What data science can learn from the James Webb Space Telescope

A talk at the Statistics and MachIne LEarning (SMILE) Journal Club.

On the privilege of turning our world into data

A talk at the 'Young Irish Statisticians' group.

The average age of politicians in the Australian Federal Parliament (1901-2021)

I examine the average age of politicians in the Australian Federal Parliament on a daily basis. Using a publicly available dataset I find that generally the Senate is older than the House of Representatives. The average age increased from Federation in 1901 through to 1949, when an expansion of the parliament's size likely brought many new politicians. I am unable to explain a sustained decline that occurred during the 1970s. From the 1980s onward there has been a gradual aging of both houses.

Review of 'Data Science: A First Introduction'

A brief review of 'Data Science: A First Introduction' by Tiffany-Anne Timbers, Trevor Campbell, and Melissa Lee.

Remarks at Trinity College

Introductory remarks delivered at Trinity College High Table panel on data science at the University of Toronto on 19 October 2021.

Introduction to Andrew Gelman

Introductory remarks about Andrew Gelman delivered at the University of Toronto Data Sciences Institute (DSI) launch on 17 September 2021.

Turning our world into data

A talk delivered at the Harvard Biostatistics Data Science in Action Summer Camp, 7 July 2021, organised by Jesse Gronsbell.

Opportunities Provided by Open Data and Reproducibility

Some thoughts on getting started with open data and reproducibility. A talk delivered at the University of Toronto, Stellar Stats Workshop, 28 May 2021, organised by Gwen Eadie & Josh Speagle.

On work-life balance

Some thoughts on work-life balance as a PhD student and junior faculty and how that changes over time. A talk delivered to the University of Toronto Faculty of Information 'How to get a PhD' session on work-life balance.

In Appreciation of Greg Wilson

As he moves on from his role at R Studio Education, a few words of appreciation for Greg Wilson.

Saturday morning thoughts on grad school applications

There's a huge amount of luck involved. Worry as much, if not more, about letters and your personal statement as you do about your GPA. Have a clear reason for wanting to go to the school/program that you're applying for and communicate that throughout your application.

Shelter usage in Toronto (2017-2021)

I look at Toronto shelter usage numbers between 2017 and January 2021. I document and adjust for a systematic error in the 2017 data. The data show that homelessness in Toronto is a large problem; essentially all shelters are almost always full. COVID changed the nature of the problem by reducing the number of people using shelters, however they must be sleeping somewhere. I compare January 2021 with January 2020 and estimate that following COVID there are now around an additional 3,500 people sleeping somewhere outside of shelters, possibly outdoors.

Tidying the 2019 Kenyan Census

In this blog post I convert a PDF of Kenyan census results of counts, by age and sex, by county and sub-county, into a tidy dataset that can be analysed. I will draw on an introduce a bunch of handy packages including: `janitor`, `pdftools`, `tidyverse`, and `stringi`.

A review of 'Forecasting elections with non-representative polls'

This brief review of Wang, Rothschild, Goel, and Gelman, (2015) 'Forecasting elections with non-representative polls' is designed to motivate discussion during [Lauren Kennedy]('s weekly MRP Discussion Group.

Getting started with MRP

Multi-level regression with post-stratification (MRP) is a popular way to adjust non-representative samples to better analyse opinion and other survey responses. I recently ran a hands-on workshop at the ANU, aimed at interested, but not experienced, social scientists to help de-mystify MRP. The workshop aimed to give participants the ability and confidence to: 1) critically read papers that use it; and 2) apply it in their own work. Examples of how to implement MRP were illustrated in R using the brms package. The following post gives the outline of the workshop and the material and coding exercises covered.

Gathering and analysing text data

Text modelling is an exciting area of research. But many guides assume that you already have a nice dataset. Similarly, web scraping is an exciting way to get information, but not many explanations go on to explain what you could do with it. This post attempts to go from scraping text from a website through to modelling the topics. It's not meant to be an exhaustive post, but should hopefully provide enough that you can get started with your own project and know where to go for more information.

Cleaning Hansard: The pay's not great but the work is hard

Cleaning the Australian Hansard is mind-numbing, annoying and time-consuming, but someone has to do it.

The SQL Is Never As Good As The Original

SQL is a popular way of working with data. Advanced users probably do a lot with it alone, but even just having a working knowledge of SQL has increased the number of datasets that I can get data from to then analyse with other tools such as R or Python. You can use SQL within RStudio if you want. The following are a few notes to help future-Rohan when he needs to use SQL. A worked example with a sample of the Hansard data will be included in a future post.

Topic Modelling - Theory

Each statement in Hansard needs to be classified by its topic. Sometimes Hansard includes titles that make the topic clear. But not every statement has a title and the titles do not always define topics in a well-defined and consistent way. One way to get consistent estimates of the topics of each statement in Hansard is to use the latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) method of Blei, Ng, Jordan, @Blei2003latent, as implemented by the R package 'topicmodels' by Grun @Grun2011.

Getting started with LaTeX

LaTeX makes it easier to produce papers that look great, but it can be overwhelming at the start. These notes help you get up-and-running with LaTeX.

Reproducing a Grattan Institute map

Blogdown is a package that allows you to make websites (not just blogs, notwithstanding its name) largely within R Studio. It builds on Hugo, which is a popular tool for making websites.

Getting started with Blogdown

Blogdown is a package that allows you to make websites (not just blogs, notwithstanding its name) largely within R Studio. It builds on Hugo, which is a popular tool for making websites.

Mapping the 2016 Australian Election Polling Place Results

The note that follows introduces Australia's political system, and then details the process of downloading and merging first-preference votes by polling place, and then plotting it on an interactive map.

Greitens Reports For Duty

Eric Greitens may be the Republican Übermensch. Rhodes Scholar, Navy SEAL officer, husband and father. He's now the Republican candidate in the Missouri gubernatorial election. And one suspects that being a governor could just be a step for Greitens. While 2016 will always be the year that US politics descended to the gutter, it could also be the year that the next Republican president begins his political career.

Professional Amateurs

Despite many unforced errors Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination and polls suggest she will beat Donald Trump. But her campaign continues to make unforced errors. There was plenty of evidence of an amateur nature to what should be a professional campaign at a recent rally for Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Trump, Revisited

Donald Trump is an improved politician, but it's unlikely to be enough. He has harnessed fervent anti-Clinton sentiment amongst Republicans. But he does not have time to build the coalitions usually needed to win a US presidential election.

Broader Thinking Needed on the Australian Budget

The Treasury Secretary, and many others, bemoan the wasted years of the mining boom. Most agree that Australia should have more to show for what was the most significant boom since Federation. But the boom is over. And a fixation on budget surpluses means that we are missing an opportunity to make up for it. Australia’s credit rating is a strength that we should take advantage of. The Commonwealth should be borrowing to fund infrastructure investment.

Notes and Photos From Iowa

Bernie Sanders seems quite reasonable for a revolutionary. An energetic man of 74, he spoke for an hour in Perry, Iowa, to a room of 300 from only a few lines of handwritten notes, and then fielded half an hour of questions. He does not have the same aura that surrounded, then, Senator Obama in his own Iowa battle with, then, Senator Clinton in 2008 say those who saw both. Instead, Sanders has preternatural calm.

Prepare For Future Economic Crises Now

Few policymakers were prepared for the financial crisis of 2007-08. Until it hit, their focus was on more obvious threats to the economy, instead of such an unexpected event. Could this be because planning for unexpected economic events is not the explicit responsibility of any particular policy-maker? If so, this has to change.

In Appreciation of Ronald Coase

Ronald Coase, one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century, passed away in 2013 aged 102. Reading his papers today, I wonder whether he'd have become an economist if he were making that decision now.

I'll Have What They're Having

Some accuse the Rich White Males from San Francisco's Bay Area of only making products for other Rich White Males. But that neglects the fact that what they want is sometimes also what the rest of us want.

The Human Equation: An Interview With George Zachary

In an age when you can buy data-driven refrigerators and Moneyball is nominated for Academy Awards you may be surprised to hear there are investors who describe themselves as gut-driven. Frankly I thought such people would be too embarrassed to be out in public. Then I heard George Zachary talk.

Final Shot At Ending Industrial Disputes

The industrial relations disputes that culminated in the shutdown of Qantas last year took more than nine months to make it through arbitration. Such lengthy delays have left many wondering if changes should be made to the processes that underpin this form of dispute resolution. The use of ‘final offer’ arbitration could be the small change that has a big effect, saving conflicted parties time, money and reputation.

Tournaments Could Drive R&D Effort

The government should use tournaments to stimulate research and development in Australia. They have been largely overlooked since the Cutler Review of Innovation, but when structured properly, they encourage out-standing achievement and promote creative destruction.

Plastic Policies

There is broad agreement that Australian plastic bag consumption should be reduced. To this end, recent South Australian legislation has banned certain types of plastic bags. But other states wishing to reduce their plastic bag consumption may find a tax rather than a ban the more appropriate policy instrument.

Home Buyers Will Be Hurt by Aid Plan

The Government's First Home Saver Accounts policy, announced during the last federal election, is a promise that should never have been made. It will place upward pressure upon inflation and increase the potential for domestic financial turbulence. It will be the individuals that the policy is designed to help (young Australians with a still-insecure financial foundation) that will be most hurt in the long-run.

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