Workshop Blogging VI: Finally

(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.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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8 Responses to Workshop Blogging VI: Finally

  1. Maxine Clarke says:

    You could make that Wiki suggestion over at the Friend Feed life sciences group, which seems to be extensively personned by wikixperts. Then you’d be swamped with suggestions.
    Connotea has a wiki function which is free to all (I have a page on it just to try out the wikiconcept), but I think you could probably find wikis that were more advanced, as the Connotea wiki isn’t really designed for the kind of thing you are planning to do.
    So you are reading Bad Science? I am wondering whether to or not. I imagine it being rather focused on alternative medicines, on which I don’t need any convincing, but maybe it is broader than this.

  2. Eva Amsen says:

    At the Science in the 21st Conference last week, Garrett Lisi showed a wiki that supported mathematical formulas. It’s here and it’s suitable for use with small groups of people to collaborate on things (as opposed to everyone coming in and editing a la wikipedia). If that’s what you want, get in touch with him (contact info should be on there somewhere). He brought a version for people to install on their own laptops to the conference, but I’m sure you can also get it by download or something.

  3. Bob O'Hara says:

    Maxine – I’ve almost finished it, and it’s excellent. Most of the stories are ones he has covered in his column, but he does a really good job of explaining the scientific and statistical thinking needed to understand the media reports.
    Eva – thanks for that suggestion, I’ll check it out.

  4. Maxine Clarke says:

    OK, maybe I will give it a go. I hope there is not too much swearing in it, though.
    Good luck with the wikying. I did put the question onto FF (life scientists, not science21, though). But an answer came into NN first;-) Thanks, Eva.

  5. Eva Amsen says:

    I did see it through FriendFeed, actually, because I checked that before checking NN. I would have seen it eventually, anyway, though.

  6. Martin Fenner says:

    Bob, I set up MediaWiki for our intranet over the weekend. Setup is straightforward (if you have a server to spare). It is probably the most widely used wiki software (think Wikipedia) and has math support. Or are you looking for a hosted wiki solution?
    I’ve ordered the Bad Science book, here in Germany it takes a few weeks to get it. In medicine there is a big grey area between bad science and science that that doesn’t work – everybody does it, but there is just not good evidence for it.

  7. Bob O'Hara says:

    Thanks, Martin. I’ll pass that on. I think we should be able to get the wiki hosted, as long as the sysadmin can be talked round.
    I might have to write a review of Bad Science. But not tonight…

  8. Maxine Clarke says:

    Ha! “sysadmin”. Don’t get me on that!

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