Suppose you want a function to fit a neural network. What’s the best way to find it? Here are three steps that help to find the elusive function relatively quickly.

First, use help.search("neural") or the shorthand ??neural. This will s…

## Statistics education journals

In many research universities, there can be a tension that arises when great teachers don’t publish much. I believe there is a place for excellent teachers who do limited research within a strong research university, but their contribution is con…

## Mathematical research and the internet

On Monday night I attended a lecture by Terry Tao on “Mathematical research and the internet”. Terry is Australia’s most famous mathematician, our only Field’s medalist, and one of the most active mathematical bloggers in the wo…

## How good are economic forecasts?

I wrote last week that “macroeconomic forecasts are little better than shooting blindfold”. I don’t know if it was connected or not, but on the same day a journalist (Richard Pullin) from Reuters phoned me to ask about assessing some …

## Research supervision workshop

Today I gave a workshop for supervisors of postgraduate students. Mostly I talked about creating a team environment for postgraduate students rather than the traditional model (at least in statistics and econometrics) of each student working in isolati…

## Seek help when it’s needed

I don’t think I’ve had a research student who did not think about giving up at some point. It was part through my second year when I felt like giving up. I felt I was not going to be able to finish my thesis, and that I would be better off …

## Why I don’t like statistical tests

It may come as a shock to discover that a statistician does not like statistical tests. Isn’t that what statistics is all about? Unfortunately, in some disciplines statistical analysis does seem to consist almost entirely of hypothesis testing, a…

## R help on StackOverflow

Ever since I began using R about ten years ago, the best place to find R help was on the R-help mailing list. But it is time-consuming searching through the archives trying to find something from a long time ago, and there is no way to sort out the goo…

## Backing up

Ever since I deleted the only copy of my honours thesis, one week before it was due to be handed in, I’ve been obsessive about backups, often to the amusement of my family and colleagues. But every time one of them loses a file or has a hard-disk…

## Forecasting the recession

Forecasters are under the pump with a recession that many didn’t see coming. As I don’t do any macroeconomic forecasting, I can sit back and smile smugly at some of my colleagues while I work on simpler problems such as forecasting in epide…

## Maintaining local LaTeX files

If you use LaTeX, then you probably have a bib file — a data base of all the papers and books that you have cited. It is much more efficient to keep one database in one location, than have multiple copies of it floating around your hard drive. (Or even…

## Sight what you cite

There seems to be a widespread practice of researchers citing papers they have never even seen, let alone read. For example

Some papers claim to do something new when it has already been done in one of the papers cited.

Some articles are cited that a…

## Songs of Statistics

If you love statistics (don’t we all?) and can write Chinese (which rules me out), you might like to contribute to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the “founding of New China”. They are…

## Writing responses to referee reports

I’ve been spending time writing response letters lately. I’ve also been reading lots of response letters from authors wanting their stuff published in the International Journal of Forecasting. I thought it might be useful to collate a few t…

## Managing a bibliographic database

All researchers need to maintain a database of papers they have read, cited, or simply noted for later reference. For those of us using LaTeX, the database is in the BibTeX format and is stored as a simple text file (a bib file) that can be edited usin…

## Finding LaTeX symbols

All LaTeX users will sometimes need a symbol for which they don’t know the command. If you use WinEdt, there is a neat drop-down menu of some common symbols that can be helpful, but it is necessarily limited. What do you do when you want the male…

## Why Word is a bad choice for academic writing

For years I’ve been telling everyone who would listen that MS-Word may sometimes be useful for short notes or for making a “Back in 5 minutes” sign to stick on your door, but if you want to write a serious document like an academic pa…

## Mathematical genealogy

Having a PhD student is like having a child. I have had many such “children” graduate, and have another few “on the way”. (See here for my offspring.)

Going in the other direction, here is my family tree (or one branch of it), c…

## Searching the research literature

Most students seem to go to Google first. This is not a good strategy. Google Scholar is much better as it filters out all the junk. Scopus is another engine that aims to do a similar thing. It is better organized but not so complete. ISI WOK is also n…

## Clive Granger (1934-2009)

Sir Clive Granger has died at the age of 74. There are some nice obituaries in the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph. Also, his Wikipedia page has some good information. I met Clive on several occasions and he was “a scholar and a gentleman&…