Archive for pandemic

Bill’s 80th!!!

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2022 by xi'an

“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times”
[Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities (which plays a role in my friendship with Bill!)]

My flight to NYC last week was uneventful and rather fast and I worked rather well, even though the seat in front of me was inclined to the max for the entire flight! (Still got glimpses of Aline and of Deepwater Horizon from my neighbours.) Taking a very early flight from Paris was great making a full day once in NYC,  but “forcing” me to take a taxi, which almost ended up in disaster since the Über driver did not show up. At all. And never replied to my message. Fortunately trains were running, I was also running despite the broken rib, and I arrived at the airport some time before access was closed, grateful for the low activity that day. I also had another bit of a worrying moment at the US border control in JFK as I ended up in a back-office of the Border Police after the machine could not catch my fingerprints. And another stop at the luggage control as my lack of luggage sounded suspicious!The conference was delightful in celebrating Bill’s carreer and kindness (tinted with the most gentle irony!). Among stories told at the banquet, I was surprised to learn of Bill’s jazz career side, as I had never heard him play the piano or the clarinet! Even though we had chatted about music and literature on many occasions. Since our meeting in 1989… The (scientific side of the) conference included many talks around shrinkage, from loss estimation to predictive estimation, reminding me of the roaring 70’s and 80’s [James-Stein wise]. And demonstrating the impact of Bill’s wor throughout this era (incl. on my own PhD thesis). I started wondering at the (Bayesian) use of the loss estimate, though, as I set myself facing two point estimators attached with two estimators of their loss: it did not seem a particularly good idea to systematically pick the one with the smallest estimate (and Jim Berger confirmed this feeling on a later discussion). Among the talks on less familiar topics (of mine), I discovered work of Genevera Allen‘s on inferring massive network for neuron connections under sparse information. And of Emma Jingfei Zhang, equally centred on network inference, with applications to brain connectivity.

In a somewhat remote connection with Bill’s work (and our joint and hilarious assessment of Pitman closeness), I presented part of our joint and current work with Adrien Hairault and Judith Rousseau on inferring the number of components in a mixture by Bayes factors when the alternative is an infinite mixture (i.e., a Dirichlet process mixture). Of which Ruobin Gong gave a terrific discussion. (With a connection to her current work on Sense and Sensitivity.)

I was most sorry to miss Larry Wasserman’s and Rob Strawderman’s talk to rush back to the airport, the more because I am sure Larry’s talk would have brought a new light on causality (possibly equating it with tequila and mixtures!). The flight back was uneventfull, the plane rather empty and I slept most of the time. Overall,  it was most wonderful to re-connect with so many friends. Most of whom I had not seen for ages, even before the pandemic. And to meet new friends. (Nothing original in the reported feeling, just telling that the break in conferences and workshops was primarily a hatchet job on social relations and friendships.)

RSS COVID evidence sessions

Posted in Books, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2022 by xi'an

The Royal Statistical Society is launching a series of discussions linked with the UK Government handling of the COVID-19 pandemic (and of the related data):

  • Communication during the pandemic: Data, statistical analyses and modelling, 5 April
    Organising panel of David Spiegelhalter, Tom Chivers and Jen Rogers
    Register for the in-person or online event
  • Governments’ statistical resources, 3 May
    Organising panel of Simon Briscoe and Gavin Freeguard
  • Evidence and policy, 21 June
    Organising panel of Sylvia Richardson, Dani De Angelis and John Aston
  • Evaluation, 12 July
    Organising panel of Sheila Bird, Christl Donnelly and Max Parmar.

 

Scrapping Covid surveillance study would put public health at risk [by Silvia Richardson]

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2022 by xi'an

Royal Statistical Society president (and very dear friend) Sylvia Richardson published this tribune in the Guardian defending the preservation of a national surveillance system last week:

Sajid Javid is right to argue against scrapping the Office for National Statistics’ Covid surveillance study. Throughout the pandemic, national surveillance studies have provided invaluable information to support decision-making.

For any real-time health surveillance system to be reliable and cost-effective, it cannot rely solely on self-reported tests. These data sets are likely to be biased, as it is impossible to know how many people are also reporting their negative results and, if tests start to come with a cost, how many people simply aren’t testing. If we are to get reliable information about the prevalence of Covid, it is essential to maintain studies such as the ONS’s and React to allow statisticians to estimate infectiousness and the proportion of the population who are infected (including those without symptoms), as well as to identify new variants.

Abrupt disruption of a surveillance system is wasteful, will make tracking of prevalence meaningless and will put in jeopardy the future health of the public. If important surveillance studies must be scaled down, this cannot be led by arbitrary cost-cutting targets, but should be led by statisticians to ensure that studies continue to provide reliable information.

data science in La X

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2022 by xi'an

As the [catholic] daily La X has a special “Sciences&éthique” report on data science and scientists, my mom [a long time subscriber] mailed me [by post] the central pages where it appeared. The contents are not great, focusing as often on a few sentences from  and missing on the fundamental limitations of self-learning algorithms. As an aside, the leaflet contained a short interview by Jean-Stéphane Dhersin, who is head of the CNRS ModCov19 centralising platform [and anecdotally a neighbour] on the notion that a predictive model in epidemiology can be both scientific and imprecise.

health [s]care

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2022 by xi'an

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