The need for stats and maths in industry

I’m not that good at maths and statistics. In my research life, I generally used the G-test. You know, the one where you say “Gee, those treatments look different” and then you get a statistician to help. I never really learnt to apply the statistics, but eventually learnt to seek the help of a statistician before doing an experiment.

The fact is, I found maths and stats a little bit scary.  So I was secretly a bit pleased to see this article by current Prime Minister’s Prize for Science winner, Terence Speed in the March issue of News from the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (not one of my regular bulletins you might have gathered already, hence it’s taken a few months to come to my attention). Professor Speed questions why mathematicians and statisticians shy away from industry. Maybe it’s the same reason I shied away from statistics – fear?

Well there is one excellent way to break done some of the barriers. The CRC Association has advocated using AMSI Intern for some time now and AMSI Intern doesn’t just place students in Mathematics & Statistics, but placing students across all disciplines and with all industry sectors. Nearly every CRC tries, with varying degrees of success, to build industry intern programs. CRCs fund about 5-6% of all PhD candidates in the country and most of them have industry-based co-supervisors. In quite a few cases, the candidates are physically based with the industry partner. One or two CRCs have taken policy decisions that all their PhD candidates will be based with industry.

In the case of PhDs, the CRC is usually in a good position to organise the industry-academic link. But when a CRC is trying to build more of a pipeline of student relations with their industry, so that undergraduates and Masters candidates are getting that experience, I see less success. Sometimes it sits in that “important but not urgent quadrant” and little action happens early in the CRC’s life. That’s where using the AMSI Intern system might be an attractive alternative. The equivalent program in Canada places about 2000 interns a year and I was disappointed to hear that early last year that some Commonwealth funding has been redirected from AMSI Intern to other programs. These programs are not simple (hence the oft-repeated experience in CRCs I’ve observed). So using an established, professional programs is a major advantage. If you are thinking about establishing an industry intern program, think about using AMSI Intern.


Tony Peacock
CEO, CRC Association