News & Media releases

  • 25 Aug 2019 1:09 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The August meeting of the WA Branch has been held as a joint meeting of the Statistical Society of Australia, WA Branch and the International Biometric Society, Australasian Region since 2013. The occasion is used to invite a statistician whose work focuses on biometrics to deliver a presentation. The speaker this year was Dr Suman Rakshit from Statistics for the Australian Grains Industry (SAGI) West who works as a biometrician at Curtin University. Dr Rakshit has a background in research in spatial statistics and the analysis of point patterns. His current research primarily focuses on developing methods for the design and analysis of large-scale agricultural field trials.

    Suman’s talk was titled ‘Statistical Inference for on-farm experiments with a focus on large strip trials’. He began by explaining the historical context of field trials in agricultural research, where the questions of interest traditionally involved testing differences in mean yields from applying qualitative or quantitative treatments, such as different cultivars or differing levels or timing of nitrogen application. Field trials of this kind were implemented on small plots on relatively uniform land, and the designs incorporated randomisation, replication and blocking. Much of the early theory of trial design and analysis was developed for this type of application.

    The photo shows Dr Suman Rakshit (centre) with the president of the WA Branch of the SSA Dr Brenton Clarke (left) and the former President of the IBS-AR Mario D’Antuono (right) who helped arrange the joint meeting. (Photo Courtesy of Dean Diepeveen using Mario’s Camera)New technology has brought new opportunities for agricultural research. In particular, motivated growers can now conduct experiments cost-effectively in their own paddocks by utilising variable rate application technology to vary inputs, and real-time sensors fitted to harvesters to collect vast amounts of data. In these situations, the question of interest changes from a comparison of treatments to working out how to best manage inputs to maximise profit. Rather than trying to answer a question that can be extrapolated to other growers and other farms, inference is local: the questions being answered relate only to the actual paddock on which the trial is implemented. With no knowledge of trial design theory, trials are often implemented systematically and in ways that make life easier, such as in long-strip plots with lengths greater than 200 metres. Statistical methods developed for small plot trials are not appropriate in this context.

    Suman discussed an adaptation of geographically weighted regression for use in grower-initiated on-farm experimentation in order to analyse geo-referenced yield monitor data to obtain spatially-varying estimates of treatment effects, and demonstrated his proposed approach on a publically available dataset of corn-field fertilizer trial from Argentina. He concluded his talk by presenting derived maps of spatially varying relationships which could be used to guide grower decisions in paddock management.

    Following the talk, further discussions were held at a nearby restaurant. Special thanks to SSAI WA Branch and IBS-AR for the pre-dinner drinks and post-dinner dessert/coffee, respectively.

    Dr Karyn Reeves

  • 15 Aug 2019 10:08 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Not long now until YSC2019 and we are so excited to welcome you to Canberra! To date we have received close to 70 registrations, which means we are able to deliver a solid program, offering fascinating talks on many different topics. Sessions include “Population and economics”, “Applied biostatistics and biostatistics in practice”, “Computer science” and much more.  And don’t forget the Career Session at the end of the first day! Hear from first class statisticians how they turned their passion for statistics into successful careers they love.
    A tentative program is now available on the conference website.

    Our international keynote speaker is Alison Hill. She is busy putting the material together for her keynote address and her workshop “Communicating with R Markdown”. Keep in mind that the workshop, held at Manuka Oval, is available to everyone, not just conference delegates. Alison will demystify how R Markdown works “under the hood”. Participants will learn practical tools and workflows to increase their efficiency and productivity using R Markdown (including RStudio IDE features and templates), while learning how to use some extension packages along the way. You don’t need to be an advanced R Markdown user to be able to take advantage of this workshop.

    Another course held in conjunction with YSC2019 is our workshop “Maximising the use of Australian Bureau of Statistics Data Products and Analysis Tools” and we are grateful to the Australian Bureau of Statistics for generously sponsoring this event.The one-day workshop will have two components. First, it will provide an overview of the wide variety of data sources from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that are available for analysts. Secondly, part it will focus on how Table Builder can produce data-cubes for a standard analysis in R.

    One of the conference highlights, no doubt, will be the Trivia Night, kindly organised by the Canberra Branch. Again, this event is open to everyone keen to show off their trivia skills, not just YSC2019 delegates and it would be great to see lots of members of the Canberra Branch there as well. Being held at Manuka Oval you’ll be in for a real treat, as Manuka Oval will be supplying the refreshments.

    If you need another incentive to travel to Canberra to YSC2019 (though why would you?), there is an amazing Dreamworks Animation exhibitionstarting at the National Museum of Australia in September. This Exhibitionexplores the essential ingredients— character, story and world— of the studio’s most popular films. Through interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, original concept art, maquettes, digital interactive displays and more, visitors can follow the creative path from sketch to screen.So if you are a fan of all things animated, or Shrek, Hiccup, or the gang from “Madagascar”, you won’t be disappointed.

    Perhaps, though, you are into film-making yourself? Then you should enter this year’s Video-Competition.  At this stage we haven’t received many entries so it doesn’t take a statistician to conclude that you’re in with a real chance of taking home the prize! Not only that, if you win, we’ll be tweeting about you, mentioning you on social media and featuring your video at the next YSC in 2021, trying very hard to make you as famous as Shrek in no time! So throw your hat in the ring and be part of this year’s conference, even if you can’t make it to our conference in person.

    One thing we are still fine-tuning is the conference dinnerat the Kingston Hotel. We received some really good ideas from our YSC2019 committee members, ensuring that it will be a fun night and not “just” a dinner. Details will be revealed in due course. The registration fee for the dinner is only $20 for conference delegates, but the meal alone will be worth more than that – let alone the entertainment and the drinks- and you can’t put a price on the fantastic company! Please join us for a great night out!

    See you in Canberra!

    Marie-Louise Rankin
    SSA Executive Officer









  • 15 Aug 2019 8:59 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The job of an Association Executive Officer is not without its perks. As we are all counting down the last days of winter, I was lucky enough to escape the chilly temperatures last week, having been invited to “Meet Darwin”, a familiarisation tour of Darwin and surrounds, compliments of the Northern Territory Business Bureau and Darwin Convention Centre.  Over four fabulous days I experienced the superb hospitality of the Northern Territory. It didn’t take me long to decide: Darwin would make a fantastic conference destination.

    With average temperature highs of about 30C and no humidity at this time of year, all the delegates, including myself, relished in the opportunity to shed a few layers and walk around in short-sleeved shirts and summer sandals. This was the perfect clothing for the excursions planned for us, such as a trip out to Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours area, watching a mesmerising sunset from the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets (of course!) before heading for an unforgettable dinner at Pee Wees at the Point, a visit to the National Critical Care Trauma and Response Centre, a harbour cruise and a scenic helicopter flight -truly a highlight of my visit.

    On one of the mornings we were invited to a business session at the Darwin Convention Centre, where we heard inspiring talks about this exciting conference destination. The Darwin Convention Centre itself was impressive. It offers everything we have come to expect these days from a modern conference centre, but on a smaller scale, perfect for an event such as our Australian Statistical Conference. We were treated to the most amazing dinner there, enjoying a “Seven Seasons” dinner, a culinary journey inspired by the “Gulumoerrgin” seasons, the seasons followed by the Larrakia people. The Larrakia people are the traditional owners of the Darwin region. However, the food was fantastic wherever we went in Darwin. An abundance of first class restaurants provided stunning backdrops for what could be a very memorable conference dinner.

    For me, having immigrated to Australia in my early thirties, Darwin and its surrounds symbolises quintessential Australia the way people from outside Australia imagine it: a country of akubras, crocodiles, didgeridoos and - of course- tropical sunshine. I found Darwin to be a vibrant town, offering so many delightful cultural experiences and stunning venues to stay at, have a drink or a quality meal.

    If you are wondering where I am going with this review of a trip to Darwin, in a statistical newsletter, don’t wonder anymore. This trip raised the important question: Could we hold a conference there? It would certainly be an event to remember, one that would not only be a perfect break from winter weather, but a fantastic opportunity to bring your family along and extend it into a holiday. We might even draw a small crowd from South East Asia? What do our members think? Before you decide, watch this video – it may sway you.

    I would love to hear your thoughts – don’t hold back! (

    Marie-Louise Rankin
    Executive Officer, SSA

  • 14 Aug 2019 2:17 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Prof. Murray Aitkin (U. Melb.) was awarded an honourary fellowship at the International Workshop on Statistical Modelling (IWSM 2019) in Guimarães, Portugal.

    Dr Anthony Lee (U. Bristol) recently visited Australia, sponsored by the SSA and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS).  Anthony visited QUT, UNSW, University of Adelaide and Monash University.  He gave an invited talk at the International Conference on Monte Carlo methods in Sydney on likelihood approximations for latent variable models.  Anthony presented an SSA/ACEMS sponsored tutorial on sequential Monte Carlo methods at QUT and Monash, both well attended.   These talks provided excellent learning opportunities for Australian statisticians. 

    Anthony had productive discussions with several academics from all visited institutions.  This included discussions on sequential Monte Carlo methods, computational Bayesian algorithms and applications.  It is very likely that new international collaborations for several Australian Bayesian statisticians will arise from these discussions.  Anthony had a very positive impression of the state of Bayesian statistics in Australia: 

    “Overall, I was most struck by the interplay between methodology and applications in Australia. There is a wide variety of applications that are being tackled with complex models using Monte Carlo methods as the key computational tool. I think that this diversity is critical for driving important algorithmic innovations and pushing the boundary of classes of model and data we can robustly handle.”

    Abstracts for contributed talks or posters at Bayes on the Beach are due by August 16. Early bird registration for Bayes Comp closes on August 14. Abstracts for contributed posters will still be accepted up until December 15. Proposals for Member Invited Sessions at the ISBA World Meeting close August 22.

    Executive Committee of the Bayes Section of SSA (Chris Drovandi, Clara Grazian, Sophie Zaloumis, David Frazier, Sama Low-Choy & Matt Moores) with additional contributions from Rob Salamone

  • 12 Aug 2019 1:32 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 24th July 2019 The South Australian branch was pleased to have Dr Murthy Mittinty present at the monthly branch meeting. Dr Mittinty is a senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at The University of Adelaide and interested in both methodological development and applications of statistical methods. He gave a talk on Quantitative Bias Analysis.

    Dr. Mittinty talked about systematic and random errors in both observational or experimental data and how to handle them in observational studies.  The systematic error includes aspects such as selection bias, measurement error, confounding bias and unmeasured confounding. In a perfect randomized control trial, one can attempt to remove the biases such as measured and unmeasured confounding. Unfortunately, this is not the case with observational data , hence it is important to describe how these errors are handled. He talked about how these errors should be handled so one can predict better estimates or place more confidence in estimates. He further included three important question to answer before conducting a quantitative bias analysis: (1) when we should conduct one; (2) how we select which bias to address; and (3) how we select a method to model bias. Another question is how we interpret and present these results. He aimed to answer these questions with examples in his presentation. He talked about how to select a method to model biases and how to assign values to parameters of the bias model as well as software that can be used for conducting quantitative bias analysis. There were quite few discussions after the talk.

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

    Aarti Gulyani, SA Branch
    University of South Australia

  • 8 Jul 2019 3:08 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On 25 June, our members gathered for breakfast.  This was an event to connect young and old, share ideas about where statistics can take you, and also provide advice and career guidance.  Breaking with tradition for our branch, attendance was members-only and the event was held in the morning.  How did it go? 

    We invited eight statisticians / data scientists from diverse backgrounds to be our mentors for the day.

    Our invited mentors.  Top row, L to R: Kohleth Chia, Sandy Clarke-Errey, Harry Gielewski, Andy Kitchen.  Bottom row, L to R: Stephen Leslie, Margarita Moreno-Betancur, Dennis Trewin, James Wilson

    After a brief icebreaker, we formed into small groups around each mentor.  The intimate and relaxed setting allowed members to get to know each other and hear about our mentors' experiences first-hand.

    We had excellent feedback from those who attended.  They particularly liked:

           The diversity of mentors' backgrounds, a good mix of academic and non-academic.

           The morning scheduling, which suited many members with family responsibilities, who find our evening events harder to attend.

           The delicious food, provided by ASRC Catering.

    The discussion could have easily gone for longer, if only it weren't a workday...

    We are grateful to our sponsors for the event, Eliiza and Bunnings.

    Damjan Vukcevic

  • 8 Jul 2019 2:58 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The SSA Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section co-hosted their ‘Getting started in biostatistical consultancy’ workshop with the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne on Thursday 4th July. This long-awaited event attracted a great amount of interest, reaching capacity shortly after the early-bird registration date; perhaps not surprising given the fantastic speakers we managed to attract to speak at this event! Sadly, the morning fog in Sydney caused some issues for our interstate participants planning to attend, although some valiantly made their way on later flights to catch up on the proceedings.

    Associate Professor Susan Donath, Senior Biostatistician and Deputy Director of the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at MCRI, kicked off the morning session with an overview of statistical consultancy from start to finish. Susan stressed the importance of being curious and asking many, many questions with “what is your research question?” being the most critical and often taking the longest to answer! Susan also highlighted the importance of having a network of biostatisticians to discuss problems with.

    Next up was Dr Emily Karahalios, Senior Research Fellow at both Monash and Melbourne University, who discussed how to plan, organise and monitor projects. Emily stressed the importance of having face-to-face meetings at the beginning of consultancy projects to avoid confusion that can occur from emails. Emily also provided some fantastic resources for helping project planning and monitoring, noting the need to take time to plan your work and to be realistic with yourself (and others) about what can be achieved within a given timeframe.

    After lunch, Professor Julie Simpson, Head of the Biostatistics Unit at Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and leader of the Biostatistics node of the Melbourne Clinical and Translational Science platform at Melbourne University, delivered a presentation on how to reach clients. As well as discussing finance models and modes of operation, Julie talked about how to build a team and work effectively with one another. She led a lively interactive session in which participants talked about the characteristics they bring to a team and what their strengths are.

    Our final presenter of the day was Dr Emi Tanaka from the University of Sydney who discussed interacting with different (and difficult!) clients. Emi discussed the emotional impact that difficult clients can have on us and our work as biostatistical consultants and how we can overcome that. She noted that it is important to keep a communication trail so that all have a record of any agreements that were made.

    The workshop ended with a lively panel discussion with many questions from our very engaged audience. We thought the workshop was a great success and hope the participants enjoyed it too!

    Karen Lamb, Jaimi Greenslade and Sabine Braat on behalf of the Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section

  • 8 Jul 2019 11:51 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Farewell to William Dunsmuir after 25 years at UNSW

    On 6th June the New South Wales branch was very pleased to be part of a milestone event held at the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales (UNSW). The event was to celebrate the career of Professor William Dunsmuir, who just retired after around 25 years at UNSW. William has also been a great contributor to the society and served as national president during the late 2000s.

       About 100 people attended a drinks and canapes party,followed by a testimonial event. Jake Olivier was the compere and pointed out that William spent most of Jake's eleven years at UNSW "about to retire". Head of school, Bruce Henry, spoke next and summarised William's contributions to UNSW.

       Next up was Doug Shaw who told everyone about how William led the response to the Melbourne 2008 debacle, when a conference company ran off with our registration fees and left us to pay the conference bills. Doug pointed out that after this difficult period the branches more congenial to each other.

       Then Sue Wilson (UNSW and Australian National University) headed to the podium and delivered a short talk titled  "An Irregular 45 Year Time Series". Sue told us that she and William first met at the Australian National University in 1974 when they were PhD students together. Some interesting photos of prominent Australian statisticians when they had a lot more hair than today were projected. 

       Following Sue was Feng Chen, who has been a departmental colleague with William at UNSW for the last several years. Feng talked about their joint work on generalised autoregressive conditional heteroscedastic models and sequential Monte Carlo algorithms.

       William's oldest friend at the event was David Scott of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and he was one of the event's special guests. David told everyone about having known William since 1972 and how they hung out together at the La Trobe University campus in the early seventies getting very excited about "A Course in Probability Theory" by Kai Lai Chung.

    After a few more facial hair photographs David talked about their time together at the Siromath consulting company in the mid-1980s and then becoming colleagues at Bond University in the late 1980s.

    Towards the end of his presentation he shared some pictures of he and William on the Queen Charlotte Sound walk in New Zealand.

       Kylie-Anne Richards was the last of William's PhD students and she delivered a presentation titled "The Impact and Marks of Mentors". She expressed he gratitude for William helping her to achieve her dream of become an academic after starting a family. Hawke's self-exciting point processes and limit order book events were also discussed.

       The principal speaker was Richard Davis, who is chair of the Department of Statistics at Columbia University in New York City.
    Richard's talk, titled "William and Me", described his close friendship and research collaborations over a period of 40 years. Richard and William first met as assistant professors at Massachusetts

    Institute of Technology in the late 1970s. After William returned to Australia in 1980 they did not see much of each other for another decade. But in 1990, a time series workshop in Minnesota reunited them and led to a very successful collaborative partnership that saw them unlocking the mysteries of the moving average unit root problem followed, obviously, by GLARMA(0,1).

    As is known in time series circles, this is a generalized linear autoregressive moving average process of autoregressive order 0 and moving average order 1. Later they worked on least absolute deviations, and have been continually publishing together since around 1995. Richard's bottom line was the great intuition that William brought to their research problems.

      The pre-dinner part of the Dunsmuirfest finished with William getting up and giving us a short talk tilted "Large sample theory for detecting the impact of marks in Hawkes self-exciting point processes". He told us that out of his career achievements, he gained the most pleasure from proving large sample theorems for time series. He presented a recent central limit theorem-type result and explained the steps. After the technical part, heclosed the event with some words of thanks. UNSW, the Statistical Society of Australia and family and friends were mentioned first.

    He pointed out that he had worked with hundreds of people and taught thousands of students over the course of his career. Then he publicly thanked particular people for playing extra-special roles in his career and life: Bruce Brown, Niels Becker, David Scott, Pat Moran, Ted Hannan, Sue Wilson, Herman Chernoff, Doug Shaw, Robert Kohn, Richard and Cathy Tweedie, Richard and Patti Davis, and his wife, Barbara Blanche with whom he celebrates 35 years of marriage in July 2019.

    Matt Wand
    University of Technology Sydney

  • 15 Jun 2019 10:22 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Dr Anthony Lee will be presenting a tutorial on sequential Monte Carlo methods in statistics. His visit has been partially funded by the SSA and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS). Details of times and locations are as follows:

    Tuesday, 2 July 2019 at 4:30pm for refreshments (talk starts at 5)
    room S301 (S Block Level 3) at QUT Gardens Point Campus, Brisbane, QLD

    Thursday, 18 July 2019 at 6pm (with refreshments and pizza dinner afterwards)
    Science S4, 16 Rainforest Walk, Monash University, Clayton, VIC

    The call for abstracts has now opened for Bayes on the Beach, which will be held on the Gold Coast, QLD, from November 25-27. If you would like to present a talk or poster on any topic related to Bayesian statistics, please submit a 250 word abstract by email to by August 16. Further details are available from the conference website,

    Other Upcoming Conferences

    The 12th International Conference on Monte Carlo Methods and Applications (MCM 2019) will be held at the University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, from July 8-12.

    The 4th conference of the East-Asian Chapter of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (EAC-ISBA) will be held in Kobe, Japan, July 13-14, 2019.

    The biennial conference on Bayesian Computation (BayesComp 2020) will be held at the University of Florida, USA, from January 7-10 next year.

    The next instalment of the popular “ABC in…” series of workshops on Approximate Bayesian Computation will be held in Grenoble, France, from March 19-20, 2020.

    Matt Moores

    On behalf of the Bayes Section of SSA

  • 15 Jun 2019 9:21 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The New South Wales Branch hosted two seminar events in May, with the one that normally would be in April moved to 2nd May so that we could have a public lecture from Hadley Wickham. Thirteen days later we a seminar from Ian Renner in Parramatta.

    Security was tight at a large University of Sydney auditorium for the Wickham lecture since there was a small over-subscription. Council members were employed as bouncers to check tickets and make sure we didn't contravene any fire laws. As it turned out, the auditorium was only about 72% full according to ecologist/ statistician David Warton. With a total capacity of 650 we now had an audience estimate of 468 without having to do any capture or recapture. The demographic was in the youthful direction and t-shirts with slogans such as "CAN {CODE}" were spotted. Hadley Wickham, chief scientist at R Studio, and a U.S.-based New Zealander then delivered a lecture titled "Tidy(er) data". His rules of tidy data were passed on:

    1. Each variable is a column.
    2. Each observation in a row.
    3. Each cell is one value.

    We had group exercises with data sets from the Billboard popular music charts and U.S. government agencies, where the speaker asked "What makes your uncomfortable?". Live tidy-ups were done using the tidyr package in R. In summary, it was a very successful and entertaining lecture from the Master of the Tidyverse.

    On 15th May the branch caravan rolled out to a different part of Sydney - the Western Sydney University in Parramatta. Ian Renner from the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, was our speaker. Ian spoke about species distribution modelling and had a running example involving lynx populations in the Jura Mountains of France. Distinctions were made between presence-only data and multiple visits data. Inhomogeneous Poisson point process models and maximum likelihood were shown to play central roles. The least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) was shown to lead to improved performance. Dung beetles got a mention as well - which they should given their importance for ecosystems. The main message of Ian's talk was sound conversation decisions based on data analysis, good models and statistical methodology.

    Professor Matt Wand, NSW Branch

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