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One-day symposium to honour Otago statistician

Thursday, 31 August 2017 10:13pm

The work and influence of Associate Professor John Harraway will be celebrated with a one-day symposium at the University tomorrow.

Associate Professor John Harraway’s contributions to statistics in New Zealand and around the world will be celebrated tomorrow, with a one-day symposium organised in his honour.

Associate Professor Harraway officially retired from Otago’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics in April last year. Tomorrow statisticians from around New Zealand and the globe will gather, and give 10- or 20-minute talks about Associate Professor Harraway’s research and career. The talks will be based on personal recollections of working with him, or on research undertaken with him or inspired by him, or will be a blend of the two. They will later be collated into a festschrift and gifted to Associate Professor Harraway.

The symposium is being organised by members of the Box Plot network – a group of statisticians from across the University of Otago or based in the Otago area. The co-organisers, Dr Matthew Parry of Mathematics and Statistics and Claire Cameron and Jimmy Zeng of Preventive and Social Medicine, say they wanted to find a way to honour Associate Professor Harraway.

"We had people from all over the world sending us messages to be read out on the day, all praising his tireless efforts on behalf of statistics and statistics education."

“It is safe to say that almost of all of us have either been taught by John or worked with John or simply benefited from his contribution to statistics and Otago for over 50 years,” Dr Parry says. “When John retired, we felt that a festschrift or a symposium in his honour would be perfect way to get us together to thank him and to celebrate all he had achieved.”

He says the response to the symposium has been rather overwhelming.

“The truth is John’s influence goes beyond Otago and even New Zealand. We had people from all over the world sending us messages to be read out on the day, all praising his tireless efforts on behalf of statistics and statistics education.”

Speakers include the President of the International Statistical Institute Emerita Professor Helen MacGillivray, who is based in Brisbane; Families Commissioner Len Cook (former National Statistician of the UK); Professor Sharleen Forbes (former Adjunct Professor of Official Statistics, Victoria University of Wellington; former GM, Statistics Education and Research, Statistics NZ) and Professor Bryan Manly of Otago’s Dunedin School of Medicine.

Dr Parry says such is Professor Harraway’s influence, that Emerita Professor MacGillivray said yes and booked her flight within a day of being invited.

"I did not expect this and I am very, very grateful to Matt Parry who has taken this initiative."

Over 50 plus years Associate Professor Harraway has made incredible contributions in both his research and his teaching. In 2010 he won a Teaching Excellence Award from the University. He has been involved in the production of statistics videos and apps. He is a past president of the International Association for Statistical Education, has been Chief Examiner in Statistics for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and has made a valued contribution to a large number of research projects, including analyses of dolphin behaviour and habitat selection of wild animals, nutrition in infants, alcohol consumption in pregnancy, forensic trace element analysis, and attitudes of students to sustainability.Associate Professor Harraway says he is touched that this symposium is being organised for him.

“I did not expect this and I am very, very grateful to Matt Parry who has taken this initiative.

“I am looking forward to meeting those who are presenting talks or papers. They are all people I have collaborated with, published with, people I have lectured to up to 52 years ago and people I have worked with internationally on the various committees I have served on and the various conferences I have organised.”

The symposium will be held tomorrow, Friday 1 September at the Moot Court in the Richardson Building. The programme can be found here.

A busy retirement

While officially retired, Associate Professor Harraway continues to work – teaching several courses, and attending the World Statistics Congress in Marrakech earlier this year, where he chaired several meetings for the Advisory Board of the International Statistics Literacy Project.

In the next 12 months he will work with Preventive and Social Medicine’s Dr Sheryl Parackal to analyse data on the relationship between ethnic groups in New Zealand and different methods of contraception.

He is also Treasurer of the Lions Magic Show Charitable Trust and has been asked to be Treasurer of three local organisations – but has told them to "wait in the meantime".