 ecologists on questionable research practices. About 40% of those surveyed stated that they did add data after analysis, 28% excluded data after analysis, and 64% study more variables than what is reported (i.e. cherry picking of results). Future research Hannah is conducting involves recruiting scientists to analyse two ecology datasets to evaluate how robust the results are to different analysis techniques.

    Our second speaker was Fiona Fidler (University of Melbourne) who began with some sobering statistics on the replication crisis; across many research areas less than 50% of results are reproducible. For the psychological sciences, one in a thousand published papers are replication studies, the average statistical power of published studies is <50% and 92% of published studies have statistically significant results. For a solution to this problem, Fiona described the new approach to peer review which has now been adopted by 187 journals. Here at the design stage of a study there is a peer review by a journal of the research questions, study design and planned analysis. And if the study follows very closely the registered report that was peer reviewed than the journal has the obligation to publish the research findings when the study is complete.

    Our final speaker was Mathew Ling (Deakin University), who spoke about how individuals still engage in poor behaviours (e.g. people still smoke, scientists still present 3D pie charts). He discussed how we can’t expect researchers to simply change behaviour and practice open science. Instead we need to do more PR activities to promote people doing Open Science and come up with more incentives for researchers to embrace Open Science (e.g. funding bodies).

    There was a lively discussion at the end of all 3 excellent presentations. Fiona and Hannah promoted their new crowdsourcing project titled the repliCATS project.

    Julie Simpson

  • 1 May 2019 10:28 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    South Australia Branch Meeting, April 2019

    The speaker for the April 2019 meeting of the SA Branch was Professor Michael Sorich. He is a clinical epidemiologist, biostatistician, and pharmacist from Flinders University with a primary research interest in the use of biological, chemical, and clinical markers to guide decisions regarding the most appropriate use of medicines (precision medicine). His current research primarily focuses on evaluation and evidence development with respect to precision medicine approaches informing the use of cancer medicines. This includes analysis of pooled clinical trial data, and evaluation of patient data from routine clinical care.

    Michael’s talk “Efficient development of clinical-grade prediction models of cancer treatment outcomes” is a piece of his current research works funded by a Beat Cancer project grant. At the beginning of his talk, Michael described the precision medicine - an approach to improving the practice of medicine based on understanding the individual characteristics that are associated with, and potentially causative of, drug therapeutic and adverse effects. Using a number of example studies, Michael highlighted the significant advances achieved in precision medicine over the last decade that enable understanding of biological differences between individuals. There are many potential benefits of precision medicine including minimizing risk of drug toxicity, increasing benefit from drugs used, contributing to the sustainability of the healthcare system and facilitating drug discovery and development programs. In particular, Michael highlighted the treatment benefit in advanced cancer by showing a classical example of anti-EGFR therapy for advanced colorectal cancer.

    Clinical prediction models were mainly discussed in his talk - an option for providing more personalised estimates of prognosis, harms and potentially treatment benefit. Michael’s talk mainly covered the barriers that exist to developing prediction models that may be used to guide clinical practice and decisions, and emerging data platforms that may help overcome many of these issues. The detail of his talk and particularly prediction models of cancer treatment outcomes can be found by contacting

    A dinner was held right after the meeting at Jasmin Indian Restaurant, 31 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide.

    By Shahid Ullah

  • 29 Apr 2019 12:27 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Last week, we heard announcements from the major parties around the environment, equity in STEM and defence.

    Below we have included relevant links for new announcements and added them to our running tally on our website (accessible by logging on to our members' section). You'll also find key stories and interviews to provide some broader context for how science is being framed in each of the parties' campaigns.

    Please also help us spread the word about science, technology and their role in Australia's future - a short clip on science and art conservation is our latest feature (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). A new case study will be released each week, shared online using #SolveitwithScience

    Please find a range of relevant links below, and be in touch if we can support your work to get science on the agenda during the Federal Election.

    Kind regards,

    Kylie Walker
    Science and Technology Australia


    Current Election Commitments:



    Information resources:

    Key Stories and Interviews:

    Latest Polls:

    • Newspoll: 29th April. Coalition-49, ALP-51 (updated)
    • Galaxy Poll: 27th April. Coalition-48, ALP-52 (updated)
    • Roy Morgan: 24th April. Coalition-49, ALP-51 (updated)
    • Essential: 9th April. Coalition-48, ALP-52
    • Fairfax Ipsos: 7th April. Coalition-47, ALP-53

    STA Resources for members

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