The department contributed towards fulfilling its social and professional responsibility through the following activities:
The World Year of Statistics, a global initiative launched by the American Statistical Association (ASA), was celebrated at UP on 3 October 2013 with a gala event, hosted in the Aula Foyer. This initiative at UP aimed to promote awareness and importance of statistics across all fields, and in the daily life of all associated with UP. A wide array of dignitaries was present, not only from UP, but also from other esteemed institutions such as The SAS Institute, StatsSA, the National Research Foundation, and various other companies and representatives from industry.
As part of these celebrations, a competition (WYSUP2013 competition) was launched by the Department of Statistics earlier this year, with a theme of “Unexpected Statistics”. Entries had to be visual in nature and exhibit statistics in a relevant way. Michaela Giocovazzi, a 2nd year BSc Actuarial Science student, came out on top to win the grand 1st prize of R 15 000 cash (generously sponsored by The SAS Institute). Ms Giocovazzi’s entry was a canvas, the size of a door, with over a 1000 white origami shirts pasted on it – with one single red shirt – her unexpected statistic.
The gala event program consisted of addresses by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, prof. Cheryl de la Rey, mr. Pali Lehohla (Statistician-General of StatsSA), dr. Roelof Coetzer (president of the South African Statistical Association), mr. Desan Naidoo (Managing Director of The SAS Institute, Southern Africa), and special guest prof. Michael Greenacre – acclaimed academic from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain. Prof. Greenacre delivered an address incorporating his pianistic skills to great entertainment of the audience, whilst also maintaining an informative and relevant view on statistics. The SAS institute was the sponsor for this event and their involvement (and continued involvement) resulted in its remarkable success.
Hosting the 2015 SASA conference in association with Statistics South Africa
The conference was being organised by the department, proposing and implementing a new benchmark format for SASA conferences in South Africa. This format included as many as 30 international plenary speakers. The presence of Minister Jeff Radebe (The Presidency, For Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation) and Pali Lehohla (Statistician General, StatsSA) made the SASA conference 2015 very high profile, especially the opening address of Minister Radebe. The conference addressed a wide range of important issues relating to the South African statistical community. An impressive line-up of national and international speakers was present, of which 30 international delegates were part of the plenary and parallel special sessions. Plenary speakers included Prof Din Chen (Biostatistician, Rochester University) who talked about statistical meta-analysis and its efficiency, which provided an overview to meta-analysis with summary statistics on both fixed-effects and random effects models which incorporate within or between study variation; Walter Radermacher (Director General of Eurostat and Chief Statistician of the European Union) gave a talk on official statistics and the challenges that statisticians face, since society is evolving rapidly and becoming more and more data and technologically driven and Dr Robert N. Rodriguez (Senior Director of Research and Development at the SAS institute and 2012 President of the American Statistical Association) who questioned whether the statistics profession is prepared for the world of big data, since the demand for statistical skills has never been greater in areas of business, government and research. By receiving these international speakers, South Africa will stay on top of the game of international academic trends in the field of statistics.
A Data Science Summit linked to the 2015 SASA conference was arranged to promote the advantages of the required skills sets. An international panel, invited by the department, discussed the data science domain and the latest advances; followed by a workshop on text analytics.