Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Book of the year

The next issue of Significance (it will be a December double issue) will feature a festive version of the usual book review section. 

Readers and contributors can nominate their favourite statistics books of the year and alongside the nomination, we're looking for a 100-word explanation of why they recommend it.

Full details are on the Significance website.

Friday, 19 September 2014


The last two days have been kind of a very interesting mini-tour for me $-$ yesterday the Symposium that we organised at UCL (the picture on the left is not a photo taken yesterday) and today the workshop on efficient methods for value of information, in Bristol.

I think we'll put the slides from yesterday's talks on the symposium website shortly. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

BCEA 2.1

We're about to release the new version of BCEA, which will contain some major changes.

  1. A couple of changes in the basic code that should improve the computational speed. In general, BCEA doesn't really run into troubles because most of the computations are fairly easy. However, there are a couple of parts in which the code wasn't really optimised; Chris Jackson has suggested some small but substantial modifications $-$ for instance using ColMeans instead of apply($\cdot$,2,mean)
  2. Andrea has coded a function to compute the cost-effectiveness efficiency frontier, which is kind of cool. Again, the underlying analysis is not necessarily very complicated, but the resulting graph is quite neat and it is informative and useful too.
  3. We've polished the EVPPI functions (again, thanks to Chris who's spotted a couple of blips in the previous version).
I'll mention this changes in my talk at the workshop on "Efficient Methods for Value of Information Calculations". If all goes to plan, we'll release BCEA 2.1 by the end of this week.

Monday, 8 September 2014


This is an old story (it dates back to July last year) but it just got under my radar and I think it's quite unbelievable $-$ or may be it isn't after all... 

In a survey of just over 1000 individuals developed by professional company Ipsos Mori, respondents were asked to give their opinion on a series of "urban myths" (as it turns out). 

For example, the perception of the surveyed sample on benefit fraud is way out of line ("the public think that £24 of every £100 of benefits is fraudulently claimed. Official estimates are that just 70 pence in every £100 is fraudulent - so the public conception is out by a factor of 34", as the Independent article puts it).

Other topics on which the public seems to have a very biased opinion are immigration (with 31% of the population believed to have recently migrated into the UK, while the official figure is actually around 13%) and teen pregnancy (perceived to be 25 times as prevalent than it actually is!). That'll make for a nice example in my course on Social Statistics...

B my J

As part of our work on the Regression Discontinuity Design for the British Journal of Medicine, we decided we should prepare a short, introductory research paper. We weren't holding our breath, as we thought that, while obviously interesting to clinicians, the topic may be a little too complex and technical for the BMJ audience. So we tried really hard to strip it out of the technicalities to highlight the substantial points $-$ which they liked! 

The paper was reviewed rather quickly and the comments were positive (although iI remember thinking that there was a sense of "you need more, but also much less" (which reminded me of Jeremy from Peep Show)... 


Anyway, they seem to have liked the revisions too and the paper is now out.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

No surprises

Yesterday was the day of my talk at the RSS Conference. As I mentioned here, I hadn't been back to Sheffield for nearly 20 years, so it is really no no surprise that I found it reeeeally (I mean: really) changed. In fact, I think I'm being a victim of some confounding here $-$ not sure of quite as much of how I thought things changed is due to the fact they have really have changed or rather to the fact that I have changed, since then...

Back then, in the 18th century, it was my first time outside Italy, so everything was new and unfamiliar, although I seem to remember that there really was no proper coffee place (or just coffee to be had), outside an eight-decent French place... Also, while I distinctly remember enjoying being there, I couldn't really, fully recognise the streets I was walking (even if I'm sure I had walked along them before). So I suppose the place must be changed indeed!

The talk went well (the file is large, because of the couple of maps I've included $-$ but I thought they looked nice, so I left them in). I joked around a bit $-$ it wasn't difficult, given the topic. I made the point that it's not time to panic and leave the EU, just yet, at least not on account of the fact that the Eastern European countries hate the UK and thus do not vote for them in the Eurovision.

On other news, I really liked Tim Harford's talk $-$ it was funny and it told a very nice story, which is good. He gave a couple of more or less (pun intended) known examples of "big" (or, as he also put it, "found") data leading to some undesirable results and made the general argument that we shouldn't really dismiss the core of statistical methodology, just because we can get a lot of data and we can deal with them. How to not agree?