David Steel did his undergraduate studies at the University of Adelaide, completing a BSc with majors in Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics in 1973. In 1974 he undertook an honours year in Mathematical Statistics supported by a Cadetship from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). He then moved to the Statistical Service Branch in the ABS's central office in Canberra where he learnt the craft of sample survey design and estimation, working on the design and analysis of large number of social and economic surveys. He also developed the skills of being an effective statistical consultant. During 1977-78 he did a Masters Degree in Statistics by coursework at the Australian National University, part time. Ken Foreman and Noel Purcell encouraged him to undertake more advanced studies overseas. In 1982 he obtained a Public Service Postgraduate Study Award, which enabled him to undertake a PhD in the Department of Social Statistics at the University of Southampton under the Supervision of Professor Tim Holt. He was also benefited from many discussions with Professor Fred Smith and Chris Skinner. The time at Southampton made clear the fundamental role that the complex structure that populations studied in social and economic research have on statistical design and analysis. He completed his PhD in 1985 and returned to the ABS to become Director of the Sampling (Social Statistics) section.
While Director of the Sampling area, he provided sampling and other statistical services to the Social, Labour and Demography Division within the ABS. This involved developing the sample design, estimation and analysis procedures for a large range of surveys, including the ABSs main household survey the Monthly Labour Force survey, the Household Expenditure survey and the National Health survey. He undertook research into methods of producing estimates from sample surveys for small geographic areas, non-sampling errors in statistical collections, time series methods in the design and estimation of repeated surveys, and the use of telephone and other methods in sample selection and data collection. In 1998 he was promoted to head a branch responsible for a large range of Economic statistics including detailed statistics on the Manufacturing, Distribution and Service industries as well as a number of important regular economic indicators, including Capital Expenditure, Manufacturers' Sales and Indexes of Production, Company Profits, Business Stocks and Retail Trade. He was also responsible for statistics on Science and Technology and Small Businesses.
In 1992 he moved to the University of Wollongong so that he could research more deeply into the issues associated with obtaining and analysing data from real world populations. He is a Professor in the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics and lectures in applied statistics, including survey design and analysis. He continues consulting and research into survey methods, statistical design and analysis for survey, census and aggregate data. He is Director of the Centre for Statistical and Survey Methodology at the University of Wollongong. He leads a research team focusing on survey methodology, sample survey design and analysis methods for complex social and economic data. Ten ARC or NHMRC grants have supported this research since 1995. Over twenty refereed journal articles and book chapters in survey and statistical design and analysis have appeared during 2000-2005. He has read invited papers at the Royal Statistical Society, International Statistical Institute and various specialist conferences on sample surveys. He was formerly Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Informatics and member of the University Research Committee.
Prof Steel is an accredited statistician with Statistical Society of Australia and member of accreditation committee. He is a foundation member of Methodological Advisory Committee for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and international assessor for the ARC and the UK ESRC. David is chair of the programme committee for the invited papers in sample surveys at the meeting of the International Statistical Institute to be held in Lisbon.
Prof Steel has active links with industry, which includes projects with ABS, NZ Ministry of Health, NSW Health and Statistics New Zealand. He prepared a major report for UK Office for National Statistics, considered by UK Parliamentary Committee, on the development of a monthly labour force survey.
Prof Steel is leader of the Applied Statistics Education and Research Collaboration, which is funded by a major grant from DEST under the Collaboration and Structural Reform Fund. This project involved the University of Newcastle, University of New England, University of Western Sydney as well as the University of Wollongong.