Archive for JSM 2020

out-standing scientist

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2021 by xi'an

I noticed quite recently that the [Nature] journal Heredity [managed by the Genetics Society] had published an historical / opinion piece on Ronald Fisher and his views on eugenics and race. The authors are all trustees of the Fisher Memorial Trust. The core of the paper contents was also contained in [one of the authors] Stephen Senn’s talk at the JSM round table (I also took part in) and later at the RSS. This is mostly an attempt at resetting Fisher’s position within the era when he lived, in terms of prevalent racism, nationalism, and imperialism. At the core of these woes was a generalised belief in the superiority of some nations, creeds, human groups, even social classes, over others, that was used as a justification in the tragedies of large scale colonialism, the first World War, systemic racism, Nazism, and widespread forced sterilisations….

More attention to the History of Science is needed, as much by scientists as by historians, and especially by biologists, and this should mean a deliberate attempt to understand the thoughts of the great masters of the past, to see in what circumstances or intellectual milieu their ideas were formed, where they took the wrong turning  track or stopped short of the right.”  R.A. Fisher (1959)

While I am thinking the authors are somewhat stretching the arguments isolating Ronald from the worst manifestations of eugenism and racism, as the concept of “voluntary sterilisation” is more than debatable when applied to patients with limited intellectual abilities, as Fisher considered (in 1943) that the Nazi racial laws “have been successful with the best type of German” (which stands as a fairly stupid statement on so many levels, starting with the one that this racial selection had only started a few years before!) and “that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock” (in 1948), my already made point is rather that the general tendency of turning genii into saints is bound to meet with disappointment. (Hence, if we have to stick with them, named lectures, prizes, memorials, &tc., should come with an expiration date!)

slides of the JSM round table

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , on August 7, 2020 by xi'an

Here are the slides I built as support of my discussion, inspired by readings like Kevles’ In the Name of Eugenism and others listed on the final slide, as well as Wikipedia entries. Nothing original or new, to be sure.

computational advances in approximate Bayesian methods [at JSM]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on August 5, 2020 by xi'an

Another broadcast for an ABC (or rather ABM) session at JSM, organised and chaired by Robert Kohn, taking place tomorrow at 10am, ET, i.e., 2pm GMT, with variational and ABC talks:

454 * Thu, 8/6/2020, 10:00 AM – 11:50 AM Virtual
Computational Advances in Approximate Bayesian Methods — Topic Contributed Papers
Section on Bayesian Statistical Science
Organizer(s): Robert Kohn, University of New South Wales
Chair(s): Robert Kohn, University of New South Wales
10:05 AM Sparse Variational Inference: Bayesian Coresets from Scratch
Trevor Campbell, University of British Columbia
10:25 AM Fast Variational Approximation for Multivariate Factor Stochastic Volatility Model
David Gunawan, University of Wollongong; Robert Kohn, University of New South Wales; David Nott, National University of Singapore
10:45 AM High-Dimensional Copula Variational Approximation Through Transformation
Michael Smith, University of Melbourne; Ruben Loaiza-Maya, Monash University ; David Nott, National University of Singapore
11:05 AM Mini-Batch Metropolis-Hastings MCMC with Reversible SGLD Proposal
Rachel Wang, University of Sydney; Tung-Yu Wu, Stanford University; Wing Hung Wong, Stanford University
11:25 AM Weighted Approximate Bayesian Computation via Large Deviations Theory
Cecilia Viscardi, University of Florence; Michele Boreale, University of Florence; Fabio Corradi, University of Florence; Antonietta Mira, Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI)
11:45 AM Floor Discussion

Savage Award session today at JSM

Posted in Kids, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2020 by xi'an

Pleased to broadcast the JSM session dedicated to the 2020 Savage Award, taking place today at 13:00 ET (17:00 GMT), with two of the Savage nominees being former OxWaSP students (and Warwick PhD students). For those who have not registered for JSM, the talks are also available on Bayeslab. (As it happens, I was also a member of the committee this year, but do not think this could be deemed a CoI!)

112 Mon, 8/3/2020, 1:00 PM – 2:50 PM Virtual
Savage Award Session — Invited Papers
International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA)
Organizer(s): Maria De Iorio, University College London
Chair(s): Maria De Iorio, University College London
1:05 PM Bayesian Dynamic Modeling and Forecasting of Count Time Series
Lindsay Berry, Berry Consultants
1:30 PM Machine Learning Using Approximate Inference: Variational and Sequential Monte Carlo Methods
Christian Andersson Naesseth, Columbia University
1:55 PM Recent Advances in Bayesian Probabilistic Numerical Integration
Francois-Xavier Briol, University College London
2:20 PM Factor regression for dimensionality reduction and data integration techniques with applications to cancer data
Alejandra Avalos Pacheco, Harvard Medical School
2:45 PM Floor Discussion

a conversation about eugenism at JSM

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2020 by xi'an

Following the recent debate on Fisher’s involvement in eugenics (and the renaming of the R.A. Fisher Award and Lectureship into the COPSS Distinguished Achievement Award and Lectureship), the ASA is running a JSM round table on Eugenics and its connections with statistics, to which I had been invited, along with Scarlett BellamyDavid Bellhouse, and David Cutler. The discussion is planned on 06 August at 3pm (ET, i.e., 7GMT) and here is the abstract:

The development of eugenics and modern statistical theory are inextricably entwined in history.  Their evolution was guided by the culture and societal values of scholars (and the ruling class) of their time through and including today.  Motivated by current-day societal reckonings of systemic injustice and inequity, this roundtable panel explores the role of prominent statisticians and of statistics more broadly in the development of eugenics at its inception and over the past century.  Leveraging a diverse panel, the discussions seek to shed light on how eugenics and statistics – despite their entangled past — have now severed, continue to have presence in ways that affect our lives and aspirations.

It is actually rather unclear to me why I was invited at the table, apart from my amateur interest in the history of statistics. On a highly personal level, I remember being introduced to Galton’s racial theories during my first course on probability, in 1982, by Prof Ogier, who always used historical anecdotes to enliven his lectures, like Galton trying to measure women mensurations during his South Africa expedition. Lectures that took place in the INSEE building, boulevard Adolphe Pinard in Paris, with said Adolphe Pinard being a founding member of the French Eugenics Society in 1913.

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