Archive for Germany


Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2020 by xi'an

Another series I watched during quarantine is the short and powerful Unorthodox, by Anna Winger, featuring the fantastic actress Shira Haas as Etsy, fleeing her unhappy marriage and the stifling rules set by her Hasidic community in Williamsburg, New York, to seek refuge in Berlin, although ambivalent to get help from her distanced mother once there. I found the story quite moving and intense in the slow unfolding of Etsy’s progressive unraveling of her un-orthodoxy and of her desperate escape into a world she knows nothing about. While her difficulties in apprehending this new universe are well rendered, I however find the part of the story when she joins a friendly group of music students somewhat too lazy a plot, although her fight there for achieving autonomy by herself only is remarkably transcribed. I am equally quite impressed by the show immersion into the Hasidic community, which is putting a considerable effort in replacing their tradition into an historical perspective and exposing the outworldly separation between men and women, who are essentially reduced to becoming mothers. The main strength of Unorthodox is that it keeps away from manichaeism, with people stuck into a frozen tradition and not seeing the oppression it induces. As most often with fundamentalism.

postdoc in Bayesian machine learning in Berlin [reposted]

Posted in R, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2019 by xi'an

The working group of Statistics at Humboldt University of Berlin invites applications for one Postdoctoral research fellow (full-time employment, 3 years with extension possible) to contribute to the research on mathematical and statistical aspects of (Bayesian) learning approaches. The research positions are associated with the Emmy Noether group Regression Models beyond the Mean – A Bayesian Approach to Machine Learning and working group of Applied Statistics at the School of Business and Economics at Humboldt-Universität Berlin. Opportunities for own scientific qualification (PhD)/career development are provided, see an overview and further links. The positions are to be filled at the earliest possible date and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the Emmy Noether programme.

– an outstanding PhD in Statistics, Mathematics, or related field with specialisation in Statistics, Data Science or Mathematics;
– a strong background in at least one of the following fields: mathematical statistics, computational methods, Bayesian statistics, statistical learning, advanced regression modelling;
– a thorough mathematical understanding.
– substantial experience in scientific programming with Matlab, Python, C/C++, R or similar;
– strong interest in developing novel statistical methodology and its applications in various fields such as economics or natural and life sciences;
– a very good communication skills and team experience, proficiency of the written and spoken English language (German is not obligatory).

We offer the unique environment of young researchers and leading international experts in the fields. The vibrant international network includes established collaborations in Singapore and Australia. The positions offer potential to closely work with several applied sciences. Information about the research profile of the research group and further contact details can be found here. The positions are paid according to the Civil Service rates of the German States “TV-L”, E13 (if suitably qualified).

Applications should include:
– a CV with list of publications
– a motivational statement (at most one page) explaining the applicant’s interest in the announced position as well as their relevant skills and experience
– copies of degrees/university transcripts
– names and email addresses of at least two professors that may provide letters of recommendation directly to the hiring committee Applications should be sent as a single PDF file to: Prof. Dr. Nadja Klein (nadja.klein[at], whom you may also contact for questions concerning this job post. Please indicate “Research Position Emmy Noether”.

Application deadline: 31st of January 2020

HU is seeking to increase the proportion of women in research and teaching, and specifically encourages qualified female scholars to apply. Severely disabled applicants with equivalent qualifications will be given preferential consideration. People with an immigration background are specifically encouraged to apply. Since we will not return your documents, please submit copies in the application only.

Die Mauer ist weg!

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2019 by xi'an

Hausdorff school on MCMC [28 March-02 April, 2020]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2019 by xi'an

The Hausdorff Centre for Mathematics will hold a week on recent advances in MCMC in Bonn, Germany, March 30 – April 3, 2020. Preceded by two days of tutorials. (“These tutorials will introduce basic MCMC methods and mathematical tools for studying the convergence to the invariant measure.”) There is travel support available, but the application deadline is quite close, as of 30 September.

Note that, in a Spring of German conference, the SIAM Conference on Uncertainty Quantification will take place in Munich (Garching) the week before, on March 24-27. With at least one likelihood-free session. Not to mention the ABC in Grenoble workshop in France, on 19-20 March. (Although these places are not exactly nearby!)

9 pitfalls of data science [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2019 by xi'an

I received The 9 pitfalls of data science by Gary Smith [who has written a significant number of general public books on personal investment, statistics and AIs] and Jay Cordes from OUP for review a few weeks ago and read it on my trip to Salzburg. This short book contains a lot of anecdotes and what I would qualify of small talk on job experiences and colleagues’ idiosyncrasies…. More fundamentally, it reads as a sequence of examples of bad or misused statistics, as many general public books on statistics do, but with little to say on how to spot such misuses of statistics. Its title (It seems like the 9 pitfalls of… is a rather common début for a book title!) however started a (short) conversation with my neighbour on the train to Salzburg as she wanted to know if the job opportunities in data sciences were better in Germany than in Austria. A practically important question for which I had no clue. And I do not think the book would have helped either! (My neighbour in the earlier plane to München had a book on growing lotus, which was not particularly enticing for launching a conversation either.)

Chapter I “Using bad data” is made of examples of truncated or cherry picked data often associated with poor graphics. Only one dimensional outcome and also very US centric. Chapter II “Data before theory” highlights spurious correlations and post hoc predictions, criticism of data mining, some examples being quite standard. Chapter III “Worshiping maths” sounds like the perfect opposite of the previous cahpter: it discusses the fact that all models are wrong but some may be more wrong than others. And gives examples of over fitting, p-value hacking, regression applied to longitudinal data. With the message that (maths) assumptions are handy and helpful but not always realistic. Chapter IV “Worshiping computers” is about the new golden calf and contains rather standard stuff on trusting the computer output because it is a machine. However, the book is somewhat falling foul of the same mistake by trusting a Monte Carlo simulation of a shortfall probability for retirees since Monte Carlo also depends on a model! Computer simulations may be fine for Bingo night or poker tournaments but much more uncertain for complex decisions like retirement investments. It is also missing the biasing aspects in constructing recidivism prediction models pointed out in Weapons of math destruction. Until Chapter 9 at least. The chapter is also mentioning adversarial attacks if not GANs (!). Chapter V “Torturing data” mentions famous cheaters like Wansink of the bottomless bowl and pizza papers and contains more about p-hacking and reproducibility. Chapter VI “Fooling yourself” is a rather weak chapter in my opinion. Apart from Ioannidis take on Theranos’ lack of scientific backing, it spends quite a lot of space on stories about poker gains in the unregulated era of online poker, with boasts of significant gains that are possibly earned from compulsive gamblers playing their family savings, which is not particularly praiseworthy. And about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Chapter VII “Correlation vs causation” predictably mentions Judea Pearl (whose book of why I just could not finish after reading one rant too many about statisticians being unable to get causality right! Especially after discussing the book with Andrew.). But not so much to gather from the chapter, which could have instead delved into deep learning and its ways to avoid overfitting. The first example of this chapter is more about confusing conditionals (what is conditional on what?) than turning causation around. Chapter VII “Regression to the mean” sees Galton’s quincunx reappearing here after Pearl’s book where I learned (and checked with Steve Stiegler) that the device was indeed intended for that purpose of illustrating regression to the mean. While the attractive fallacy is worth pointing out there are much worse abuses of regression that could be presented. CHANCE’s Howard Wainer also makes an appearance along SAT scores. Chapter IX “Doing harm” does engage into the issue that predicting social features like recidivism by a (black box) software is highly worrying (and just plain wrong) if only because of this black box nature. Moving predictably to chess and go with the right comment that this does not say much about real data problems. A word of warning about DNA testing containing very little about ancestry, if only because of the company limited and biased database. With further calls for data privacy and a rather useless entry on North Korea. Chapter X “The Great Recession“, which discusses the subprime scandal (as in Stewart’s book), contains a set of (mostly superfluous) equations from Samuelson’s paper (supposed to scare or impress the reader?!) leading to the rather obvious result that the expected concave utility of a weighted average of iid positive rvs is maximal when all the weights are equal, result that is criticised by laughing at the assumption of iid-ness in the case of mortgages. Along with those who bought exotic derivatives whose construction they could not understand. The (short) chapter keeps going through all the (a posteriori) obvious ingredients for a financial disaster to link them to most of the nine pitfalls. Except the second about data before theory, because there was no data, only theory with no connection with reality. This final chapter is rather enjoyable, if coming after the facts. And containing this altogether unnecessary mathematical entry. [Usual warning: this review or a revised version of it is likely to appear in CHANCE, in my book reviews column.]