Thursday, 30 June 2016

Silver lining

Fivethirtyeight has just published their first prediction for the next US presidential election, stating that Clinton has around 80% chance of winning to Trumps' 20%. This has been also reported in the general media (for example here).

I think the tone of the Guardian's article is kind of interesting $-$ basically if first praises Nate Silver's ability but also points out a series of "high-profile misses that could lead some observers to discount their predictions this year". Author Tom McCarthy goes on to report on very wrong predictions for example on Trump's chance of securing the Republican nomination.

I guess this is such a fluid and dynamic situation that perhaps it's a bit too early to call a definitive outcome. But I'm sure we'll be bombarded with predictions in the next few months...

Friday, 17 June 2016

Workshop on Infectious Disease Modelling in Public Health Policy: Current status and challenges (yet, again)

I've written about this a couple of times already (here and here). We've finalised the speakers line up (see here for the latest information) and I think this is a very exciting programme! (I know you may think "well, he would say that, wouldn't he?" $-$ and you're probably right... But I do think that the line up is really interesting!).

Anyway, although the registration list on Eventbrite is formally close, I think we do have some places available $-$ so if you would like to go, send me an email (details on the website)!

My week at ISBA (2)

I should add to my previous post that while there have been many very good talks, I thought two were incredibly good: David Spiegelhalter's Foundational lecture on Monday and Adrian Raftery's talk in a session on Bayesian Demography that was very interesting overall. I'm not sure whether slides will be made available, but if they are, you should definitely check them out!

In particular, Adrian's talk was about the application of Bayesian hierarchical methods to formally account for and quantify uncertainty in population projections (I think this is the relevant paper). He started his talk by showing a screenshot from the BBC website reporting on Boris Johnson's claim that if the UK stays within the EU, its population will "increase to 80 millions" (from the current level of around 65 millions). 

As Adrian pointed out, it wasn't clear what time frame was Johnson referring to. However, I'd say unsurprisingly, his model showed that this event had virtually no chance of happening within the next 5 years and at most around 40% chance of happening in a period of 25 years [I am citing the numbers by memory, so the details may be slightly different, although they are most definitely in the right ball-park!].

My week at ISBA

I've spent the last few days in beautiful Sardinia for the ISBA world conference. The place is outstanding, really beautiful, although it's kind of weird that there is no real town along the cost for miles and miles. Leaving Cagliari and driving for over 50km, you only come across a massive oil refinery and the town of Pula. There are many resorts (some super high-end, like the one where the conference is, some more like very nice camping sites with tents or bungalows replaced by nice apartments), but no real town. I felt that was a bit weird as I wasn't used to things like that, in Italy $-$ but it may well be that I am just ignorant about my own country and there's tons of places like that...

As for the conference, my last ISBA was 10 years ago $-$ that was the last one of the original "Valencia meetings". Even then, it felt like a big conference, but that was nowhere near the level it has reached now (I think there are over 700 people here!). This means there are several parallel sessions and lots of heterogeneity in the topics. Also, the schedule is quite packed with talks from 9am to 7.30pm (with some breaks throughout) and then poster sessions after dinner. I was impressed by how well the organisation has worked: I've not seen a single session running late! 

My talk is later today; I'll be talking about our work on the RDD $-$ I've planned a rather high-level talk, showing some of the general themes we've developed and giving broad examples, rather than going to the details. Luckily, we do have a few papers on these so hopefully I'll be able to point people to the relevant references. 

More importantly, I'll have to rush off just after my talk (which isn't great) so that I won't miss my flight home $-$ I've tried to plan everything ahead, so I've put petrol in the car, checked out the hotel, etc. I'll give the talk with my fingers crossed, just in case...

Friday, 3 June 2016

Large enough probability?

I've deliberately stayed away from the Brexit referendum (that is in terms of spending time doing some modelling to see what the predictions may be) $-$ mostly because I was otherwise busy and didn't really have much time. 

However, I was talking earlier to my "polls guy" Roberto (yes: I have a polls guy) and he's suggested I took a look at Stephen Fisher's blog, who is predicting a 72% chance that the outcome of the referendum will be "remain" (in the EU). I think I'll take that as a good sign.  

In the past couple of days, people have put forward the argument that the UK should take their economy back and "do like New Zealand in the 1980s $-$ that was very good for their economy, so surely it'll work for us too". [start rather annoyed irony]Surely the global economy and trading system were exactly what they are today, back in the 1980s, so surely this is super relevant evidence and something we should be basing our judgement on, today...[end rather annoyed irony]