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  • 20 Jul 2020 3:38 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The heartbreaking scale of this pandemic’s toll on jobs continues. Yesterday’s Australian Bureau of Statistics figures revealed almost one million Australians are now out of work. And the nation’s official unemployment rate is now at a two-decade high – reaching 7.4 per cent in June – despite the creation of more than 210,000 jobs in June. 
    In a media release this morning, STA has warned jobs in the science, technology, engineering and maths workforce are now at greater risk as hundreds more job losses start to be announced at universities across the country. We have asked the Australian Government to take a fresh look at the damage being inflicted by the pandemic on our research workforce and consider again a JobKeeper lifeline for universities and a one-off boost to the Research Training Program to help keep postgraduate research students employed.

    We also continue to engage closely with the proposed changes to higher education funding. The two groups of Vice-Chancellors working with Government on the industry linkages fund and research funding both met for the first time this week. STA will continue to draw the views of our membership into consultation processes.  

    STA’s Board also met this week. It was heartening to see our clusters report on work by many member societies to deepen Indigenous partnerships, and promote Indigenous STEM knowledge. Work towards STA’s inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan is also well advanced. Our draft RAP has now been lodged with Reconciliation Australia for feedback. We thank our RAP working group which includes the leadership of STA’s Indigenous member associations – Quandamooka First Nations man Professor Chris Matthews of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance and Kamilaroi man and Deadly Science founder Corey Tutt – for their leadership and expertise in this important work.
    Our thanks to each of you for your membership renewals in recent weeks. Our members are the lifeblood of STA and we are here to support you through these challenging times.
    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 


    Further information: Peter Derbyshire, STA Policy Manager -

  • 16 Jul 2020 3:55 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Dear SSA Canberra et al.,

    Please (also) forward to those who you think may be interested in the below.

    SSA Canberra is inviting young statisticians who are planning to attend a conference/workshop/short course in a field related to statistics or data science to apply for financial support in the form of a "SSA Canberra registration grant".

    What does the grant support?
    SSA Canberra will award an amount up to $200 AUD per successful application. The amount to be awarded will depend on the registration costs of the event the applicant is attending.
    Note the conference/workshop does not necessarily have to be held in the ACT (since most events are currently online anyway!), nor does it have to be an SSA event.

    Who can apply?
    Applicants must be:

    • A current student in, or within five years of last conferred degree from, the ACT or in a regional area of NSW outside Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong;
    • A member of the SSA Canberra branch at the time of registration; membership is only $20 for full time students, so it is worth joining just to apply for the grant!

    If you have questions regarding eligibility or anything else, please contact the SSA Canberra council at

    How do I apply?
    Prepare the following documents and a submit a single PDF form containing:

    1. If attending a conference, evidence of your submitted abstract for a poster/talk to that conference. If attending a workshop/short course, evidence of your confirmed registration to that event;
    2. A brief resume of up to three pages;
    3. A letter up to one A4 page describing the anticipated benefits to you that will result from attending the event, and declaring any other financial support being offered to you to attend.

    Please send these via email to 

    When do I have to apply by?
    We are accepting applications on an ongoing basis until 31 December 2020, or until the budget we have allocated for the rego grant runs out. So it is first-in-first-served, subject of course to a proposal being successful!

    A maximum of one successful grant will be awarded per person.

    Outcome and show me the money!
    Successful applications will be notified by email in due course. Afterwards, SSA Canberra will then look to reimburse registration fees after receiving the receipts.

    If I am successful, who do I have to do?
    1) If presenting at a conference, please acknowledge the financial support of SSA Canberra.
    2) Contribute a short piece about their experience of attending the conference/workshop/short course the SSA newsletter, to be sent to

  • 8 Jul 2020 2:53 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The revised Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC 2020) was released on June 30 on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

    Here are the new 2020 categories for statistics, with additions in red and changes in blue:


        Applied statistics




        Computational statistics


        Forensic evaluation, inference and statistics


        Large and complex data theory


        Probability theory


       Spatial statistics


        Statistical data science


       Statistical theory


       Stochastic analysis and modelling


       Time series and spatial modelling


      Statistics not elsewhere classified

    For comparison here are the previous 2008 categories:

    0104 Statistics

    010401 Applied Statistics
    010402 Biostatistics
    010403 Forensic Statistics
    010404 Probability Theory
    010405 Statistical Theory
    010406 Stochastic Analysis and Modelling
    010499 Statistics not elsewhere classified

    We gave feedback to the review consultation draft, with thanks to our members who helped with this. We are happy with the changes as these reflect the growth in statistics and allow our members to more accurately reflect their work.

  • 8 Jul 2020 1:00 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    On June 23rd, the Victorian Branch brought together mentors and mentees for a brilliant, socially-distant, mentoring evening via Zoom. Hosted by Hien Nguyen (Communications officer) and Daniel Fryer (Young Statisticians' Representative), we first heard from five of our mentors who told us of their careers and their thoughts on some of the key opportunities, decisions, lessons and strategies they felt contributed to their successful journeys so far. 

    Mentees were then given the chance to chat one-on-one with four of the mentors, and a fantastic opportunity to pick their brains! I, as a mentee, certainly learnt a lot! One of the many nuggets of wisdom that resonated with me was that there is no one-size-fits-all career for us in statistics; it was a pleasure to hear the many and varied pathways each mentor took to be where they are now. 

    A great thanks to all the mentors: Helen Bartley, Michael Dalton, Alison Harcourt, Roger Hilton, Jessica Kasza, Karen Lamb, Dina Neiger, Cameron Patrick, Mathew Spittal, Dennis Trewin and Antony Ugoni. 

    Lizzie Korevaar

  • 6 Jul 2020 10:17 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Dear all,

    I hope you all are doing good and well. I am writing to inform you that the Fourth Victorian Research Students' Meeting in Probability and Statistics(VRSMiPS IV) will be hosted by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, La Trobe University this year. Our students' conference is going to be held on 02nd of September at La Trobe University.

    VRSMiPS IV is an all day event and an annual event that is organised by students, for students. The goal of the event is to provide doctoral and masters by research students from Victorian universities an opportunity to present their research to their peers as well as to hear from other students in an environment which facilitates collaboration. We want to provoke discussion about Probability and Statistics and to build inter-institution connections.

    Due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference might switch to an online format via zoom on the same date and time.  It is with great pleasure we confirm the website and registration process for VRSMiPS IVAttached is the itinerary and some background information regarding the event.

    The link to the registration form is

    We look forward to receiving your registration. 

    On behalf of the other organizer, Illia,

    Yours sincerely,


    Ravindi Nanayakkara

    PhD Candidate & Sessional Academic

    Department of Mathematics and Statistics | College of Science, Health and Engineering
    La Trobe University | Bundoora Victoria 3086 Australia

  • 2 Jul 2020 1:45 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Machine Learning: From damned lies to statistics, where does machine learning lie within the field of data science?

    The monthly seminar of the SSA in SA was presented by Dr Oscar Perez-Concha, Lecturer at the Centre for Big Data Research in Health (CBDRH), University of New South Wales, Sydney. Oscar is also the founder of the CBDRH Machine Learning Club, a special interest group which meets weekly to discuss ideas about machine learning and its application to health data science. CBDRH Machine Learning Club is an open forum and people interested in joining online or in person could contact Oscar directly at

    I have been part of the special interest group on Machine Learning Club for now about two years I was very much looking forward to Oscar’s presentation. Over 40 people connected from all over Australia using Zoom. Lots of people in many fields are at least curious and would like to learn more about Machine Learning and the talk titled ‘Machine Learning: From damned lies to statistics, where does machine learning lie within the field of data science?’ was the perfect opportunity to get started.

    I thoroughly enjoyed how before delving into the talk, Oscar provided a quick overview of his pathway from engineering to ML expert and examples of ML applications provided by his past and current projects.

    His presentation started with recounting his own journey of marrying ML and statistics   and moved on to discussing the similarities and differences between the two in terminology and aims. Critical ML events like Gauss derivation of the normal distribution, Turing cracking the wartime Enigma code and the release of R package were highlighted over the timeline of statistics. What followed was the introduction of the founders of Artificial Intelligence AI and the timeline of AI. Frankly, as a female researcher I always get some satisfaction hearing about Ada Lovelace. So much I almost named my daughter after her.

    Oscar gave a remarkable overview of ML theory from random forests to support vector machines, concluding with deep neural networks. In doing so he pointed out the dichotomies between statistics and ML but never in a way to keep them separate, always creating bridges between the disciplines by understanding the different nuances in language.

    The discussion was vivacious, I particularly enjoyed hearing more about using machine learning in a causal inference scenario and in the area of longitudinal data. Check out the video to hear what he says.

    Oscar spoke very frankly of the limitations of ML which is not a box to fix all data problems. He clearly stated what stage ML currently is (Association) and where it hasn’t gone yet (Intervention or Counterfactual world).

    Just after the meeting I was on the phone with Oscar to congratulate him on the brilliant presentation and cheer him on his efforts. Pretty soon we were talking about new ideas for presentations and workshops and even collaborating in person once the COVID-19 restrictions ease a little more. Something we both look forward to.

    By Barbara Toson

  • 29 Jun 2020 1:29 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    A message from Science and Technology Australia

    Last Friday, Education Minister Dan Tehan unveiled a package of very complex proposed changes to higher education funding in Australia in a speech to the National Press Club.  There is more detail in a Government discussion paper and a series of FAQs.  The Minister also plans to work with Vice-Chancellors to devise a new way to fund research amid the proposed loss of research cross-subsidy from student places funding and a sharp fall in international student income due to the pandemic. 
    The proposals are incredibly complex. Like all advocacy bodies across our STEM and university research communities, Science & Technology Australia will analyse the detail, seek further information, and assess likely impact. We made a careful initial set of observations within hours of the announcements, and will have more to say in the coming weeks and months. The Government would need crossbench support in the Senate to amend the Higher Education Support Act

    This week, it was the turn of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to make a major address on science, technology, climate change and expertise. STA welcomed his central message that science had led our COVID success, and could now drive Australia’s recovery

    And with International Women in Engineering Day last week, check out Superstar of STEM Bianca Capra’s video about her trailblazing career as an aerospace engineer, and her powerful efforts to bring other women into the field. Here’s her uplifting video series to promote other women from diverse backgrounds who are working or studying as engineers.  
    Until next time, 

    Misha Schubert 
    CEO, Science & Technology Australia 

  • 24 Jun 2020 5:07 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    Science and Technology Australia - Media Release 24 June 2020

    Today’s reaffirmation that science will be core to Australia’s future economic growth, new industries and new jobs has been welcomed by the science and technology sector.

    In a speech to the National Press Club, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australia’s success to contain COVID-19 was due to a strong bipartisan embrace of scientific expertise.

    Science & Technology Australia President Associate Professor Jeremy Brownlie said it was pleasing to see a strong bipartisan understanding that science and technology are major economic drivers.

    “Expert scientific and medical expertise has steered Australia safely through the COVID crisis,” he said.

    “Now we must take that same approach for science and technology to shape the economic recovery and create new jobs, businesses and industries.”

    STA also welcomed the call for Australia to enhance our future pandemic preparedness with a continued focus on advance planning.

    Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the sector welcomed the focus on how to generate stronger economic opportunities from new technologies like AI.

    “A national centre for AI excellence would help Australia to a bigger slice of the estimated US$16 trillion global industry,” she said.

    “We welcome a strong bipartisan commitment to be guided by scientific expertise in policy right across our economy and society.”

    STA is pleased to see the Opposition’s description of research and development as an investment not a cost.

    In recent years, STA has proposed a research translation fund to help boost private sector investment in R&D.   

    For interviews or further comment, please call STA on 02 6257 2891. 

  • 22 Jun 2020 11:26 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    This meeting featured two very interesting presentations by Emily Whitney and Andrew Grose and was the second of our monthly meetings to be held by Zoom.

    When one is unfamiliar with the venue there is always the possibility of getting lost when trying to find a meeting, and your correspondent managed to achieve this, finding himself in another Zoom meeting room – along with three or four others who had also followed the wrong link. A virtual search party retrieved us in time and your correspondent was able to bring the lost people back to the meeting, bringing the numbers to more than 25.

    Emily graduated mid 2019 with First Class Honours in Mathematical Sciences from Curtin University. Her dissertation, supervised by Aloke Phatak, focussed on regularisation penalties for categorical predictors with the application of predicting stillbirth. With the support of WA Branch of the Statistical Society through their Honours Scholarship, she was able to present her work at the International Workshop on Statistical Modelling in July 2019. Recently Emily began work as consultant data scientist at EY and now works in the health analytics space.

    Emily spoke about her work on the problem from her dissertation, comparing use of LASSO, a group-wise LASSO, and a structured fusion penalty in logistic regression. She related this to prediction of stillbirth, using a large data set capturing information on all singleton births in WA in the years 1980 through 2015. All three penalties are L1 in style, and hence encourage sparsity. The group LASSO also encourages similarity between coefficient estimates that ought to go together. The structured fusion penalty in addition encourages satisfaction of desired constraints (such as monotonicity for coefficients of ordinal factors, or equality of coefficients of a factor) – so you discourage differences that are not really interesting to you, unless the data force you to see these differences. The take-home message was that structured fusion penalties offer a tool to make categorical predictors more interpretable.

    Andrew Grose graduated at the end of 2019 from Murdoch University with first class honours and now works for SAGI-West. He talked about comparisons of robust methods for identifying outliers, which is ongoing research he has been doing with Brenton Clarke following completion of his honours degree.  Brenton supervised his honours thesis. In his talk, Andrew examined in detail differences between the abilities of a variety of strategies for outlier identification, including multivariate ATLA (Adaptive Trimmed Likelihood Algorithm), which was a strong performer, FSM (Forward Search method), BACON, and others. He also discussed concepts such as swamping and masking of outliers.

    Naturally, Tukey and Huber got a mention, and more surprisingly, so did Bradman. Although in retrospect he would have to be a clear illustration of the fact that outliers do not necessarily indicate problems with the data item (unless there was a conspiracy of scorers in Test cricket matches).

    Both talks were followed by questions and applause (sometimes the sound of a muted hand clapping) but not, in view of the circumstances, by dinner out with the speakers. This omission will be rectified at a later meeting, face-to-face.

    Alun Pope

  • 17 Jun 2020 10:09 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

    The monthly seminar of the SSA in WA was presented by Brenton Clarke, the current President of the Branch. The seminar was held via ZOOM, the web-based video conferencing tool, because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

    Since I live very close to Brenton, I made the short journey to his home for the live seminar in his study.

    About 20 people were on the video conference. I sat in the front seat with Brenton, together with my M&M chocolate coated peanuts to help me enjoy the video! The title of the talk was ‘Generalisations of Orthogonal Components in Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)’. I had a feeling from the abstract that we were going to be bombarded with ‘elegant’ matrix algebra.

    The seminar reminded me of when I was a student when it was imperative to see and suffer through the construction of much theory if you were serious in understanding statistical methodology.

    We were treated to an entertaining historical talk from the 1870s to the 2020s on the orthogonal Helmert matrices used in an example of a 2-way ANOVA (randomised complete block design) to relate the decomposition of the sums of squares in the ANOVA table to uncorrelated random variables. Brenton showed us the long-hand way versus the ‘elegant’ mathematical matrix algebra approach involving Kronecker products. Brenton showed remarkable knowledge and recollections of the use of many references in his talk spanning 1860s to 2020.

    He showcased work from his 2002 paper and his 2008 book on ‘Linear Models’.

    I think we witnessed a marvelous exposition of theory illustrating Brenton’s breadth of work he has done in the last 20 years of his research on the theory of linear models. One could say we saw the beauty of statistics with echoes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony ‘Eroica’ in the background.

    A good series of comments in the discussion followed the talk which left us pondering on the use of the elegant theory in practice. Brenton even alluded to work on the Hasse or lattice diagram of the ANOVA table showing the effects of the terms in the model as shown by Rosemary Bailey work (2020).

    Well done Brenton on a very informative discussion and summary history of work with various authors on the linear models and their matrix algebra investigating the various theoretical relationships in the analysis of variance table.

    During the night I was pondering how the sweep algorithm used in the ‘beautiful’ ANOVA module of the GenStat ( program related to this talk. We will leave that for another talk.

    Brenton and I enjoyed a meal at the local Thai restaurant to celebrate the night observing the small numbers of people at at the restaurant due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

    Three cheers for my great friend for a great talk!

    by Mario D’Antuono


    Bailey, R.A. (2020) Hasse diagrams as a visual aid for linear models and analysis of variance. Communications in Statistics- Theory and Method.

    Clarke, B.R. (2002) A representation of orthogonal components in analysis of variance, International Mathematical Journal, 1, 133-147.

    Clarke, B.R. (2008) Linear Models The Theory and Application of Analysis of Variance, Wiley, Hoboken, N.J.

    Farhadian, R. and Clarke, B.R. (2020) A note on the Helmert transformation, Communications in Statistics- Theory and Method, submitted

    Irwin, J.O. (1934) On the independence of constituent items in the analysis of variance, J. Roy. Statist. Soc., Suppl., 1, 236-251

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