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  • 30 Jun 2022 3:44 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Did you enjoy last year’s Australian and New Zealand Statistical Conference? Why not get involved with our next ASC, held in Wollongong in December 2023? The team for ASC2023 are looking for two more committee members to help assist with planning our first face-to-face conference in four years!

    The two volunteer positions to be filled are that of Marketing Officer and that of Sponsorship Officer. If you love graphics and a bit of social media, the Marketing Officer position may be calling your name. As for the role of Sponsorship Officer, we already have a list with sponsorship leads for you, so you will not be starting from scratch.

    With both positions you can count on the capable support of SSA’s Event Coordinator, of course.

    Interested? Please email the SSA Office by 11 July 2022.

    If you have played with idea of volunteering, but you are worried about getting roped in for the next five years, these two positions are perfect for you, as they will not go on beyond 2023.

  • 20 Jun 2022 2:01 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    SSA Vic are proud to announce that we will once again be offering financial support to our members for the attendance of statistical workshops, conferences, and short courses; both national and international, in 2022.  

    Each member is eligible for up to $200 of total funding to cover the registration and travel expenses associated with the aforementioned activities.

    Are you eligible?

    To be eligible for access to funding, the applicant must satisfy the following criteria:

    1. The applicant must be a member of SSA Vic at the time of application. (Membership is only $20 for students!)

    2. Provide invoices/evidence of registration and expenses that the funding will be used to cover.

    Members who were funded in previous years are also eligible for funding in this 2022 round.

    How to apply?

    Please use this form to apply.

    You will be asked to provide a brief description of the statistical event and the anticipated benefits to you, your statistical career or the statistical community.

    Applications typically take 2 weeks to process.

    For more information:

    Members seeking more information may email us for more information, by including the subject line “SSA Vic Funding Applications 2022”.

    Please note that the successful applicants that are presenting at the conference will need to acknowledge support from SSA Vic in their talk or poster.

  • 17 Jun 2022 12:13 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Dear Marie-Louise,

    Recognition is powerful. It was terrific to see the Queen’s Birthday Honours list dominated by scientists, including many with deep ties to Science & Technology Australia. Their service to the nation is crucial - and vastly appreciated.

    The 2022 honourees included the inspirational founder of Deadly Science, Corey Tutt OAM, Kerry Doyle PSM OAM, the Executive Director of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, and the outstanding clinical pharmacologist Professor Sarah Hilmer AM of the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists. 

    Deadly Science, the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, and the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists are all STA members. We are proud of our associations with them, and delighted to see their leadership recognised publicly.

    Huge congratulations to Professor Tanya Monro  - Chief Defence Scientist and head of Defence Science and Technology, and to the leading scientists Emeritus Professor Anne Green and Dr Patricia Selkirk, awarded the nation’s highest honour of Companion (AC) in the General Division.

    Science & Technology Australia will host the official launch of National Science Week 2022. The week’s theme is Celebrating First Nations Sciences, highlighting Indigenous STEM knowledges. The heads of STA member organisations will be invited to attend this in-person event in Canberra with Parliamentarians. We await the revised Parliamentary sitting timetable - but please hold the date of 11 August from 8am to 9am in your diaries pending that confirmation. 

    Keen to help shape the work of Science & Technology Australia as the sector’s peak body? We are inviting applications to join our STA Policy Committee and STA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. To be eligible, you must be a member or staff at an STA member organisation.

    We strongly encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disability, people from diverse faith, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and LGBTQIA+ STEM professionals. Applications close Sunday 3 July. This is an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the future direction of the STEM sector.

    And to turbocharge your communications skills, register now for our upcoming Creating a (Cracking) Podcast course on 23 June. STA’s pod mastermind Martyn Pearce will teach you all you need to know about how to turn your ideas into a compelling podcast. Places are filling fast, so register now and don’t miss out

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 

  • 6 Jun 2022 10:40 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Wow! What a powerful finale to Science meets Parliament 2022.  

    Amid a galaxy of stars from the worlds of science and politics, last night Australia’s newly-minted Science and Industry Minister Ed Husic signalled his deep appreciation for the work of science. He thanked the nation’s scientists for all that they do – and outlined a desire to learn from, partner with, and back in Australia’s formidable STEM sector to advance Australia’s interests.

    It was a powerful speech. He laid out an intention to tackle big challenges for our nation with support and engagement from the STEM sector. On the name change of the portfolio from innovation to science – he was declarative. “We’re bringing science to the forefront. We’re listening to the science, we’re respecting the science, and we’re acting on the science,” he said. And he set out ambitions to invest further in key frontier technologies – AI, quantum and more, and a bold pitch to work to end the brain drain in STEM of our brilliant home-grown talent.

    There was a powerful note of bipartisanship too, as he signalled a desire to work with State and Territory Ministerial counterparts from both sides of the aisle to seize opportunities for the nation. “It doesn’t matter what side of politics you are on – if we’re working together in the national interest, that’s all that matters.”

    The sector also took this important opportunity to thank former Science and Technology Minister Melissa Price for her deep engagement with all of us in her time in the portfolio.

    With 720 guests in eight capital cities, an array of heads of science organisations and agencies were joined by senior Parliamentarians. They included Australia’s new Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, South Australian Deputy Premier Susan Close, Queensland Science Minister Meaghan Scanlon, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Science Robyn Preston, Tasmanian Science and Innovation Minister Madeleine Ogilvy, and NT Treasurer and Education Minister Eva Lawler, and many federal MPs, Senators and Senators-elect.

    And the night was burnished with more stars. There were powerful words from Quandamooka mathematician, ATSIMA Chair and STA Board Director Chris Matthews, our superstar MC Nate Byrne, and STA President Mark Hutchinson. As CEO of Science & Technology Australia, I expressed our deep gratitude to the Minister and the Parliament for its engagement with the sector through the powerful vehicle that is Science meets Parliament.

    I am always so proud of the terrific work Science & Technology Australia does to forge ever-deeper connections between the worlds of science and technology and policy-making. Those connections can help decision-makers and legislators to draw on deep scientific expertise to make the best possible decisions on how to tackle the big challenges.

    A huge thank you to the amazing staff, Board and volunteers at STA who have staged this ambitious eight city triumph.

    Ably led by STA Events Director Lucy Guest and Deputy CEO Sandra Gardam, this superb team who landed the event included Emma Hibbert, Kelvin Peh, Evelyn Fetterplace, Emily Downie, Sarah Tynan, Martyn Pearce, Shannon Wong, Penny Thomson, Andrew Harford, Sharath Sriram, Anita Goh, Chris Matthews, Lila Landowski, Heather Catchpole, Jas Chambers, Mark Hutchinson, Kathy Nicholson, Karina Nunez, Tatiana Soares da Costa, Chloe Taylor, Anna Bolton, Sarah Pearce, Kirsti Abbott, Charmaine Valenzuela, Louise Atkins, Francine Machin and Genevieve Evans. Legends, one and all.

    Thank you to all of you who attended last night, and supported Science meets Parliament 2022.

    That’s it for this special edition of Member Update – we’ll be back next fortnight with the regular full bulletin.

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 

  • 18 May 2022 11:32 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Australia’s political parties and independent candidates at the 2022 election have pledged their support for science and technology investments in the next term. 

    Ahead of the 2022 Federal Election, Science & Technology Australia invited political parties and independent candidates to respond to the 10 election priorities of the science and technology sector.

    The sector’s priorities identify major science and technology policy settings and investments needed for Australia to seize crucial opportunities for the country. 

    The Liberal National Coalition response highlighted an investment of “$93 billion in the science, research and innovation sectors…to support hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled Australian jobs to keep Australia strong and secure our economic future.”

    “In these times of global uncertainty, the Morrison Government believes science and technology play an increasingly important role in making Australia more resilient, more competitive and more able to deliver jobs for Australians,” it said.

    In its response, Labor said it “believed Australia can be a global STEM superpower” and vowed to work with industry and the research sector to lift Australia’s R&D investment “getting it closer to 3% of GDP achieved in other countries”. 

    The ALP also made clear its support to legislate the Australian Economic Accelerator as part of the University Research Commercialisation Action Plan.

    “An Albanese Labor Government will prioritise science and technology with our comprehensive plan to create jobs, boost vital skills by investing in education and training, bring industry expertise back onshore and supercharge national productivity,” it said.

    The Australian Greens advocate investing $17.8 billion in the science, research and innovation sector over a decade, alongside a commitment to put the country on a pathway to investing 4 per cent of GDP in science, research and innovation by 2030.

    “Investing in science creates jobs, makes our economy stronger, and allows Australia to overcome the challenges we face as a nation,” the party said.

    Key independents who responded included:

    • Zoe Daniel, whose team said she “is a strong supporter of STEM” and would be a strong advocate for stronger funding of the tertiary sector and science. 
    • David Pocock, who said he would “advocate for more longer-term certainty in research investment … on par with other OECD countries” and “oppose undue ministerial interference in allocation of research grants and funding”.
    • Dr Monique Ryan, whose team said she was “strongly supportive of the aims of Science & Technology Australia to make Australia a STEM superpower” and boost both public and private investment in research commercialisation.  
    • Allegra Spender, whose team said she “strongly supports” an aspiration to make Australia a global STEM superpower as a key part of her economic agenda - and wanted to seek deeper investments in R&D.
    • Zali Steggall, whose team highlighted her policy platform pledging to “support research and development” including boosting Australian Research Council funding - and bolstering STEM workforce skills training.
    • Kylea Tink, whose team said she wanted to see Australia in the top ten OECD nations for investment in R&D - including via research grants - and supports a review of funding to ensure “a vibrant scientific workforce at all levels”.
    • Andrew Wilkie MP, whose office declared his “strong agreement with each of the ten priorities.”

    The full responses of the parties and candidates can be found here

    Science & Technology Australia is the nation’s peak body representing more than 90,000 scientists and technologists nationwide.

    Media contact: Martyn Pearce, STA: 0432 606 828

  • 6 May 2022 12:50 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    In two weeks, Australians will head to the polls and to choose their representatives in the next Federal Parliament.

    On behalf of our members, STA has invited political parties and independent candidates across the country to respond to the STEM sector’s election priorities, developed at STA’s Presidents and CEOs Forum last year. We look forward to sharing those responses with you very soon.

    Staying with governance, STA has been further developing the next phase of work in our constitutional review and reform project as part of our long-term strategic plan. 

    Our goal is to create a new governance structure that is nimble, integrated, and inclusive to ensure STA’s leaders can realise our mission while leveraging our multi-disciplinary strengths. Our working group seeks your input via this survey.

    Have you secured your ticket to the Science meets Parliament 2022 gala dinners on 2 June? They will be held concurrently in seven of Australia’s capital cities and feature a who’s-who of the STEM sector, Parliamentary, and public service worlds. Don’t miss your chance to attend the STEM community’s night of nights, and an outstanding networking opportunity.

    Want to turn your team into expert communicators? We have a special end-of-financial-year discount available on STA’s acclaimed Super STEM Communicator training. Get in touch now to secure a 5 per cent discount on top of your STA members’ 10 per cent discount for courses delivered by 30 June - including our hugely popular ‘Marie Kondo your writing’ workshop.

    Finally, we have an exciting employment opportunity at STA as our next Executive Officer. The position plays a key role in the governance and administration of the organisation. It would suit an organisational whiz with previous experience in a similar job. We thank Kelvin Peh for his service to STA and wish him all the best with his next career move into the Australian public service. Please share information about this role to anyone in your network who would be fabulous - and encourage them to apply.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 

  • 22 Apr 2022 4:09 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Ahead of the 21 May election, campaign commitments are now coming thick and fast. 

    This week, the first two Trailblazer Universities were announced. A consortium of universities and industry partners led by Curtin University will get $50 million to develop a research commercialisation hub for critical minerals and resources technology, and a University of Adelaide and University of New South Wales partnership was awarded $50 million to boost defence sector innovation. The others will also likely be announced in the campaign.

    Investing in Australia’s research commercialisation skills and capability will return a huge intergenerational dividend for the country, and it’s something STA has long advocated on behalf of our members. But it’s just one of the election pledges we are urging all political parties to make to support the country’s vital science and technology community. To amplify the sector’s messaging, please share our election pledges social media tiles. For inspiration, check out this great thread by STA member the Royal Society of Victoria.

    STA welcomed the announcement of Judi Zielke as the new CEO of the Australian Research Council. Judi was appointed Acting CEO for the research granting agency in February, and has shown a clear desire to engage with the research sector on key issues in her time at the helm. We look forward to working with her and her team as she leads the agency into its next era.

    It was an honour this week to host an event featuring two living legends of Australia’s science community - Nobel laureates Professor Brian Schmidt and Professor Peter Doherty. The event was part of the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of The Australian National University. As befits a university which has always engaged in public debate, the discussion was wide-ranging, deeply research-informed, and put science front-and-centre in front of a huge crowd.

    We are delighted to welcome a new member organisation to the STA family - Campus Plus. Under the outstanding leadership of Founder and CEO Nick McNaughton and Chief Operating Officer Zoe Fieldhouse, Campus Plus helps universities with their industry engagement through researcher commercialisation training and mentoring, entrepreneurship training, and strategic partnership creation. We are so pleased to have them as a member of the ever-growing STA community.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 

  • 8 Apr 2022 12:00 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The formal start of the election campaign is now imminent. 

    STA will spend the coming weeks highlighting the science and technology sector’s election priorities. These were developed from a sector leadership dialogue at the STA Presidents and CEOs Forum in October. Your team can download social media tiles promoting the priorities here for use on your channels. Please tag us so we can amplify!

    At the outset of the campaign, STA will formally seek responses from parties and candidates on their policy commitments on the sector’s election priorities. We'll also monitor policy pledges made during the campaign and share that with our members. 

    It was terrific to see so many of you at STA’s members-only post-Budget briefing last Thursday. We’ve had great feedback about the value of the detailed analysis of Budget announcements and consultation opportunities. With gratitude to STA Director of Policy and Engagement Dr Sarah Tynan, the brief is available in the member-only section of the STA website.

    This week we’ve been so excited for Gamilaraay man and founder of STA member organisation Deadly Science, Corey Tutt, who roared onto the world stage as the first ever First Nations organisation to have its branding on a Formula 1 car. It’s a significant endorsement of the incredible work Deadly Science do to support First Nations kids to get a STEM education, and gives the organisation global exposure. Read more here.

    We are delighted that STA President Professor Mark Hutchinson has been appointed to the expanded Australian Research Council Advisory Committee. Mark will make a powerful contribution to the work of the Committee and brings deep insight from the research sector. 

    It was great to attend the Women in AI Awards last week in Melbourne. The top award was won by radiologist and breast cancer clinician Professor Helen Frazer, who is using AI for breast cancer detection. It was terrific to see so many brilliant and diverse women innovators recognised for their groundbreaking work.

    The National Research Infrastructure Roadmap was released yesterday – and current projected funding of $900 million for existing NCRIS capabilities was reaffirmed. The Government says it is “considering further investment identified in the roadmap such as in digital research infrastructure, synthetic biology, research translation infrastructure, environmental and climate research infrastructure, and collections”.

    Finally, this morning I spoke with a sizeable business audience for an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry event: ‘How becoming more sustainable can make Australia more prosperous’. It was an honour to connect the worlds of business, science and technology - and highlight our community’s desire to work with industry to help them make the transition required by the mounting risks, scale and pace of climate change.

    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 

  • 7 Apr 2022 2:09 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

     Data is the sword, those who wield it the Samurai” – developing the future STEM workforce.

    Statistics + X: what’s your X?

    The NSPC is a fun, project-based learning activity which encourages Stages 2 to 6 school students to develop, implement and creatively report upon an investigation on any topic of interest to them (the 'X')... for prizes! 

    • Students conduct small-scale versions of real-world investigations in teams, developing core STEM and cross-functional skills. They create an informative e-poster presentation communicating their investigation clearly, concisely and creatively and submit within one of the five divisions (Stages 2 – 6). 

    A Community Division (for families, friends, colleagues) also exists – why should kids get all the fun! 

    TIPS and NOTES: 

    In addition to the five Division winners and honourable mentions (Stages 2 to 6) prizes are also awarded to:
    The School submitting the most entries!
    A randomly selected winner in National Science Week (August) based on

    submissions made by 10 August (so consider entering early)!

    Whilst the focus is engaging students and developing their interests and abilities, this year’s Stage 5 and Stage 6 winners may also be forwarded to an international leg of the competition (which Australia has won in the past).

    Please inform friends, family, schools and anyone who’ll listen about the NSPC! Happy investigating! 

    We welcome early online registrations and (even rough) estimated submission numbers to assist with administration, and so you receive updates –

  • 6 Apr 2022 1:08 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Summary of Talk by Elvezio Ronchetti, Research Center for Statistics and GSEM, University of Geneva, Switzerland, presented at the 2022 March Meeting of the WA Branch of the SSA. This summary is written by Brenton R Clarke.

    In introducing Elvezio I noted that he had published several important books on Robust Statistics and has visited La Trobe University, the Australian National University and Sydney University in the past.  This time we hosted him virtually in Perth, Western Australia,

    Elvezio outlined his talk with an introduction giving some motivation and then detailing three examples to illustrate the advantages of robust methods. He then outlined the infinitesimal approach based on what is known as the influence function and then related that to M-estimators known for their usefulness since they often include maximum likelihood estimators as a special case. Elvezio alluded to optimal robust estimators and then concluded with reference to new papers on penalization methods and machine learning

    In his introduction he gave a summarizing slide to say that Robust Statistics

    • deals with deviations from ideal models and their dangers for corresponding inference procedures.
    • the primary goal is the development of procedures which are still reliable and reasonably efficient under small deviations from the model, i.e. when the underlying distribution lies in a neighbourhood of the assumed model.

    Robust statistics is an extension of parametric statistics, taking into account that parametric models are at best only approximations to reality.

    Elvezio asserted that Robust Statistics was about stability theory for statistics just as in other fields such as differential equations stability theory is exemplified by Lyapunov Theory, and similarly stability of mechanical structures is studied in engineering. In numerical analysis the computation of

    is considered stable on the left hand side but not so on the right (I was surprised by this as usually we get students in first year classes to use the formula on the right to reduce the risk of miscalculation due to punching in a wrong number, but obviously the computer is more efficient when there are many large numbers in terms of reducing rounding errors and also not going out of bounds if you use the formula on the left.)

    The basic premise in studying stability is that models are only approximations to reality, which is a basic tenet of science.  Elvezio noted John Tukey’s discussion showing the dramatic loss of efficiency of optimal location procedures in the presence of small deviations and also in his first example illustrated the classical ‘dispute’ of Eddington and Fisher as to whether one should use the mean absolute deviation or the standard deviation based on efficiency in very small contaminated neighbourhoods of the normal model.  (Personally, these studies were taught to me by Noel Cressie at Flinders University during my honours year when Noel was fresh out of doing a PhD at Princeton. I am forever grateful)

    Example 2 considered the robustness of the Wilcoxon test in comparison to the two-sample t-test illustrated on 2 samples taken from normal distributions and allowing on sample point to vary.  This illustrated that while the t-test is known to have robustness of validity it does not possess robustness of efficiency. It is noted the Wilcoxon test has robustness of validity, but as a nonparametric test loses power in small deviations from the assumed model.

    Example 3 considered ARCH effects in financial time series given in Mancini, Ronchetti, Trojani (2005, JASA). The argument was that the ARCH parameter  showed no significance when doing a classical Wald test implying acceptance of the homoscedasticity hypothesis whereas the robust test shows a highly significant . It is argued that because the estimation of the volatility by classical techniques is inflated, the potential ARCH structure is hidden by the presence of a few outlying observations.

    Elvezio went on to discuss the functional approach to estimation where one, for example, writes their statistic as a function of the empirical distribution and more generally on the set of distributions so that one can set up the infinitesimal approach to estimation based on the influence function.  In summary he explained that what was wanted were procedures that had bounded influence functions for which the reward was robustness.  This is related to the theory of differentiability of statistical functionals for which my paper in Clarke (2000 PINSA) got a mention.

    Elvezio pointed to M-estimators introduced in a famous 1964 paper by Huber in the Ann. Math. Statist., for which the empirical distribution is given by  and the estimator can be written  which is a solution of

    From these subject to Fisher consistency the influence function at the model F is

    It is seen that bounding   leads to a bounded influence function. Elvezio pointed to eleven bookson robustness, to see how the field has progressed.   I was pleased to see the most recent book listed was Clarke (2018) Robustness Theory and Application, John Wiley & Sons.

    In concluding his talk Elvezio canvassed penalization methods. He covered penalty methods for dealing with what is called sparsity and noted that estimating a regression parameter yields an M-estimator. In particular, the Huber estimator corresponds to the lasso penalty.  Several references on the penalization literature were given with a statement that a popular approach to the Machine Learning literature is to enforce robustness in available algorithms.

    Elvezio suggests we look for estimators with bounded influence functions.  His approach would be to “huberize” the score function.  Robustness is an issue in the big data world and there is an equivalence between robustness and penalization.

    Brenton Clarke

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