Blog Archives

By opposing tracking well-meaning educators are hurting disadvantaged kids

December 9, 2015
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By opposing  tracking well-meaning educators are hurting disadvantaged kids

An unfortunate fact about the US K-12 system is that the education gap between poor and rich is growing. One manifestation of this trend is that we rarely see US kids from disadvantaged backgrounds become tenure track faculty, especially in the STEM fields. In my experience, the ones that do make it, when asked how they overcame the

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Thinking like a statistician: the importance of investigator-initiated grants

December 1, 2015
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Thinking like a statistician: the importance of investigator-initiated grants

A substantial amount of scientific research is funded by investigator-initiated grants. A researcher has an idea, writes it up and sends a proposal to a funding agency. The agency then elicits help from a group of peers to evaluate competing proposals. Grants are awarded to the most highly ranked ideas. The percent awarded depends on how

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20 years of Data Science: from Music to Genomics

November 24, 2015
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20 years of Data Science: from Music to Genomics

I finally got around to reading David Donoho's 50 Years of Data Science paper.  I highly recommend it. The following quote seems to summarize the sentiment that motivated the paper, as well as why it has resonated among academic statisticians: The statistics profession is caught at a confusing moment: the activities which preoccupied it over centuries are now

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Some Links Related to Randomized Controlled Trials for Policymaking

November 19, 2015
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In response to my previous post, Avi Feller sent me these links related to efforts promoting the use of RCTs  and evidence-based approaches for policymaking:  The theme of this year's just-concluded APPAM conference (the national public policy research organization) was "evidence-based policymaking," with a headline panel on using experiments in policy (see here and here). Jeff Liebman

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Given the history of medicine, why are randomized trials not used for social policy?

November 17, 2015
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Policy changes can have substantial societal effects. For example, clean water and  hygiene policies have saved millions, if not billions, of lives. But effects are not always positive. For example, prohibition, or the "noble experiment", boosted organized crime, slowed economic growth and increased deaths caused by tainted liquor. Good intentions do not guarantee desirable outcomes. The medical establishment is well

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Biostatistics: It’s not what you think it is

November 9, 2015
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My department recently sent me on a recruitment trip for our graduate program. I had the opportunity to chat with undergrads interested in pursuing a career related to data analysis. I found that several did not know about the existence of Departments of Biostatistics and most of the rest thought Biostatistics was the study of clinical trials. We have posted on the

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We need a statistically rigorous and scientifically meaningful definition of replication

October 20, 2015
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We need a statistically rigorous and scientifically meaningful definition of replication

Replication and confirmation are indispensable concepts that help define scientific facts.  However, the way in which we reach scientific consensus on a given finding is rather complex. Although some press releases try to convince us otherwise, rarely is one publication enough. In fact, most published results go unnoticed and no attempts to replicate them are made.  These

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We Used Data to Improve our HarvardX Courses: New Versions Start Oct 15

September 29, 2015
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You can sign up following links here Last semester we successfully ran version 2 of my Data Analysis course. To create the second version, the first was split into eight courses. Over 2,000 students successfully completed the first of these, but, as expected, the numbers were lower for the more advanced courses. We wanted to remove

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Data Analysis for the Life Sciences – a book completely written in R markdown

September 23, 2015
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Data Analysis for the Life Sciences – a book completely written in R markdown

The book Data Analysis for the Life Sciences is now available on Leanpub. Data analysis is now part of practically every research project in the life sciences. In this book we use data and computer code to teach the necessary statistical concepts and programming skills to become a data analyst. Following in the footsteps of

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The Next National Library of Medicine Director Can Help Define the Future of Data Science

August 24, 2015
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The main motivation for starting this blog was to share our enthusiasm about the increased importance of data and data analysis in science, industry, and society in general. Based on recent initiatives, such as BD2k, it is clear that the NIH is also enthusiastic and very much interested in supporting data science. For those that don't know,

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