A great idea: R Markdown for Undergrads

Great post about introducing students to the fundamental concept of reproducibility in science while teaching them R

Landscape Ecology 2.0

A recently published paper by Baumer et al (2014) caught my eye today (HT to Bruce Caron).  I wanted to share it here because I thought it was cool and also had a few comments to make about some of the issues the authors raised.

First, a bit about the paper.  Partly in response to all the media attention to the crisis in reproducibility in science (e.g. Nature) Baumer and colleagues made some changes to introductory statistics classes at Duke, Smith, and Amherst.  The primary change was to require the use of R Markdown for all homework.  RStudio was the editor they used and it appears any cutting and pasting of code, figures, etc. was not allowed.  They conducted a survey of the students early in the class and after the class.  The end result was that students preferred using R Markdown over the typical mode of cut and…

View original post 259 more words

Advertisements

Eating chocolate has made the Swiss smarter. Really?

I found an article that studies the beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on cognitive function. To prove his theory, the author uses the correlation between countries’ annual per capita chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel Laureates per 10 million people. And…nothing else.

Correlation

Chocolate and Nobel Laureates

The study acknowledges some of its very obvious methodological limitations, but still concludes that “since chocolate consumption has been documented to improve cognitive function, it seems most likely that in a dose-dependent way, chocolate intake provides the abundant fertile ground needed for the sprouting of Nobel laureates.”

Now, for all we know the correlation is not “surprisingly powerful”, as the author concludes, but a mere coincidence. The many  non-sense correlation plots shared recently on social media have helped popularizing the idea that “correlation does not imply causation”.  The interesting fact about this article, however, is that it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world (featuring a staggering 54.42 (!!) impact factor). To be fair, the article is published as an “occasional note”, which also seems to serve as a humor section. If only all top-journals had such a twisted sense of humor!

Talk about divergence

I agree with Hans Rosling in that an effective way of introducing the basic facts of economic development to students is through myth debunking. The resources provided in his website are certainly useful in this respect. One of the best ways to use this resource is to find those striking cases of divergence in outcomes that disprove a generally accepted fact. A particularly example I find mind-blowing is the stark divergence in the evolution of incomes and life expectancy in Equatorial Guinea and Madagascar between 1990 and 2012…

EG_Madagascar