Research with impact

After Stephen’s posts about impact factors and the like, I have a couple of serious posts brewing. But for now (and because it’s Friday), I want to admit to my reaction today to an advert I got about a journal, which told me that I should Stand Out in my Field, and Be Visible by submitting to this journal (run by a reputable publisher). One of the reasons for publishing there was that the journal has High Impact: it’s impact factor is 1.95.

“Pah!” I thought. I’m executive editor of a journal with an impact factor over 5. In fact 5.093 (that 3 at the end is terribly important, no matter what anyone tells you). Why would I want to publish is such a lowly journal?

On the other hand, the journal has published a paper about TARDIGRADES IN SPACE. That beats impact factors any day.

Posted in Science Publishing, Silliness | 9 Comments

lme4: destined to become stable through rounding?

(this would have appeared on my blog on Nature Network, but the pulled the plug the day before. Sometimes correlation does not mean causation)

Fans of R and mixed models are aware of the lme4 package. This started out as Doug Bates re-writing the lme package using the new capabilities in R (S4 objects, for those who care about such things). It goes back to at least 2006, but isn’t stable yet: a source of mild amusement for me over the last few years. In software development, an un-stable version has a number starting with 0 (e.g. 0.4), and once the developers are happy with it, it gets upgraded to v1.0. The core R developers released R1.0-0 on the 29th February 2000, citing it as the nerdiest date possible, being an exception to an exception.
Anyway, the version numbers of lme4 show the problems: v0.999375 was released in 2008. I just checked and the latest version is 0.999999-0-1. This is more compactly (and more confusingly) written as 1-1e06-0-1.
I have been worried that lme4 will never become stable, but this latest version mollifies me with the thought that the developers can’t go on forever, so eventually lme4 will become stable when the machine precision forces it to be rounded up to 1.0.

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Welcome to The Menagerie

In my first OT post I mentioned The Menagerie I live in. So, while GrrlScientist is attending to parts of it I thought I’d introduce some of the residents, including some of the shyer ones

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Posted in Life in the Menagerie | 12 Comments

Stupidity Molecule Identified

Researchers at the University of Utrecht have identified a molecule that could play a key role in controlling how stupid headlines develop in scientific press releases.

Neurobiologists are trying to understand how titles that are at first sensible differentiate into specialised pieces of text that are sensationalist and which can be classified into two groups, by being scientifically misleading or jibberish. Researchers in the College of Science Sciences at Utrecht, led by Professor H.G.P. Strabismus, have identified a molecule called methyl-methanol as being the ‘signal’ which can induce the production of these headlines.

The Strabismus laboratory studies a simple system, the Press Officer, which processes complex scientific results and reduces them to their bare essentials, which are then presented to the public. In earlier research they showed that methyl-methanol induces the introduction of errors into these presentations. Now they have identified a more specialised role for the molecule, specifically targetting the headlines.

The new research will be published in the journal Nature, once the brown envelope has arrived.

“Our work presents the opportunity to fully understand how POs learned to utterly mangle explanations of science. The actual work was looking at cellular differentiation in prokaryotessaid Professor Strabismus.

“These findings are also remarkable because methyl-methanol was previously found to affect celebrities, causign them to lose motility and transform into large sticky messes, known as headline fodder. The fact that an individual like a Press Officer, which is very far removed from celebrity, uses the same mechanism is very interesting and suggests that the processes which cause cock-ups may have very deep evolutionary origins.”

The work has been funded by the Unwellcome Trust and CAMRA.


(hat tip: a BBSRC press officer for the inspiration)

Posted in Silliness | 7 Comments

Helloooo! I’ve moved (again)

I started blogging just over 5 years ago (damn, I missed my blogoversary by a month). The following year, I left Blogspot for Nature Network. Well, now the powers that be have decided to close the NN blogs, and shift bloggers who wanted over to SciLogs. I considered this, but decided instead to join the hive of villeins here at Occam’s Typewriter.

My NN archives should me moved across here soon, once the virtual workmen have finished their virtual cups of tea. I’ll also add a blogroll and whatever else takes my fancy. I’ll also try to write some new blogposts.

For those of you who don’t know what to expect, it’s OK, I’m not sure either. The name of the blog was always going to be descriptive, so it’ll either be something silly (and probably fairly short), or a more considered (=boring) posts about statistics, biology, science, life etc.

Professionally I’m a statistician in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Research Centre, a.k.a. BiK-F. Most of my work surrounds the torture and confession of ecological and evolutionary data. I’m also now executive editor of the very fine journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, so you might see some blog posts from me pop up there too. Oh, and I occasionally sneak a post onto my wife’s Guardian blog, to dilute the mystery birds.

Most importantly, the blog’s banner is a photo of The Beast, the Aussie cat who I serve. He lives with GrrlScientist and I, and the rest of our menagerie (3 parrots, N passerines, and the contents of 5 aquaria) The Beast’s main role is to provide hair for recycling. If anyone knows what to do with the stuff, I’d love to know.

That’s me, and I’ll be here for a bit (hopefully). Now, who are you? Please, speak up so I know if anyone’s reading this stuff.

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Abusing a Prior: some slides

Here are the slides for my talk today about Bayesian variable selection. It’s mainly of interest to other statisticians, my excuse is that I’m talking at a statistical meeting (and I’m a keynote speaker! Wooo!).

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Fossils, Fun, and Frailities. And Statistics #isec2012

If I’ve done everything correctly, then at almost the moment this post appears, I will start talking about some fossils. Not, it’s not a eulogy about defenders of the 4-4-2 formation, but it’s about a bit of work I’ve been doing on trying to model when fossils appear and disappear. The work is still preliminary, in some ways, and it would be nice to get some feedback. So here are the slides:

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Today’s quiz: explain the obscure site

Can anyone tell me what is probably so famous about this site, in Essex? The bit of historical interest is next to the houseboat in the centre of the image.
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If you’re on twitter, or have read the right blogs, you know already. So no giving it away. And googling it is cheating. 🙂
And bonus points will be given for explaining the rectangles.

Posted in Science Blogging | 6 Comments

Science: girl things make you wince

On Fridays I usually try to put up trivial amusing stuff. So please take this is that spirit, because you really don’t want to take this seriously.
Encouraging women into science has to be a good thing, and there are good ways of doing it. But then there’s this:

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Posted in Friday Fun | 2 Comments

Selecting Your LOLcats

The internet is a great thing, but it brings with it some problems. One of the future problems that we, as a civilisation, will face is the increased time we will be forced to spend finding the ideal photo for that LOLcat we want to make. The problem, of course, is that there is an infinite number of cats on the internet. So how do we search them all for that optimum picture?

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Posted in Friday Fun, Silliness | 2 Comments