Statistique dans Le Monde

Again, some relevant entries in the weekend edition of Le Monde: a paper on Nate Silver and his FivThirtyEight blog, with a short description of his statistical approach, namely to pool all existing polls in a sort of meta-analysis. Not going as far as mentioning LOESS or nearest neighbour regression techniques. [Even less Bayesian!] For this, the FAQ of FivThirtyEight is much more explicit:

Firstly, we assign each poll a weighting based on that pollster’s historical track record, the poll’s sample size, and the recentness of the poll. More reliable polls are weighted more heavily in our averages.

Secondly, we include a regression estimate based on the demographics in each state among our ‘polls’, which helps to account for outlier polls and to keep the polling in its proper context.

Thirdly, we use an inferential process to compute a rolling trendline that allows us to adjust results in states that have not been polled recently and make them ‘current’.

Fourthly, we simulate the election 10,000 times for each site update in order to provide a probabilistic assessment of electoral outcomes based on a historical analysis of polling data since 1952. The simulation further accounts for the fact that similar states are likely to move together, e.g. future polling movement in states like Michigan and Ohio, or North and South Carolina, is likely to be in the same direction

The second paper is a tribune written by Marc Lavielle, senior researcher at INRIA Saclay, on the (French) debate surrounding the recent publication of a study by Séralini et al. on the toxicity of the genetically modified NK603 (Monsanto) corn. Part of the controversy stems form the fact that this paper was distributed to the media prior to its publication with a confidentiality contract that prevented the media to consult other experts (but not from publishing nonsensical definitive headlines). Another part of the controversy comes from the publication by six of the French Académies (namely, Science, Agriculture, Medicine, Pharmacy, Technologies, and Veterinary) of a statement concluding to the lack of reliability of the Food and Chemical Toxicology paper by Séralini et al., followed by another tribune written by Paul Deheuvels, professor of statistics at Université Pierre et Marie Curie and member of the Académie des Sciences, tribune in which he disagrees with the opinion expressed in this statement and legitimately complains not being consulted while being the sole statistician member of the Academy of Sciences. (This debate was also reported in the recent October recap of CNRS Images des Mathématiques.)

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