Friday, 8 March 2013

Fun day

Today I spent the morning reading a PhD thesis that I need to examine (scheduled for next month) and the afternoon marking in-course assessment (ICA) papers for my course (Social Statistics). Neither activity is the most amusing in the world (although thesis reading can be interesting, some times more than others, of course)! Also, the weather is quite crappy, so these were as good as any other excuse for not leaving the house this morning.

The PhD thesis is about metabolomics. That's really not my area, but because the candidate has used Bayesian methods to analyse their data, some of which similar to what I normally work with, the supervisor asked me to examine it. I haven't got to the part where the model is actually discussed yet, but I have to say I am still not too clear about what metabolomics really is and whether it can be really the game-changer that people sometimes make it to be (of course, this is not necessarily the candidate's fault...).

As for the ICAs, I'm really torn. I have asked the students to find a real social survey, read about it (searching for as much information as they possibly could) and then report about the main characteristics (target population/study population/sampling frame and design, etc).

On the one hand, I think it's good for the students to do this kind of exercise. Many get it right and give good answers, but many are quite confused about basic stuff (it is not uncommon that somebody selects something like a census and report it as if it were a survey). So, because the ICA usually is just a marginal part of the overall mark that the students get, it is helpful to face these problems before the exam. However, on the other hand, marking the papers becomes a very, very tedious exercise for me. If I had to decide today, I would definitely scrap this kind of question for any future exam/ICA I will write.

But perhaps I should sleep on it $-$ which I will if I don't take a break now!