Via the [financial and technical] support of Springer, probability and statistics societies are launching a specialised wiki called StatProb. It operates as a wiki in that authors can submit short articles on any topic, with further co-authors joining in later to improve those articles, but with the contents guaranteed via the filter of an editorial board. The members of the board and subsequent associate editors are nominated by the statistical societies involved in the project. (For instance, I was nominated by the Royal Statistical Society., Susie Bayarri by ISBA, George Casella by the ASA, etc.) As a starting basis, StatProb will reproduce a few hundred entries from the incoming International Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences edited by Miodrag Lovric (to which I contributed). Obviously, the wiki will only work if enough contributors submit their piece and make StatProb a reference for statistics. I joined the project because, as opposed to costly encyclopedias, wikis are living things that evolve with the field (if enough activity is maintained by its members) and that can be accessed freely by all. Another good thing about StatProb is that entries are submitted in LaTeX, making the output looking fairly reasonnable. (To start the ball rolling, we submitted this short piece on random number generation with George Casella, exctacted from an older piece that had been sitting around for a while. It does not mean to be the only piece on random number generation, nor on MCMC or Monte Carlo methods. And it can be updated and augmented as in other wikis.) Unless I am confused, I think the site will be officially launched at JSM 2010 in Vancouver this weekend.
Archive for encyclopedia
Having been asked to fill an entry on Monte Carlo for the incoming International Handbook of Statistical Sciences, I obliged by writing a short piece, whose utility is rather limited. Indeed, I am afraid I am not very much convinced of the use of such encyclopedias, as they try to provide entries on about “everything” but end up being partial, quickly obsolete, and not so informative… This may sound overly negative, but I never ever use this kind of books for my research or my teaching, so I wonder who does. Encyclopedias (encyclopedii?) were fine when the “whole” of Science could be crammed in three dozen volumes with a slow enough updating process. Current students most likely check on Wikipedia or at large on the Web and, given the price of those behemoths, it seems only libraries can afford them, and then this may be wasted money anyway! My misgivings actually extend to contributed volumes that are (were?) fairly common, mostly in connection with one conference or another, and whose utility is rarely demonstrated. It takes highly dedicated editors to turn contributed volumes into useful coherent books, one example being the 1996 MCMC in Practice book deeply edited by Wally Gilks, Sylvia Richardson and David Spiegelhalter, that still serves as a reference for MCMC methods. Even the traditional Valencia volumes, while giving a snapshot of the on-going research in Bayesian statistics, along with a collection of discussions, have lost some of their luster, when compared with the impact of a discussion paper in Bayesian Analysis… Having conference papers submitted to Bayesian Analysis and selected on the same basis as regular papers, as was done for Valencia 8, seems to me a much better idea than publishing separately a rather costly volume, not read by enough people. (The dates and locations of Valencia 9, the last of the kind, have been announced. It will be in Benidorm, on June 3-8, 2010.)