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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!)

Bayesians at the helm!

Posted in pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2021 by xi'an

Just read the announcement that my friend (and former colleague at Warwick U) Mark Girolami became the Chief Scientist at The Alan Turing Institute, joining forces with Adrian Smith, currently Director and Chief Executive of the Turing Institute, into a Bayesian leadership!

David Firth, incoming RSS President

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , on September 19, 2021 by xi'an

ten recommendations from the RSS

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2021 by xi'an

‘Statistics have been crucial both to our understanding of the pandemic and to our efforts to fight it. While we hope we won’t see another pandemic on this scale, we need to see a culture change now – with more transparency around data and evidence, stronger mechanisms to challenge the misuse of statistics, and leaders with statistical skills.’

  • Invest in public health data – which should be regarded as critical national infrastructure and a full review of health data should be conducted
  • Publish evidence – all evidence considered by governments and their advisers must be published in a timely and accessible manner
  • Be clear and open about data – government should invest in a central portal, from which the different sources of official data, analysis protocols and up-to-date results can be found
  • Challenge the misuse of statistics – the Office for Statistics Regulation should have its funding augmented so it can better hold the government to account
  • The media needs to step up its responsibilities – government should support media institutions that invest in specialist scientific and medical reporting
  • Build decision makers’ statistical skills – politicians and senior officials should seek out statistical training
  • Build an effective infectious disease surveillance system to monitor the spread of disease – the government should ensure that a real-time surveillance system is ready for future pandemics
  • Increase scrutiny and openness for new diagnostic tests – similar steps to those adopted for vaccine and pharmaceutical evaluation should be followed for diagnostic tests
  • Health data is incomplete without social care data – improving social care data should be a central part of any review of UK health data
  • Evaluation should be put at the heart of policy – efficient evaluations or experiments should be incorporated into any intervention from the start.

congrats, Pierre!!!

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2021 by xi'an

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