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“Statistical Models of Election Outcomes”: My talk this evening at the University of Michigan

At the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research this evening: Statistical Models of Election Outcomes We will discuss various political and statistical aspects of election forecasts: – How accurately can elections be forecast? – What information is useful in forecasting elections? – What sorts of elections are less predictable? – To the extent that […]

Which experts should we trust?

In a comment on our post, “Expert writes op-ed in NYT recommending that we trust the experts,” commenter DCE writes: Perhaps this post can have a follow-up on “How do I choose which experts to believe?” While broadly, Pigliucci’s “Nonsense on Stilts” offers some good discussion, there is the real issue of ulterior motives in […]

Math error in herd immunity calculation from CNN epidemiology expert

Michael Weissman and Sander Greenland write: Sanjay Gupta and Andrea Kane just ran an extensive front-page CNN article reporting that some residual T-cell immune responses cross-react with SARS-Cov-19, perhaps enough to provide many people with some protection. The article seemed straightforward and reasonable enough until it got to this strangely erroneous statement: For herd immunity, […]

“100 Stories of Causal Inference”: My talk tomorrow at the Online Causal Inference Seminar

Tues 4 Aug, 11:30am on zoom: 100 Stories of Causal Inference In social science we learn from stories. The best stories are anomalous and immutable. We shall briefly discuss the theory of stories, the paradoxical nature of how we learn from them, and how this relates to forward and reverse causal inference. Then we will […]

Getting negative about the critical positivity ratio: when you talk about throwing out the bathwater, really throw out the bathwater! Don’t try to pretend it has some value. Give it up. Let it go. You can do this and still hold on to the baby at the same time!

But maybe it’s all OK? Most of this post is a pretty negative review of a recent book, about which I will apply the well-known saying, “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” That said, the part […]

The typical set and its relevance to Bayesian computation

[Note: The technical discussion w.r.t. Stan is continuing on the Stan forums.] tl;dr The typical set (at some level of coverage) is the set of parameter values for which the log density (the target function) is close to its expected value. As has been much discussed, this is not the same as the posterior mode. […]

“RA Fisher and the science of hatred”

Mark Brown points us to this thoughtful article by Richard Evans regarding the controversy over Ronald Fisher, who during the twentieth century made huge contributions to genetics and statistical theory and methods and who also had serious commitments to racism and eugenics. The controversy made its way into statistics. The Committee of Presidents of Statistical […]

On deck through Jan 2021

This should keep you busy through the end of the year . . . Many of these posts were originally scheduled earlier but then got bumped because of coronavirus and other topical material. The typical set and its relevance to Bayesian computation Getting negative about the critical positivity ratio: when you talk about throwing out […]

Thinking about election forecast uncertainty

Some twitter action Elliott Morris, my collaborator (with Merlin Heidemanns) on the Economist election forecast, pointed me to some thoughtful criticisms of our model from Nate Silver. There’s some discussion on twitter, but in general I don’t find twitter to be a good place for careful discussion, so I’m continuing the conversation here. Nate writes: […]

“The Taboo Against Explicit Causal Inference in Nonexperimental Psychology”

Kevin Lewis points us to this article by Michael Grosz, Julia Rohrer, and Felix Thoemmes, who write: Causal inference is a central goal of research. However, most psychologists refrain from explicitly addressing causal research questions and avoid drawing causal inference on the basis of nonexperimental evidence. We argue that this taboo against causal inference in […]

The history of low-hanging intellectual fruit

Alex Tabarrok asks, why was the game Dungeons and Dragons, or something like it, not invented in ancient Rome? He argues that the ancient Romans had the technology (that would be dice, I guess) so why didn’t someone thing of inventing a random-number-driven role-playing game? I don’t have an answer, but I think we can […]

Some questions from high school students about college and future careers

For a high school summer program I’m connected to, students have questions about careers. They’re mostly interested in technical careers (engineering, science, public health) and also some careers relating to arts, communication, and government service. Here are some of the questions the students are asking: What advice would you now give your younger self? What […]

The flashy crooks get the headlines, but the bigger problem is everyday routine bad science done by non-crooks

In the immortal words of Michael Kinsley, the real scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal. I was reminded of this principle after seeing this news article about the discredited Surgisphere doctor (see here for background). The news article was fine—it’s good to learn these things—but, as with pizzagate, evilicious, and other science […]

Job opportunity: statistician for carbon credits in agriculture

Charlie Brummitt: I’d like to share a job opportunity to pass on to your students and colleagues: to do survey statistics and uncertainty quantification for carbon credits in agriculture. We’re planning on using post-stratification techniques like those you used with Wei Wang. (Wei and I were interns together at Microsoft Research in 2013 when you […]

BMJ FAIL: The system is broken. (Some reflections on bad research, scientism, the importance of description, and the challenge of negativity)

tl;dr It’s not the British Medical Journal’s “fault” that they published a bad paper. I mean, sure, yeah, it’s 100% their fault, but you can’t fault a journal for publishing the occasional dud. And there’s not really a mechanism for retracting a paper that’s just seriously flawed, if no fraud is suspected. So the system […]

“Which, in your personal judgment, is worse, if you could only choose ONE? — (a) A homosexual (b) A doctor who refuses to make a house call to someone seriously ill?”

Old polls are the greatest. From the Harris 1969 Changing Morality Survey: How many people knew a gay person? The gay penumbra was pretty small back then. Only something like 12% of the population said they knew a gay person. Or maybe 12% is a lot; I’m not quite sure how to think about this […]

Who was the first literary schlub?

We were talking about Ted Heller / Sam Lipsyte (also here), whose books feature a similar lovable-loser character, someone who’s basically a good person but has some larceny and lust in his heart and can’t always be relied on to do the right thing. More of a Jerry Seinfeld than a Philip Marlowe or Humphrey […]

“No one is going to force you to write badly. In the long run, you won’t even be rewarded for it. But, unfortunately, it is true that they’ll often let you get away with it.”

Basbøll says it well. Relatedly, see here. Writing is hard.

BMJ update: authors reply to our concerns (but I’m not persuaded)

Last week we discussed an article in the British Medical Journal that seemed seriously flawed to me, based on evidence such as the above graph. At the suggestion of Elizabeth Loder, I submitted a comment to the paper on the BMJ website. Here’s what I wrote: I am concerned that the model does not fit […]

Recently in the sister blog

Generic language in scientific communication: There is increasing recognition that research samples in psychology are limited in size, diversity, and generalizability. However, because scientists are encouraged to reach broad audiences, we hypothesized that scientific writing may sacrifice precision in favor of bolder claims. We focused on generic statements (“Introverts and extraverts require different learning environments”), […]