Workflow in R

This came up recently on StackOverflow. One of the answers was particularly helpful and I thought it might be worth mentioning here. The idea presented there is to break the code into four files, all stored in your project directory. These four files a…

Writing mathematics

Mathematics has its own particular conventions and rules when it comes to writing. There have been several attempts to write them down. The most famous is Halmos’s excellent essay “How to write mathematics”. Other good sources of advi…

Take a break

Occasionally, the best research is done in long periods of concentrated effort. Allegedly, Isaac Newton used to sometimes write for eight hours standing up without a break.
At other times, taking a break helps the research process. Think of Archimedes …

Finding an R function

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…

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 …

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…

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…