(Part 1, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V)
Finally, the end of the workshop. Thursday afternoon was spent playing around with BUGS, getting my abundance model to work. Eventually, I gave enough initial values to the simulation (rather than let it generate them itself), and it worked. When I had done that, there wasn’t much time to start something else, so I chatted to a couple of people about things, e.g. getting details about the data that I needed.
We finished with a group session, plotting out where we had got to, how to continue, and how everything fitted together. Barb drew everything on a big piece of paper. This was useful, to see the big picture, and where everything goes, from phenology models (of when butterflies fly), to the observation models I was working on (which are also habitat models), to habitat models that tell us where the butterflies are, to dynamic population models of where the butterflies will move. The latter will have to include the effects of climate change, so we can then predict (however unsuccessfully) where the butterflies will end up.
After the meeting I suggested to a couple of people that we could use a wiki to keep all our thoughts together. So I now have to find a good wiki that will let us write away in privacy. Preferably with good mathematical support. Any suggestions, anyone? (yes, I am being lazy in not looking around first)
On the plane home I was reading Ben Goldacre’s new tome. One of the themes of the book is the way he uses Real Science~TM~ to show demonstrate how the Bad Scientists are wrong. He doesn’t use fancy Nature papers to do this – his sources are the sorts of bog-standard paper we churn out every day. It struck me that the work we had been doing was similar – a different area, obviously, but still not the sort of thing that would be picked up by a newspaper to be splashed over p12. This sort of bread and butter work that we do can have value for the non-scientific world. We don’t know what may become important: a lot of science (pure or applied) does may seem trivial or obscure, but one day some of it will be seen to have great import, at least in some parts of society.