Archive for @ScientistTrump

399 safe[[r] for now]

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2018 by xi'an

ASA opposes USDA plan likely to undermine economic research service (ERS) work [repost]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on September 19, 2018 by xi'an

The American Statistical Association (ASA) is actively opposing a recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal to realign and relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS). The ASA’s concern is that moving ERS—a federal statistical agency and an internationally respected agricultural economics research institution—would undermine its work and product quality, thereby also affecting evidence-based policymaking in the USDA and food and agriculture more generally.

Nature tidbits

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2018 by xi'an

In the Nature issue of July 19 that I read in the plane to Singapore, there was a whole lot of interesting entries, from various calls expressing deep concern about the anti-scientific stance of the Trump administration, like cutting funds for environmental regulation and restricting freedom of communication (ETA) or naming a non-scientist at the head of NASA and other agencies, or again restricting the protection of species, to a testimony of an Argentinian biologist in front of a congressional committee about the legalisation of abortion (which failed at the level of the Agentinian senate later this month), to a DNA-like version of neural network, to Louis Chen from NUS being mentioned in a career article about the importance of planning well in advance one’s retirement to preserve academia links and manage a new position or even career. Which is what happened to Louis as he stayed head of NUS after the mandatory retirement age and is now emeritus and still engaged into research. (The article made me wonder however how the cases therein had be selected.) It is actually most revealing to see how different countries approach the question of retirements of academics: in France, for instance, one is essentially forced to retire and, while there exist emeritus positions, it is extremely difficult to find funding.

“Louis Chen was technically meant to retire in 2005. The mathematician at the National University of Singapore was turning 65, the university’s official retirement age. But he was only five years into his tenure as director of the university’s new Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and the university wanted him to stay on. So he remained for seven more years, stepping down in 2012. Over the next 18 months, he travelled and had knee surgery, before returning in summer 2014 to teach graduate courses for a year.”

And [yet] another piece on the biases of AIs. Reproducing earlier papers discussed here, with one obvious reason being that the learning corpus is not representative of the whole population, maybe survey sampling should become compulsory in machine learning training degrees. And yet another piece on why protectionism is (also) bad for the environment.

Nature snapshot

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on March 5, 2017 by xi'an

The recent issue of Nature, as of Jan 26, 2017!, contained a cartload of interesting review and coverage articles, from the latest version of the quantum computer D-Wave, with a paragraph on quantum annealing that reminded me of a recent arXiv paper I could not understand, seemingly turning the mathematical problem of multivariate optimisation into a truly physical process, to the continuing (Nature-wise) debate on how to oppose Trump, to the biases and shortcomings of policing software, with a mention of Lum and Isaac I discussed here a few months ago, to the unsuspected difficulty to publish a referee’s report when the publisher is Elsevier (unsuspected and unsurprising!)—although I know of colleagues and authors disapproving my publishing referee’s reports identified as such—, to an amazing picture of a bundle of neurons monitored simultaneously, to an entry in the career section on scientific computing and the importance of coding for young investigators, with R at the forefront!

the end of statistics [not!]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2017 by xi'an

endofstatsLast week I spotted this tribune in The Guardian, with the witty title of statistics loosing its power, and sort of over-reacted by trying to gather enough momentum from colleagues towards writing a counter-column. After a few days of decantation and a few more readings (reads?) of the tribune, I cooled down towards a more lenient perspective, even though I still dislike the [catastrophic and journalistic] title. The paper is actually mostly right (!), from its historical recap of the evolution of (official) statistics across centuries, to the different nature of the “big data” statistics. (The author is “William Davies, a sociologist and political economist. His books include The Limits of Neoliberalism and The Happiness Industry.”)

“Despite these criticisms, the aspiration to depict a society in its entirety, and to do so in an objective fashion, has meant that various progressive ideals have been attached to statistics.”

A central point is that public opinion has less confidence in (official) statistics than it used to be. (warning: Major understatement, here!) For many reasons, from numbers used to support any argument and its opposite, to statistics (-ians) being associated with experts, found at every corner of news and medias, hence with the “elite” arch-enemy, to a growing innumeracy of both the general public and of the said “elites”—like this “expert” in a debate about the 15th anniversary of the Euro currency on the French NPR last week equating a raise from 2.4 Francs to 6.5 Francs to 700%…—favouring rhetoric over facts, to a disintegration of the social structure that elevates one’s community over others and dismisses arguments from those others, especially those addressed at the entire society. The current debate—and the very fact there can even be a debate about it!—about post-truths and alternative facts is a sad illustration of this regression in the public discourse. The overall perspective in the tribune is one of a sociologist on statistics, but nothing to strongly object to.

“These data analysts are often physicists or mathematicians, whose skills are not developed for the study of society at all.”

The second part of the paper is about the perceived shift from (official) statistics to another and much more dangerous type of data analysis. Which is not a new view on the field, as shown by Weapons of Math Destruction. I tend to disagree with this perception that data handled by private companies for private purposes is inherently evil. The reticence in trusting the conclusions drawn from such datasets also extends to publicly available datasets and is not primarily linked to the lack of reproducibility of such analyses (which would be a perfectly rational argument!). It is neither due to physicists or mathematicians running those, instead of quantitative sociologists! The roots of the mistrust are rather to be found in an anti-scientism that has been growing in the past decades, in a paradox of an equally growing technological society fuelled by scientific advances. Hence, calling for a governmental office of big data or some similar institution is very much unlikely to solve the issue. I do not know what could, actually, but continuing to develop better statistical methodology cannot hurt!

statistics snapshots from Nature

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2016 by xi'an

Two snapshots from the October 27 issue of Nature, one reporting on David Cox receiving the first “Nobel in Statistics” Prize and one about the @ScientistTrump parody site, where being Bayesian sounds like a slur..!