Celebrating 100 years of statistics

Senior Professor Brian Cullis and Associate Professor Alison Smith recently gave the prestigious 39th Fisher Memorial lecture.

The lecture was part of a conference celebrating the life and work of statistician, evolutionary biologist and geneticist, Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher. The event seeks to maintain his scientific legacy by encouraging discussion of the scientific fields in which he was active.

“The conference itself was excellent, with numerous interesting talks and plenty of opportunity for informal discussions with fellow overseas statisticians,” said Professor Smith.

“A highlight of the social program for us was an exhibition celebrating 100 years of statistical research at Rothamsted.”

The professors were chosen by the Fisher Memorial Trust Committee, which is chaired by Sir Walter Bodmer, Fellow of the Royal Society and includes representatives from the Biometric Society, Genetics Society, Royal Society and Royal Statistical Society.

The husband and wife duo collaborate extensively with researchers at Rothamsted Research UK, which is where R.A. Fisher developed much of the foundations and methods of modern statistics, including developing the theory and methods of rigorous experimental design and analysis.

Professor Cullis is Director of the Centre for Bioinformatics and Biometrics and Professor Smith is Principal Research Fellow. Their research focuses on developing and applying appropriate statistical methodologies for the design, analysis and interpretation of bioscience research activities across agriculture, forestry and other sustainable primary industries.

The methods they have developed improve cost efficiency, sound inference and encourage rapid adoption of research outcomes in bio-sciences. For example, some of their research has been funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, where they were involved in the National Variety Testing project where crop variations were tested across the Australian grain belt with a view to providing information to growers about which varieties perform best in their local environment.

With over 200 publications in statistics, agriculture and biological sciences, genetics, and environmental sciences, these researchers are working extensively with major players in agriculture and biometrics, in Australia and internationally.