The statistics group has emerged unscathed (in terms
of size) from two restructures at AgResearch over
the last 18 months. No doubt there will be further
challenges to overcome over the next year, as is the
case no doubt with readers in other organisations. The
institute (company?) has a new CEO after nabbing
the “boy next door”, which was our Chairman’s
description of Tom Richardson, the former CEO of
Scion in Rotorua.
A number of our group attended and enjoyed
the NZSA conference. Top marks to the organisers
(including our own Zaneta Park)! The following
week, Dongwen Luo and Zaneta escaped the
Palmerston North winter for a week and attended the
Winter School in Mathematical and Computational
Biology at the University of Queensland in early
July, to learn more about next-generation sequencing
and systems biology. In August, Zaneta was invited
to speak at the NZ Next-Generation sequencing
conference in Dunedin, and the topic of her talk was
“Obtaining high-quality RNA-Seq data – factors
to consider”. Two of AgR’s bioinformaticians
(Anar Khan and Rudi Brauning) also spoke at this
conference. Zaneta later presented a talk discussing
Next-Generation sequencing (with a focus on RNASeq)
at a Nutrigenomics workshop in Auckland.
In August, the Manawatu Fonterra Science and
Technology fair for budding scientists (school-aged)
saw several local statisticians volunteering as judges.
Zaneta, Dr Ganesalingam (Massey Uni) and several
post-grad students awarded prizes that were kindly
sponsored by NZSA, Statistics NZ and Massey.
We should have representation at the ASC 2010
in Perth, and at the IBC in Brazil, both in December.
Roger Littlejohn is planning to attend the former, and
Dongwen Luo the latter.
John Waller is back at work full-time after heart
surgery and reports that he is generally doing well.
Chikako van Koten reported the good news that
she and her family and property came through the
earthquake pretty well.
Auckland University of Technology
Murray Black has just returned from a six-month
Vice Chancellors Study Award to work on his
doctoral thesis. Murray is looking to making his
formal submission in the early New Year.
Jeff Hunter has had a busy time with three recent
trips overseas. He was chair of the International
Organising Committee of the International Workshop
on Matrices and Statistics held in Shanghai in
early June. (He preceded this with a 17 day tour
of China. He was the tour leader for a party of
22 some of whom were participating in IWMS.
The tour visited Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Yangshuo,
Yangtze River and Shanghai.) In late June he
was an invited speaker in a mini-symposium on
Markov chains at the International Linear Algebra
Society Annual Conference in Pisa, Italy and in late
August he was an invited speaker at the Second
South Pacific Mathematics Conference in Noumea,
New Caledonia. With the School of Computing
and Mathematical Sciences currently advertising
some new Lectureships in Statistics and Applied
Mathematics he recently accepted secondment
to the role of Head of Mathematical Sciences to
assist AUT with the transition from a polytechnic
to a fully fledged university with significant levels
of research active academic staff. So much for a
In June Farida Kachapova presented a talk at the
NZSA Conference in Palmerston North speaking on
“Population monotony coefficient”.
In August Paul Cowpertwait visited the Operations
Research and Statistics Research Group at the
University of Adelaide where he gave a seminar on
“A spatial-temporal point process model for fine
resolution multisite rainfall data from Roma, Italy”
and a workshop on “R as a Functional Language”.
The workshop went down well - or rather the 400g
chocolate frog did - awarded to the staff member
who came up with the shortest code for factorial n
(gamma(n+1)) but, for those interested in such trivia,
there is an even shorter one which no one got ...
Canterbury Young Statisticians
Recently Statistics New Zealand hosted the first gathering of the Canterbury Young Statisticians (CYS). A young statistician is loosely
defined as someone interested in learning about statistics or someone studying statistics or someone who has been working as a
statistician for less than 5 years. At the CYS gathering there were 18 young statisticians from the University of Canterbury,
not all currently majoring in statistics, as well as 8 young statisticians from Statistics New Zealand (along with 2 not-so-young statisticians).
The meeting started with Rebecca McGirr and Guan Yu (Fish) Zheng from Statistics New Zealand presenting the talks they gave at the NZSA conference.
Afterwards the young statisticians discussed ideas for further CYS gatherings and then had a mixer over pizza where what statisticians actually
do was a common topic of discussion. The gathering finished, by the request of the students, with a guided tour of Dollan House. Everyone got a
real charge out of this meeting and have expressed their appreciation to the organisers who included Becky Collet and Andrew Richens as well as
Fish and Rebecca. For those interested in further CYS events see the CYS Facebook page.
Canterbury Young Statisticians at their mixing event.
Department of Conservation
Minor chaos greeted Ian Westbrooke on his return to the office in Christchurch after 9 weeks away in Europe.
Ian’s office post 7.1 earthquake in Christchurch.
The 7.1 earthquake threw the filing cabinet drawers open, and spilled some contents. A colleague was heard to comment that Ian’s work area
looked pretty much as usual. But no serious damage at work or home. Some DOC colleagues homes were less fortunate - with the main issue
being damaged chimneys. Ian managed to miss the earthquake by a day, by taking an extended tour after the International Conference on
Teaching Statistics in Slovenia, where he presented in a session organised by Jennifer Brown on workplace training in environmental
statistics. Europe was sweltering in a heat wave, with Ljubljana reaching 35C, but fortunately the conference venue was air-conditioned.
There were plenty of New Zealanders enjoying the warmth at ICOTS, and at the International Statistical Ecology conference in Kent the previous week.
Now it is time for Rohan and Ian to catch up on training work at DOC before staff become too absorbed with field work. With the assistance of Tim Robinson (Uni of Wyoming)
they piloted a new three day course on Designing Studies in May. It will be repeated twice in October, and there is a lot of interest for next year. There is also continued
interest in courses on linear and generalised linear models using R, and matrix population modelling.
Rohan and Ian enjoyed catching up with people at the NZSA conference in Palmerston North. They presented on their positive experiences introducing R using the
R Commander Menu interface. There is substantial interest in this and they have made similar presentations at University of Otago Christchurch, and at Landcare Research, Hamilton.
Ian Westbrooke and Maheswaran Rohan
Massey University, Albany Campus
In March, Marti Anderson hosted a one-week workshop
on multivariate analysis for biologists and ecologists,
the second to be held here at Massey Albany, with
a focus on the computer software PERMANOVA+,
which was developed in collaboration with colleagues
at Plymouth Marine Lab (PML) in the UK. Similar
workshops were also presented by Marti in August
in Seattle, Washington, for the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and in June
in Plymouth at the home of the Marine Biological
Association (MBA) of the UK. The MBA lab looks
right out over Plymouth harbour, where Sir Francis
Drake defeated the Spanish Armada. Right down
the lane are also the stone steps down to the water
where Marti’s direct ancestor, William Bradford,
author of the Mayflower Compact, embarked with
his fellow pilgrims to the New World. What goes
around comes around, I guess! Marti also took part
in a workshop for the analysis of beta diversity at
the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and
Synthesis (NCEAS) in Santa Barbara in April. This
was the second of three sessions devoted to the topic,
with the next one to be held in November.
The other exciting news for Marti, post-doc Dr
Mat Pawley, and PhD students Adam Smith and
Oliver Hannaford, was the delivery of a brand new
4.3m Naiad rigid inflatable boat (RIB), which is just
perfect for diving and counting fish (among other
things). While the crew are busy getting together
all of the materials for the boat (the list is long -
everything from lifejackets to scuba tanks) and
brushing up on boating skills, first aid, and other
qualifications, an important decision had to be made
- what shall we call it? We settled on the name “RV
Poisson” (the “RV” bit stands for “Research Vessel”),
which seemed only fitting for a craft specially
designed to serve marine ecological statisticians!
In August Beatrix Jones hosted Anthony Fiumera
from the Biology department at Binghamton
University in Binghamton, New York. They are
working together on a project to detect genetic
variants affecting reproductive success in wild
populations of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster).
Adam Smith successfully completed his PhD
confirmation. Well done Adam! In June, Marie Fitch
presented some of her PhD research at the ‘Sparse
structures: statistical theory and practice, Research
workshop’ in Bristol, UK and the WNAR/IMS
annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. Aside from
the expected relevant presentations and networking
opportunities, a highlight was the Bristol conference
dinner which was held on board the SS Great Britain.
One of the team members, Dr Howard Edwards,
has moved from his old office in the Quad building to
an office in the IIMS building with the rest of us, so
our group is now all housed in the same place at last.
Howard, Beatrix Jones and Marie Fitch have been
beavering away on material for an online textbook
resource for the stage 1 Business Statistics paper.
This project is being co-ordinated by colleagues in
Palmerston North and also involves those teaching
the paper in Wellington. Marie and student Katharina
Parry have also been doing some liaison work with
presentations to local schools. Meanwhile John
Xie, another PhD student, has engaged in more
family-based liaison supporting his son David who
was a member of the team of secondary school
students who brought a gold medal home from the
23rd International Young Physicists’ tournament in
Austria. (Well done.)
Finally, a recent important discovery was the ping
pong table at Ferguson’s, the local pub right here
on the Massey Albany campus. Dr Mat Pawley is
currently the reigning table tennis champion in the
Massey University, Manawatu Campus
Our last newsletter entry heralded the imminent
arrival of a firstborn to Jonathan Godfrey and wife
Olivia. Callum Joseph Godfrey finally saw the
light of day at 2.25pm on Sunday 11 April 2010,
having capriciously missed the newsletter deadline.
Young Callum tipped the scales at 8lbs 9oz. More
recently, Jonathan has been in the news for his Judo
exploits (stuff.co.nz article).
Two of our postgraduates have completed their
PhDs. Ting Wang, Mark Bebbington’s student,
has had her thesis on “Hidden Markov Models for
Geophysical Hazards” accepted (and added to the
Dean’s list). Ting is still at Massey, having taken up
a postdoctoral research position at Volcanic Research
Solutions. She is currently in Europe to attend a
vulcanology workshop in Italy. Maris Isidro, Steve
Haslett’s student, is just completing the emendations
to her thesis on “Intercensal Updating of Small Area
Estimates”. Maris has just started an internship at
the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and
Trade, having moved to Canada to join her husband.
Alasdair Noble is recovering from his leading role
in organizing a very successful NZSA Conference
(report here), just in time to
help Ganes organize the next Palmy Stats meeting
in October (to see the programme click here).
Congratulations to Steve Haslett who was
presented with the Campbell Award at the NZSA
Conference Dinner [article here]. Steve has been travelling a great
deal recently – to China as an invited speaker at the
International Workshop of Matrices in Statistics,
to Canada for the Joint Statistical Meetings, to
Cambodia for a poverty mapping assessment for the
World Food Programme, to Kiribati and Vanuatu for
a UNICEF education project, and to Thailand for an
Martin Hazelton attended the Joint Statistical
Meetings in Vancouver in early August to give a
talk on “Analysis and Modeling of Networks”. He
arrived back in New Zealand in the wee small hours
and, showing true dedication, rushed in to Massey to
give his morning lecture. More recently, Martin gave
the second in the Professorial Lecture series recently
instigated by the Institute of Fundamental Sciences
to showcase the Institute’s research to others. His
lecture on “Change and Changeability: Some
Modern Directions in Statistics (with apologies to
Jane Austen)” drew an unexpectedly large audience.
Whether they were primarily fans of Statistics or
Jane Austen has not been determined.
Doug Stirling has also been building up his
frequent flyer points this year with visits to
Slovenia (ICOTS), Belgium (ENBIS conference)
and Canberra (ANU), and has another trip to Perth
(OZCOTS) planned for December. He has also
been developing CAST-based resources for NZ
high schools to help teach NCEA statistics. How he
finds time to do this is a mystery, as he’s also being
bombarded with requests by the Business Statistics
team who are now using CAST for their first year
Geoff Jones attended the 25th International
Workshop on Statistical Modelling in early July.
This being his first visit to Glasgow, he was quite
surprised to be awakened on his first night by the
sound of breaking bottles and loud shouts in an
unintelligible dialect. It did stop raining at one point,
giving the delegates a chance to explore the beautiful
city. Geoff’s presentation on “A Longitudinal Model
for Multiple Diagnostic Tests” was scheduled as
the first talk on the morning after the Conference
Dinner, but nevertheless a surprising number of
people struggled in to listen to it.
Finally, our re-branding exercise continues:
extramural students are now to be called “distance
students”. No doubt redundancy will soon be rebranded
as “extended leave”.
Plant and Food Research
Our biggest news is no news – we are still looking for
a team leader. Peter Alspach has agreed to be acting
leader until the end of the year.
One of the first things Peter organised was a team
meeting in Palmerston North at the end of June.
There was a good exchange of experiences – Esther
Meenken talked about mixed models and soils,
Andrew Wallace about insect trapping experiments
in Perth, Mark Wohlers about assessing how good
people’s sense of smell is. Andrew McLachlan and
Marcus Davy acquainted us with wikis, sharepoint,
subversion and other collaboration tools.
It was a busy week for Andrew McLachlan – the
day after the team meeting he talked to the young
statisticians at the NZSA conference, and later that
week gave a presentation of GenStat for Schools to
Marcus Davy was an invited speaker at the New
Zealand Next Generation Sequencing Conference
and presented a seminar on quality control issues in
next-generation sequencing experiments. This was
a bit of a hot topic with half of the talks discussing
issues surrounding the technology. He also attended
the BestGRID winter retreat and presented a seminar
on developing and using GenePattern modules for
microarray analysis and next-generation sequencing
in a half hour session with discussion. This involved
an interactive demonstration of developed modules
using a GenePattern server on a laptop.
Mark Wohlers is nearing the end of the first
year of a Master of Applied Statistics course with
Massey University and is starting his thesis project on
design and analysis of odour threshold determination
Esther Meenken will be attending the International
Biometric Conference in Florianopolis, Brazil, in
Statistics New Zealand
I will start my report with our great pride in Mike Doherty and Mike Camden receiving honorary life membership of the NZSA at the recent NZSA conference. As we have no other Mikes working for us we see it
being a few years before having anyone here receiving a similar honour. Our presence at the NZSA conference was large as usual with Chen Chen, Walter Davis, Hazel Kale, Rebecca McGirr,
Tim Hawkes, Andrew Richens and Guan Yu (Fish) Zheng presenting talks. I refer you to the NZSA conference site for details on their 6 talks. Rebecca also filled in for Richard Penny as
secretary for the AGM and got elected to the NZSA executive for her trouble. Richard was re-elected as secretary.
The recent Canterbury earthquake has made the third floor of the Christchurch office where Statistical Methods sits temporarily unusable. As a result we are scattered about the second floor,
though we manage to still have group get togethers, such as for the daily answering of the Dominion Post quiz. Our weekly seminar series continues as well, recently covering such topics as
aspects of the Household Labour Force Survey, the Time Use Survey, composite estimation, businesses’ nonresponse, and data validation methods. We were also fortunate to have Tommaso Proietti,
an Erskine Fellow at Canterbury, present a talk on outliers in time series. This also covered seasonal breaks and we are hoping to work with Tommaso on this in the future. While Tommaso was
available we took the opportunity to host a workshop on temporal disaggregation which gave us some good ideas for our work. Statistics New Zealand was also delighted to host the inaugural
gathering of Canterbury Young Statisticians.
Statistical Methods recently had its annual professional development off-site in Wellington with 2 guests from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Professional development included a
session on how to be a good consultant. It’s somewhat frightening how good most people were at being stroppy clients in the role-playing exercise. Perhaps we’re just good at channelling
the clients we’ve had in the past. While technical issues were covered we also had a debate on “Let the Data Speak”, in which the 6 debaters were somewhat at variance as to what it meant.
Penny Barber provided the highlight when she showed us that we were all evil statisticians! We also recently hosted a group of statisticians from the Korean statistical office which
demonstrated the diversity of our employees as Soon Song, who used to work in the Korean office, and Olivia Son were available to provide translation of the technical discussions.
With the upcoming Population Census in March 2011 and subsequent surveys, such as disability, based on the data from the Census soon after, the people working on those are seeing the end in sight,
though of course this means there is a lot to do. And as data collection for official statistics is like painting a large bridge there is already work under way on the shape of the data collection for 2016 Census.
Given the long time since my last report I need to mention the election to the International Statistical Institute of Christine Bycroft. She has also organised an invited session for next year’s
ISI meeting in Dublin and will be presenting a paper at the Statistics Canada annual methodology symposium in October.
As there are so many I won’t report on the comings and goings since my last report except for the recent departure of Harry Smith after almost 25 years in Statistical Methods, which had him as our
3rd longest serving member.
Statistics Research Associates
The main news from SRA is that recently the SRA directors unanimously elected David Vere-Jones to the position of SRA Distinguished Associate in
recognition of his far-sighted and seminal contributions to SRA over the last decade as foundation director, shareholder and associate of SRA.
These personal contributions have been fundamental in establishing the strong reputation and standing of SRA as a high-quality national and
international statistics research organisation.
Other news: Wang Ting submitted her PhD thesis “Statistical Models for Earthquakes Incorporating Ancillary Data” at the beginning of 2010.
Her oral examination was held in May 2010 which she passed with flying colours! David Vere-Jones and David Harte were co-supervisors with Mark Bebbington at Massey University.
Robert Davies is updating his vehicle crash risk model for Opus International Consultants using an updated set of data.
Peter Thomson continued his involvement with NIWA (focused on weather generator models), the VUW School of Economics and Finance (adjunct professor),
and Keio University, Japan, where he gave an invited paper “Towards a robust statistical framework for the assessment of quality of supply by New
Zealand electricity networks” at a Mini Workshop on Leading Edge Data Analysis. He completed a report for the Electricity Commission that reviewed the
methodology and models used by the Commission for national electricity demand forecasting, undertook consulting for the Department of Corrections,
and presented the paper “A hidden seasonal switching model for high resolution breakpoint rainfall data” (joint with John Sansom) at an invited
session of the fifth International Workshop on Applied Probability (IWAP 2010) held near Madrid.
David Harte was back at the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo again during March, working in Yosi Ogata’s group on spatial ETAS point process models. He has also been involved in a joint OSR
project with Ken Richardson and Kristie Carter at the Wellington School of Medicine applying hidden Markov Models to longitudinal data.
Both David Vere-Jones and David Harte attended the CORSSA workshop at ETH in Zurich in May. The attendees are developing web based resource material for
statistical seismology. David Harte returned via Tokyo and gave a talk at a meeting on Statistical Seismology at the ISM. After the Zurich meeting,
David Vere-Jones visited Katerina Orfanogiannaki at the Institute of Geodynamics in Athens, and also visited Professor Karlis at the University of
Athens where he gave a seminar. On the way back to NZ he visited the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo, and was one of the first guests to
stay in Akaike House. It adjoins the new ISM in Tachikawa.
Much of this news entry concerns reports of people’s travels, along with great news of one new (unpaid) arrival: Mark Johnston and his wife Emily, along with big brother Hamish
(actually, really big for someone who has recently turned two!) welcomed the safe arrival of Benjamin Johnston on 05/05/10; we already see the potential for some maths games
with birth dates... Benjamin took only one hour to arrive following his mum’s check in at the hospital, so he’s already known for his speed out of the blocks.
Congratulations to Mark and Emily! Between teaching and parental leave, Mark managed to fulfil his pre-planned conference visit to the 2010 IEEE World Congress on
Computational Intelligence (18-23 July in Barcelona) where he was an author/presenter on two papers.
Mark’s co-authors included one of our Honours students, Thomas Liddle; Thomas quite recently got married, so congratulations to Thomas too!
In June and July Richard Arnold had an extended visit to Spain and the UK. Richard attended the Bayesian Valencia conference (the last of its kind: from now on
ISBA will have a Bayesian meeting every two years, without returning to a particular location). Shirley Pledger and Richard presented a workshop and
two papers at the International Statistical Ecology Conference at the University of Kent, UK (at which all four workshops were presented by New Zealanders!).
The workshop was on capture-recapture models for open populations (with age structure and heterogeneity of capture probabilities), and the papers were on
clustering of species and habitats in community ecology using finite mixture models. Also in June, Shirley gave a seminar at Murdoch University, Australia,
on pattern-detection models in community ecology.
John Haywood organised the Wellington leg of the New Zealand Statistical Association Visiting Lecturer tour in early July. This year the NZSA Visiting Lecturer was Prof Ingram Olkin (Stanford University),
whose visit was associated with the NZSA / Statistical Methodologies Conference, 29 June-1 July 2010 at Massey University, Palmerston North (see
http://nzsa_cdl_2010.massey.ac.nz/). John also presented a paper at the NZSA Conference and then brought Ingram down to Wellington on 1 July. Prof Olkin gave four talks while in Wellington: a
Wellington Statistics Group talk on 2 July (Meta-Analysis: History and statistical issues for combining the results of independent studies; also see below), a repeat of that first talk to the Ministry of
Education on the morning of 5 July, an afternoon talk on 5 July to Statistics New Zealand (Measures of heterogeneity, diversity and inequality), and a lunch time seminar at Victoria University of Wellington on 6 July
(Life distributions in reliability and survival analysis). See the attached photo of John and Ingram taking a breather while discussing wavelets (or something similar...) at Lake Ferry on
4 July, during Ingram’s Wellington visit. Some details of the rest of Ingram’s NZ tour are here:
John and Ingram taking a breather while discussing wavelets
(or something similar...) at Lake Ferry.
Estate Khmaladze and Ivy Liu both attended the Joint Statistical Meetings in Vancouver (31 July to 5 August). Ivy organized and chaired a session on Novel Methods for Extended Case-Control Designs,
while Estate presented some work in a session on Model Diagnostics. Besides his JSM session, Estate also visited nine other countries on a recent two-month trip overseas (finishing with the JSM),
during which he gave a total of 14 presentations in a very busy schedule. Stefanka Chukova also spent time abroad recently, including a visit to Bulgaria between our trimesters. Fortunately Stefanka
came back to continue leading the preparation for APARM 2010 this coming December, which is shaping up nicely (see http://msor.victoria.ac.nz/Events/APARM2010/).
Estate and Ivy are also involved in the organisation of two further events that we are hosting towards the end of the year, but both preceding APARM 2010. First, along with Dong Wang,
Ivy is organising the visit of Prof Kai-Tai Fang (Chinese Academy of Sciences and BNU-HKBU United International College). Prof Fang will be the 2010 Shayle Searle Visiting Fellow in
Statistics at Victoria University; he will be here in New Zealand from 19 November to 4 December. During his visit, on Tuesday 23 November, Prof Fang will deliver a free one-day short course,
entitled “Computer Experiments: Design and Modeling Workshop”. Further details are available at the course web page, http://msor.victoria.ac.nz/Events/ShortCourse2010.
Secondly, Estate Khmaladze is the main driving force behind the Second Wellington Workshop in Probability and Mathematical Statistics (30 November and 1 December 2010),
which follows on from the first such workshop that ran successfully in November 2009. Helping Estate on the Programme Committee this year are David Vere-Jones and Ilze Ziedins
(University of Auckland). Attendance at the workshop is free, and expressions of interest (along with titles of proposed presentations) should be sent to
Estate Khmaladze or Ilze Ziedins by 31 October 2010. Further details are available at the workshop web page,
http://msor.victoria.ac.nz/Events/WWPMS2010/, which will be regularly updated with any relevant new information.
Some brief but very good news concerning our students is that Giorgi Kvizhinadze (supervised by Estate Khmaladze) successfully defended his PhD entitled “Large number of rare events:
Diversity analysis in multiple choice questionnaires and related topics”. Congratulations to Giorgi!
Wellington Statistics Group
Finally, in news from the Wellington Statistics Group, John Haywood has resumed as WSG convenor, replacing David Harte who has been the convenor since 2007. Recently David
has been out of New Zealand for some lengthy periods and he felt it was time to step down from the role. John was previously convenor from 2001 until 2006. Alistair Gray
continues to be the treasurer and Leigh Roberts usually organises the refreshments, while John maintains the group’s mailing list. WSG talks since the last NZSA newsletter were given by:
26 May 2010, Shirley Pledger and Richard Arnold (VUW), “Clustering and Pattern Detection in Ecological Models Using Mixtures”
2 July 2010, Ingram Olkin (Stanford University, NZSA Visiting Lecturer), “Meta-Analysis: History and Statistical Issues for Combining the Results of Independent Studies”
Further details of these talks can be found on the NZSA Local Groups web page: http://stats.org.nz/local_groups.shtml. This web page also contains contact details
for the group (including the mailing list web interface), names of sponsors, and details of forthcoming (or most recent) talks.
University of Auckland
Chris Wild, Maxine Pfannkuch, and Matt Regan are at the forefront of the international celebrations of World Statistics Day in London on 20.10.2010. They have been selected to
present the keynote paper for the day’s meeting of the Royal Statistical Society, along with co-author Nick Horton, who spent several months in Auckland in 2008. Their paper
will be the showpiece for the RSS’s launch of the international “GETSTATS” 10-year Statistical Literacy Campaign. The talk is entitled “Towards More Accessible Conceptions
of Statistical Inference”. See more at www.rsscse.org.uk/news/rss-news, including details about how to contribute to the article
discussion which will be published in JRSS, Series A.
There must be something in the water... Wayne Stewart has also been invited to give a Plenary Address at a premiere Statistics Education forum: at USCOTS 2011 in North Carolina.
About 500 attendees are expected, and there’s little doubt that Wayne will enthrall them with the antics of Freaky and Tom, his ventriloquist’s dummies who suffer
from a chronic disagreement about the foundations of statistical inference. Congratulations to Chris, Maxine, Matt and Wayne for getting such great platforms to spread the
word about statistics education in New Zealand!
Another big congratulations to Paul Murrell, who has been elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association for his “outstanding contributions to the statistical profession”.
Paul joins Chris Wild and Alastair Scott as NZ’s only three Fellows – and all jolly good ones, too.
Congratulations also to Russell Millar, who has been invited by the IBS to be one of the three co-editors of the A* journal Biometrics. Russell holds the daunting
responsibility of being editorial representative for the “Rest of the World”, which in IBS-speak means everywhere outside of the US and Europe. We dwellers of the
Rest-of-the-World are stoked to have a Kiwi on the editorial band-of-three, and need I point out that now you all know who to blame if your paper doesn’t make it.
We have had some comings and goings of staff recently. Sharon Browning and Brian Browning have departed to take up Associate Professorships at the University of Washington,
Seattle, respectively in Genome Sciences and Biostatistics. Ivan Kojadinovic has returned to his native France to the University of Pau, leaving New Zealand with two children
more than he arrived with in 2007. We have a new full-time Statistical Consulting Service, run by Kathy Ruggiero, Kai Xiong, and Jessica Thomas. Our new professor, Thomas Lumley,
will be arriving any day now from the University of Washington.
Research grant success includes an HRC grant for over $500K to Patricia Metcalf, for “Predictors of CVD mortality and morbidity in NZ adults”; and a Fast-Start Marsden
grant to Mark Holmes for “Random walks in degenerate random environments”. (It is to be hoped that the Statistics Department is not the ‘degenerate random environment’
to which Mark alludes!) Mark has also been awarded a Distinguished Visitor Award to fund a trip to NZ by distinguished UBC mathematician Ed Perkins.
Congratulations also to Stephane Guindon, who has won both an Early Career Research Excellence Award, and a post-doctoral award, from the University. Stephane’s research is
based in the Computational Evolution group, developing methods for studying speciation events using biogeographic and phylogenetic information. The post-doc, Louis Ranjard,
has just arrived. We have also welcomed several new PhD students recently.
The Rise of R continues, and with it Ross Ihaka’s media profile. Most recently, Ross and R have been profiled by ComputerWorld and Mana magazines, and the Sunday Star Times.
If things keep going as they currently R, Ross will have a lot of people to convert when he releases his next language … watch this space!
Drs Lyndon Walker and Derek Law are the latest PhD graduates from our department. Finding himself with time on his hands after finishing his thesis, Lyndon is
standing for the Auckland Supercity as Future West candidate for the Henderson-Massey Local Board. Several of our PhD students have won prizes at local and
international conferences recently – in particular, congratulations to Saddam Abbasi who won a Student Merit Award at the 2010 World Congress on Engineering in London for his work with Arden Miller.
And finally, the surge of baby boys born to department members continues. We have an even more significant p-value to celebrate since the last newsletter! Our running total of
births since 2000 is now 24 boys and 4 girls, bringing our p-value to a whopping(ly small) 0.0002 against equal sex ratio! ... Oh, and welcome to the world
Muhammad Abdullah Asad (son of Ali), and Austin Cunliffe (son of Rachel), excuse us for getting carried away in the excitement of our p-value...
University of Canterbury
Well, the earthquake certainly drove out large numbers of closet statisticians from deep cover. All of a sudden everyone’s an expert and people are sharing graphics, animations and even code to
display the sequence of aftershocks. So, it’s fair to say that Canterbury is the unofficial stats capital of NZ at the moment. As such, there are important questions such as: how did the UC
Statistics Department cope with the big event? Our building suffered no structural damage and it could be said that the holes in Mike Steel’s wall are purely cosmetic. Marco Reale’s room
was a mess, which just goes to show that he has too many books! On the day after the earthquake Jennifer Brown organized a phone check on everyone to make sure everyone was OK, a very
nice touch. On the first day back everyone was hard at work moving the occasional concrete block that had been removed from the walls for safety, sweeping, operating various technical
devices such as vacuum cleaners and lifting back shelves and filing cabinets that had fallen over. Jennifer kindly issued the team with cloths for wiping and dusting and it is possible
that our offices are cleaner now than they were before. Even Reboot (the coffee bar in the building) opened early - an essential aid for useful work. We also discovered that the first
Departmental earthquake baby had arrived - Megan Williams had a baby on that very night! As the days passed, the aftershocks continued quite actively for quite a while. More recently
they have decayed away to the stage where nobody even mentions them, even in large lecture theatres full of students. So, we fared pretty well, but not everyone got off so lightly.
Despite the good humour and team spirit there are many people in the area who lost their homes and the event has been extremely serious for them. Last night’s magnitude 5 aftershock
(October 4) was a reminder of this.
So, is there any statistics news that is not seismically relevant? Or, in the words of the poet: “Hey man, what’s happening?” Anyone who knows the origin of that phrase can apply for a
chocolate fish, but no search engines allowed.
New additions are always exciting and we have three of various types. Congratulations to Carl Scarrott who has a new baby girl in the family. We welcome Xin Zhao, a new
Postdoctoral Fellow working with Marco Reale, Carl Scarrott and Dominic Lee. Also, shortly to arrive is Elena Moltchanova from Finland. She will be establishing a
consulting unit in the Department and is also involved in research and teaching.
Many visitors have passed through recently. Bjarki Eldon from the University of Oxford and Mike DeGiorgio from The University of Michigan have been working with James Degnan,
Trent McDonald from the University of Wyoming has been working with Jennifer, and Marco has emptied large portions of Italy with a stream of visitors from that country.
Staff movements have been considerable. Raaz is on sabbatical leave at the moment and is currently in Bangalore. Dominic has also had sabbatical leave and Irene David and
Jennifer attended ICOTS 2010 in Slovenia to give papers. James Degnan is giving an invited talk at Phylomania (University of Tasmania, Hobart) and Peter Smith is spending
2 months at the CTTC in Barcelona (hopefully a knowledge of Fawlty Towers will come in useful there).
An interesting development is the establishment of an industrial advisory board for the Department. Jennifer arranged the inaugural meeting of the board in October.
As always, the usual apologies and disclaimers for my erratic and probably faulty reporting of stats news from UC.
University of Otago
Peter Dillingham recently returned from the 1st World Seabird Conference in Victoria, British Columbia, where he gave a talk on calculating the number of additional mortalities that
seabird populations can sustain when there is limited data available.
David Fletcher has been enjoying the delights of life on sabbatical leave. He is visiting Michael Schaub at the University of Bern, to work on statistical issues involved in estimating
immigration rates in animal populations, and Byron Morgan at the University of Kent, finishing off work on estimation of overdispersion in sparse count data. He also presented a paper
on model-averaged confidence intervals at the International Statistical Ecology Conference in Kent in July.
John Harraway attended the International Conference on Teaching Statistics in Ljubljana, Slovenia in July. John chaired the International Programme Committee which structured a programme
involving all aspects of statistics education. As well as presenting a paper of his own John presented a paper for Austina Clark who was not able to attend. John also arranged workshops on the
new free GenStat Schools package. Jeanette Chapman, Head of Mathematics at Otago Girls High School, described the lessons she has developed for this free-to-use software.
After Slovenia John went to Iceland representing the International Association of Statistics Education at the two day Council Meeting of the International Statistical Institute.
John was also fortunate to gain one of the Teaching Excellence Awards at the University of Otago this year.
Laimonis Kavalieris spent the mid-semester break in the Czech Republic attending the "Prague Stochastics 2010" conference. As well as presenting a paper "Estimating the number of breakpoints in a time series"
he spent an enjoyable week sampling Czech beer, gulas, clobassi and dumplings from cafes in Prague and its surroundings.
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