Tuesday, 21 November 2017


Recently, I've been doing a lot of work on the beta version of BCEA (I was after all born in Agrigento $-$ in the picture to the left $-$, which is a Greek city, so a beta version sounds about right...). 

The new version is only available as a beta-release from our GitHub repository - usual ways to install it are through the devtools package.

There aren't very many changes from the current CRAN version, although the one thing I did change is kind of big. In fact, I've embedded the web-app functionalities within the package. So, it is now possible to launch the web-app from the current R session using the new function BCEAweb. This takes as arguments three inputs: a matrix e containing $S$ simulations for the measures of effectiveness computed for the $T$ interventions; a matrix c containing the simulations for the measures of costs; and a data frame or matrix containing simulations for the model parameters. 

In fact, none of the inputs is required and the user can actually launch an empty web-app, in which the inputs can be uploaded, say, from a spreadsheet (there are in fact other formats available).

I think the web-app facility is not necessary when you've gone through the trouble of actually installing the R package and you're obviously using it from R. But it's helpful, nonetheless, for example in terms of producing some standard output (perhaps even more than the actual package $-$ which I think is more flexible) and of reporting, with the cool facility based on pandoc.

This means there are a few more packages "suggested" on installation and potentially a longer compilation time for the package $-$ but nothing major. The new version is under testing but I may be able to release it on CRAN soon-ish... And there are other cool things we're playing around (the links here give all the details!).

Monday, 20 November 2017

La lotteria dei rigori

Seems like my own country has kind of run out of luck... First we fail to qualify for the World Cup, then lose the right to host the relocated headquarters of the European Medicine Agency, post Brexit. If I were a cynic ex-pat, I'd probably think that the former will be felt like the worst defeat across Italy. May be it will.

As I've mentioned here, I'd been talking to Politico, about how the whole process looked like the Eurovision. I think the actual thing did have some elements $-$ earlier today, on the eve of the vote, it appeared like Bratislava was the hot favourite. This kind of reminded me of the days before the final of the Eurovision, when one of the acts is often touted as the sure-thing, often over and above its musical quality. And I do believe that there's an element of "letting people know that we're up for hosting the next one" going on to pimp up the experts' opinions. Although sometimes, as it turns out, the favourites are not so keen in reality $-$ cue their poor performance come the actual thing...

In the event, Bratislava was eliminated at the first round. The contest went all the way to extra times, with Copenhagen dropping out at the semifinals and Amsterdam-Milan contesting the final head-to-head. As the two finalists got the same number of votes (with I think one abstaining), the decision was made on luck $-$ basically on penalties, or as we say in Italian, la lotteria dei rigori.

I guess there must have been some thinking behind the set-up of the voting system that, in case it came down to a tie at the final round, both remaining candidates would be "acceptable" (if not to everybody, at least to the main players) and so they'd be happy for this to go 50:50. And so Amsterdam it is!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Relocation, relocation, relocation

Earlier today, I was contacted by Politico $-$ they are covering the story about the European Union's process to reassign the two EU agencies currently located in London, the European Medicines Agency, (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) post-Brexit.

I know of this, but wasn't aware of the actual process, which is kind of complex: 
"The vote for each agency will consist of successive voting rounds, with the votes cast by secret ballot. In the first round, each member state will have one vote consisting of six voting points, which should be allocated in order of preference to three offers: three points to the first preference, two to the second and one to the third. If one offer receives three voting points from at least 14 member states, this will be considered the selected offer. Otherwise, the three offers (or more in case of a tie) with the highest number of points will go to a second round of voting. In the second round, each member state will have one voting point, which should be allocated to its preferred option in that round. If one offer receives 14 or more votes, it will be considered the selected offer. Otherwise, a third round will follow among the two offers (or more in case of a tie) with the highest number of votes, again with one voting point per member state. In the event of a tie, the presidency will draw lots between the tied offers."
Cat Contiguglia has contacted me to have a chat about this $-$ they had done a couple of pieces likening the resemblance with the Eurovision contest. As I told Cat, however, I think this is more like the way cities get assigned the right to host the Olympic Games, or even how the Palio di Siena works... I guess lots of discussion is already going on among the member states. 

Apparently, Milan and Frankfurt are the favourites to host EMA and EBA, respectively. I think I once heard a story that, originally, EMA was supposed to be located in Rome. Unfortunately, the decision was to be made just as one of the many Italian political scandal was about to uncover, pointing to massive corruption in the Italian healthcare system and so Rome was stripped of the title. Perhaps a win for Milan will help Italy get over the World Cup...

Friday, 10 November 2017

At the Oscars!

Well, these days being part of the glittering world of show-biz is not necessarily a good thing, but when your life is soooo glamorous that someone feels the unstoppable need to make a biopic of it... well, you really need to embrace your new status as a movie star and enjoy all the perks that life will now throw at you...

I know, I know... This is still about the Eurovision. But, this time they made a short video to tell the story $-$ you may think the still above hows Marta and me, but these are actually two actors, playing us! 

I think they've made a very good job at rendering us $-$ particularly me, I think. If you believe the movies: 
  • We (particularly I) are younger than we really are;
  • We drink a lot (although "Marta"'s drink 25 seconds in looks like a cross between Cranberry juice and the stuff they use to show vampires drinking human blood from hospital blood bags)...
  • We laugh a lot $-$ I think this is kind of true, though...
  • I like how 1 min 24 seconds in, "Marta" authoritatively demands a kiss on the cheek and "my" response to that is covered by floating webpages $-$ kind of rated R...
  • The storyline seems to suggest that we thought about doing this as wondered whether we should do a Bayesian model $-$ of course that was never in question!...
Anyway, I think I need to thank the guys at Taylor & Francis (Clare Dodd, in particular), who've done an amazing job!