Jean Thompson Award

2023 Recipient: Neil Cox

Neil has made a tremendous contribution to the application of statistical methods in New Zealand industries. Neil has been a statistician with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and continuing with the formation of AgResearch. He has collaborated in a wide range of projects including meat quality, deer production, field greenhouse gas emissions, animal behaviour and welfare, pasture management, plant production, animal reproduction, wool production, pest management, water quality, traceability, and defect testing. Since his “retirement”, in addition to his continued collaborations with AgResearch scientists, he has also been collaborating with the likes of Zespri and the Waikato Regional Council.

One of Neil’s strengths has been the way he can precisely and coherently describe the methods used and the meaning of those analyses. Neil’s influence in good research has also been mediated through other statisticians due to his leadership and mentorship within and beyond AgResearch.

Here is a quote from one of the testimonials supporting Neil’s nomination: “Through working with Neil, I have learnt so much; his encouragement of statistical thinking and practice has shaped me as a researcher.”

The NZSA Jean Thompson Award recognizes excellence in the application of statistics in New Zealand industry, including business, Crown Research Institutes, government agencies and departments, media, etc. The award celebrates the insightful use of statistical thinking and practice in solving practical problems and creating value.

Next Round

  • Next round opens: TBC (August 2024)
  • Next round closes: TBC

Nominations should be sent to the Convenor of the NZSA Awards Committee, by email at

Award Details


This award celebrates statistical excellence by practitioners in New Zealand industry. It recognises outstanding levels of impact in the application of existing or new statistical methods to New Zealand industry, and the exemplification of good statistical practice.

We look for candidates that have demonstrated statistical leadership in one or more of the following:

  • The judicious application of existing statistical methods leading to positive and significant practical impact to industry
  • The development of a new statistical method or tool that has led to an important industry outcome or impact
  • The encouragement and promotion of statistical thinking and practice in New Zealand industry. Examples include statistical education, mentoring, coaching, development of industry guidelines
  • Actions that lead to better use of data, and/or improve the quality of statistical research (including data quality, management, analysis, communication of statistical concepts and outputs, data sovereignty, etc)
  • A focus on building strong and productive professional relationships with stakeholders and clients, in order to better understand and effectively address their needs

Candidates must be financial members of the Association.

Previous recipients of the award are ineligible for nomination for a period of five years following their win.


Candidates can self-nominate, be nominated by an individual, or a group of individuals.

Nominators may be non-NZSA members.

Nominations will be assessed by the NZSA Awards Committee.

The nomination must provide evidence of sustained and/or significant positive impact to New Zealand industry through the application of statistical excellence. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • Testimonials from colleagues, managers or stakeholders
  • Evidenced documentation of impact or outcomes
  • Scientific papers or other outputs
  • Work (or the core methodology of the work) that is in the public domain and adheres to Open principles

The nomination should include a citation of max 40 words that summarizes the application.


The Jean Thompson award was established in 2022 and is named after the inspirational New Zealand Statistician C. Jean Thompson.  Jean worked as a consultant on topics including earthquakes, horticulture, microbiology and educational achievement, to name a few.

Jean has made an outstanding contribution to the New Zealand Statistics Association.  She has held many roles, including President (1991-93), Secretary-Treasurer (1962-63) and Secretary (1987-88). She was also a founding member of the Education Committee, serving on the committee for many years.  Jean was made a life member of the Association in 2006.

Jean has led the way for women in statistics in New Zealand.  In 1993 she was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal in recognition of her work encouraging young women to further their studies in mathematics and statistics.  In 2017, she was selected as one of the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s “150 women in 150 words“, which celebrated the contributions of women to knowledge in New Zealand. Furthermore, she was instrumental in the publication of a book, Women with maths: making a difference, which tells the story of New Zealand women for whom a knowledge of statistics or mathematics had enabled an interesting career or lifestyle.

Jean spent 30 years working for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. She used New Zealand’s first scientific computer, an Elliot 503, enabling analyses that had not been practical before and a much wider use of experimental design methods.  After 1992, when the Applied Mathematics Division of the DSIR was closed down, she established her own consulting company and continued to work applying a statistical approach to problem solving in general.


If you have any queries about making a nomination/application for this award please email the Convenor of the Awards Committee.

Recipients of the NZSA Jean Thompson Award are:
YearRecipients of the Jean Thompson Award 
2023Neil Cox
2022Ian Westbrooke