Posts Tagged ‘ science ’

Statbusters are back, taking on robots that hire people

July 27, 2015
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In our newest column, we take on the recent media obsession with companies who make robots that hire people. (link) As with most articles about data science, the journalists failed to dig up any evidence that these robots work, other than glowing quotes from the people who are selling these robots. We point out a number of challenges that such algorithms must overcome in order to generate proper predictions. We…

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PLS think twice about partial least squares

July 23, 2015
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PLS think twice about partial least squares

One of the great things about writing a statistics book was finding an excuse to read about dozens of topics that I knew a little about but hadn't got around to studying in depth. Even so, there were a number of topics I ended up missing out on complet...

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Statistically significant. What does it mean?

July 22, 2015
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Andrew Gelman has a great post about the concept of statistical significance, starting with a published definition by the Department of Health that is technically wrong on many levels. (link) Statistical significance is one of the most important concepts in statistics. In recent years, there is a vocal group who claims this idea is misguided and/or useless. But what they are angry about is the use (and frequently, mis-use) of…

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It is possible to not learn real causes from some A/B tests

July 20, 2015
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It is conventional wisdom that A/B testing (or in proper terms, randomized controlled experiments) is the gold standard for causal analysis, meaning if you run an A/B test, you know what caused an effect. In practice, this is not always true. Sometimes, the A/B test only provides a statistical understanding of causes but not an average Joe's understanding. Let's start with a hypothetical example in which both definitions are aligned.…

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Flawed thinking about causes

July 13, 2015
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One of the most misguided and dangerous ideas floated around by a group of Big Data enthusiasts is the notion that it is not important to understand why something happens, just because "we have a boatload of data". This is one of the central arguments in the bestseller Big Data, and it reached the mainstream much earlier when Chris Anderson, then chief editor of Wired, published his flamboyantly-titled op-ed proclaiming…

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Our first column: what’s so fun about fake data

June 29, 2015
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Gelman sums up the reasons why there is a crisis in experimental research in our time. The journal publication process fails to catch fake research (let alone bad research), and the new media prefer sensationalist headlines over good science. Many res...

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What I said about data science at Princeton Reunions

June 3, 2015
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What I said about data science at Princeton Reunions

Here was how I spent last weekend: At college reunions in beautiful Princeton on a glorious sunny day. I also spoke about data science at a Faculty-Alumni panel titled "Science Under Attack!". Here is what I said: In the past five to 10 years, there has been an explosion of interest in using data in business decision-making. What happens when business executives learn that the data do not support their…

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Some statistics about nutrition statistics

May 26, 2015
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I only read nutrition studies in the service of this blog but otherwise, I don't trust them or care. Nevertheless, the health beat of most media outlets is obsessed with printing the latest research on coffee or eggs or fats or alcohol or what have you. Now, the estimable John Ioannidis has published an editorial in BMJ titled "Implausible Results in Human Nutrition Research". John previously told us about the…

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Story time, known unknowns and the endowment effect in an HBR article on customer data

May 6, 2015
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Story time, known unknowns and the endowment effect in an HBR article on customer data

Harvard Business Review devotes a long article to customer data privacy in the May issue (link). The article raises important issues, such as the low degree of knowledge about what data are being collected and traded, the value people place on their data privacy, and so on. In a separate post, I will discuss why I don't think the recommendations issued by the authors will resolve the issues they raised.…

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Gelman speed read

April 23, 2015
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For those who have found it tough to keep up with Andrew Gelman's prolificacy, here are some brief summaries of several recent posts: On people obsessed with proving the statistical significance of tiny effects: "they are trying to use a bathroom scale to weigh a feather—and the feather is resting loosely in the pouch of a kangaroo that is vigorously jumping up and down." (link) [I left a comment. In…

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