Official Statistics Section News
10 December 2021
Vale John Zarb
A memorial notice appeared in a recent Canberra Times for John Zarb, who died in September this year. John had been the go to person at the ABS for Time Series and Seasonal Adjustment when I joined and retained this peculiar position for most of my time there, a distinctive if for me distant figure, undemonstrative yet respected. He had been invited to present lectures to an ONS audience in London, but had not attained sufficient rank in the organisation to warrant backing and did not travel; a block faced by ABS specialists to this day I believe.
Yet John had been a celebrity well before joining ABS. As a conscientious objector he had been gaoled for defying the Vietnam War draft. If descending to the underpass in Punt Road in inner Melbourne in the 1970s many may recall in large uneven white letters on the Railway bridge “Free Zarb”. As far as I know this exhortation to the world notwithstanding, John did serve time equivalent to military service locked up.
I had no cause to tackle John on his past; I don't know how many of his ABS colleagues knew of it. Yet his stand would have inspired many among the million who had taken to the streets in Melbourne and other Australian cities in protest at Australia’s overseas military involvement; foreshadowing the end to conscription and withdrawal of forces not long after.
John Zarb deserves to be remembered for his international standing in official statistics; I hope his passing has not gone unnoticed in the ABS for that reason. In my eyes his moral stand on an issue that had split the population deserves equally to be remembered.
29 September 2021
JOS Special issue on Population Statistics
The online edition of the Journal of Official Statistics for the September quarter has appeared. It is a special issue devoted to population statistics, comprising 12 papers around three themes: estimation; census data quality;and sampling methods: and including an Australian paper on capture recapture methods for human population estimation (Balfour et al, ).
From the preface:" reliable population statistics are indispensable for many crucial areas of public policy and panning worldwide. The world these statistics measure is changing rapidly, with population processes gaining pace and acquiring new forms, such as increasingly fluid mobility and migration...The role of official population statistics in addressing these challenges...is fundamental. [while] the uptake of ..new methods in official statistics remains limited. "
The editors reflect on promising pathways, citing Zhang et al's work on subnational Bayesian spatio-temporal mixed effects models; the Italian permanent population census - combining administrative sources and coverage surveys; standardised measures of bias in small area estimation; and combining survey and census in contexts where administrative records may be incomplete. They see the key gap is the disparity between statistical systems, and a move away from standardised censuses to more country specific digital traces, noting the absence of coordination is limiting the usefulness of global measures such as the SDGs. In their mind, dedicated solutions are needed to help transform official statistics globally: this must address a conceptual shift - what is a population? who are migrants? what is the defining characteristic of residence? space time frameworks to accommodate the finer grained resolutions; how to address comparability.
15 September 2021
2022 IAOS Young Statisticians Prize is now open
The 2022 IAOS Young Statisticians Prize is now open. The Prize is awarded for the best paper in the field of official statistics written by a young statistician. In addition to monetary prizes, the first-place winner receives travel funds to present the paper at an international conference. Due to COVID-19, details of the conference are decided in conjunction with the winner and may include the IAOS 2022 Conference in Krakow, Poland.
Note that the IAOS board member with oversight of the YSP, and inspiration for young Australian official statisticians, is Gemma Van Halderen, whose career began at the ABS. Please spread the word to young statisticians you know working in official statistics to consider submitting their work for this prize. IAOS conferences not only are occasions for heads of agencies to confer; more importantly they are an opportunity for people providing methods support to official collections, or contributing to the efficiency or scientific integrity or design of official series and operations to interact with peers from other agencies, or other institutions working on analogous problems. This should be an incentive to provide a paper.
The closing date is 11 February 2022.Information on the Prize and how to make a submission is available here.
24 May 2021
Young Statisticians Prize
The IAOS YSP is an international prize, which is designed to encourage more young statisticians to take an active interest in official statistics and is awarded for the best paper in the field of official statistics written by a young statistician. In the YSP 2020 competition the second place of the 2020 IAOS Young Statisticians Prize was awarded to Mr. Johannes Gussenbauer and Mr. Gregor de Cillia (Statistics Austria) for the paper “The R-Package surveyed: Estimating standard errors for Complex Surveys with a Rotating Panel Design” First place went to Kenza Sallier at Statistics Canada for the paper: “Toward More User-Centric Data Access Solutions: Producing Synthetic Data of High Analytical Value by Data Synthesis”.
Third place went to ABS employee James Bailie's paper: “Big Data, Differential Privacy and National Statistical Organisations”. Congratulations James.
For more details click here.
18 May 2021
Spreading survey knowledge: IASS funds virtual workshops that support official collections in statistically emerging countries.
The International Association for Survey Statistics has announced a funding pool to foster interest in statistical surveys and censuses among governments and the general public; and to promote research into survey theory and practice. It invites bids from providers within a global cap of EUR 3,000.
The fund is directed to the sharing of knowledge and experience between countries who do not normally interact in this way; notably between larger countries with a long tradition of scientifically conducted official surveys and smaller countries where systems of official collection are rudimentary or not in place. A barrier to the diffusion of knowledge has been the high cost of international consultancies, usually the portal that countries in these situations must use to attract international support.
This round is an opportunity for Australian methodologists to burnish their careers beyond our shores, or the more familiar corridors of scientific publishing. SSA's Official Statistics Section fully endorses this initiative: we encourage members to become involved. To apply contact the IASS President, Professor Denise Silva.
With the World Congress on the horizon we note too that Dr James Chipperfield, well known in official statistics and methodological circles in Australia, has been recently appointed Scientific Secretary of the International Association. Congratulations! His latest communication is here.
Added on 29 April 2020
This conversation with John Pullinger, President of IAOS comes out in the Stats+Stories podcast series from the University of Miami. It focuses on the respective roles of journalism and official statisticians in the working of democracy.
Added on 20 December 2018
Journal of Official Statistics Volume 34, Issue 4:
Second Special Issue on New Techniques and Technologies for Statistics
Preface – Introduction to Special Issue:
Martin Karlberg, Silvia Biffignandi, Piet J.H. Daas, Loredana Di Consiglio, Anders Holmberg, Risto Lehtonen, Ralf T. Münnich, Boro Nikic, Marianne Paasi, Natalie Shlomo, Roxane Silberman, and Ineke Stoop
Data Organisation and Process Design Based on Functional Modularity for a Standard Production Process:
David Salgado, M. Elisa Esteban, Maria Novás, Soledad Saldaña, and Luis Sanguiao
Efficiency and Agility for a Modern Solution of Deterministic Multiple Source Prioritization and Validation Tasks:
Annalisa Cesaro and Leonardo Tininini
Detecting Reporting Errors in Data from Decentralised Autonomous Administrations with an Application to Hospital Data:
Arnout van Delden, Jan van der Laan, and Annemarie Prins
Population Size Estimation and Linkage Errors: the Multiple Lists Case:
Loredana Di Consiglio and Tiziana Tuoto
Statistical Matching as a Supplement to Record Linkage: AValuable Method to Tackle Nonconsent Bias?:
Jonathan Gessendorfer, Jonas Beste, Jörg Drechsler, and Joseph W.
Assessing the Quality of Home Detection from Mobile Phone Data for Official Statistics:
Maarten Vanhoof, Fernando Reis, Thomas Ploetz, and Zbigniew Smoreda
Megatrend and Intervention Impact Analyzer for Jobs: A Visualization Method for Labor Market Intelligence:
Rain Opik, Toomas Kirt, and Innar Liiv
Augmenting Statistical Data Dissemination by Short Quantified Sentences of Natural Language:
Miroslav Hudec, Erika Bednárová, and Andreas Holzinger
Index to Volume 34, 2018
Following the signing in November 2018 of a contract between SSA and ABS that funds events in 2019 whose purpose is to increase engagement between the ABS, SSA members and the broader statistical community, and build professional capability of ABS staff; and the subsequent call to SSA sections and branches for event proposals, the Official Statistics Section has put forward the following:
A full day forum in the second half of the year on Methods of Official Statistics, open to ABS staff and SSA members, that will be the culmination of theme discussions and workshops in the first half of the year among different branches, from which a forum focus should emerge. The forum will be in the format of short (15 minute) presentations followed by open discussion. Depending on the particular focus there may be a theme address. It is hoped to use the funding to have contributions edited and issued as a record. It is proposed to use ABS video conferencing facilities to allow people within reach of an ABS office anywhere in Australia, and possibly in New Zealand, to take part without a requirement for travel.
The format was successfully tested in May this year with a Workshop on State Space Methods in Official Statistics. ABS staff in Canberra, and in four other offices took part, with presenters and discussion distributed among the offices.
We may use the budget allowed to look into the production of a pod cast; and to invite guest participants from abroad.
If you wish to join the small organising team behind this suggestion please contact your local convenor, or the Section coordinator.
We see this event as recurring in later years, allowing new focus and more opportunities for statisticians with an interest in advancing the statistical basis of official collection activity to publicise their work, collaborate across employment lines and learn from the experience of others.
Statistics and Evaluation
The drive to evidence-based policies and decisions – whether in government or for large organisations outside it – should be good news for the statistics community. But is it? The commitment to (better) statistics in consequence has seen renewed investment in major survey and data projects, and to a limited extent the hint of a reverse of the conspicuous decline in employment of data base and survey skills close to policy areas of government. But only a hint; the farming out of research has seen close alliances between policy arms of government and a few key centres of policy research in the corporate and academic sectors, by definition at a distance from the data resource . Statisticians have been retained in maintenance capacity to service the production of ‘evidence’ framed in terms of research agendas.
Having got that off my chest, there is now the opportunity for fruitful collaboration between this rump of the profession (well represented I hope among prospective active participants in the S&M Section) and the somewhat more recent splendid regiment of evaluators, those people usually within an organisation whose remit is to test what is working, and to advise management on the health and direction of its spending programmes. The evaluators are represented professionally by the Australasian Evaluation Society, whose activities parallel ours (without our mathematical baggage but with across Tasman enrichment). Where there is potential for cross over is in the methods of evaluation; professional ethics; training; and jointly sponsored events.
1. Babbie, E.R. (1973). Survey Research Methods. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co.
2. Busha, C.H., and Harter, S.P. (1980). Research Methods in Librarianship: Techniques and Interpretation. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, Inc.
3. Don A. Dillman, Jolene D. Smyth, and Leah Melani Christian. (2008). Internet, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method (3 ed.). Wiley Publishing.
4. Leeuw, E. D., Hox, J. J., Dillman, D. A., & European Association of Methodology. (2008). International handbook of survey methodology. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
5. Dugard, P., File, P., and Todman, J. (2011). Single-case and Small-n Experimental Designs – A Practical Guide to Randomization Tests (2 ed.). Taylor & Francis.
Journals & Newsletters
2. The Journal of Official Statistics is published by Statistics Sweden, the national statistical office of Sweden. The journal publishes articles on statistical methodology and theory, with an emphasis on applications. It is an open access journal, which gives the right to users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of all articles. (Accessed 20 April 2012)
A newsletter published three times a year and serves as a clearinghouse for information about academic and not-for-profit survey research organizations around the world. (Accessed 20 April 2012)
1. American Statistical Association Survey Methodology Research Methods Section
2. The Duke Initiative on Survey Methodology
3. International Association of Survey Statisticians (IASS)
5. Proceedings of the ASA Survey Research Methods Section
6. RECSM: Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology. Universitat Pompey Fabra.
7. Survey Practice
8. Survey Software
9. Trochim, William M. The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 2nd Edition. Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/> (Accessed 20 April 2012).