Course: 1st Italian Astrostatistics School, 12-16 June 2017

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Stefano Andreon writes:

We are pleased to announce the 1st Italian Astrostatistics School that will be held at INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Milano from 12 to 16 June 2017.

The primary goal of the school is to train astronomers to the use of modern statistical techniques, specifically parameter estimation and model selection. The INTENSIVE course, lectured by Stefano Andreon and Roberto Trotta, is characterized by extended laboratory sessions (i.e. individual work at the computer), taking about two thirds of the school attendance. The capacity is limited to 35 participants (first come first served
basis). The school is open to PhD students in astronomy, who have priority  (they should register by May 15th), and if space allows, to post-docs and researchers. From May 15th, registration is open to all (subject to availability). Attendance to the course has pre-requirements. For school program, details, and registration see:

http://iaa.mi.oa-brera.inaf.it/IAA/AstroStatisticsSchool.html

Bayescomp 2018

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Photo by Richard Aparicio

Bayescomp 2018 will be held in Barcelona, Spain, on 26-29 March. This is the successor to the MCMski conference series.

Bayes Comp 2018 is a biannual conference sponsored by the ISBA section of the same name. The conference and the section both aim to promote original research into computational methods for inference and decision making and to encourage the use of frontier computational tools among practitioners, the development of adapted software, languages, platforms, and dedicated machines, and to translate and disseminate methods developed in other disciplines among statisticians.

See the conference web site for more details. Note that I am not involved in the organisation of the conference, I am just disseminating the information.

New Windows binary for R 3.3.0

Updated 22 June 2016

One of the important changes in this release 3.3.0 of R is the use of a new toolchain for  Windows. Unfortunately, for packages written in C++, the new toolchain is incompatible with the old one. So I had to build a new version of JAGS for use with R 3.3.0 and above.

When you upgrade to R 3.3.0 or higher you will need to remove the current installed version of JAGS (using the Control Panel) and run the  JAGS-4.2.0-Rtools33.exe installer. Then you will be able to install the binary rjags package from CRAN.

If you continue to use R 3.2.5 or earlier then you should not use the new installer but should continue to use  JAGS-4.2.0.exe.

Q: Why is this important?

A: If you install a version of JAGS that does not match your R installation then the rjags package will spontaneously crash.

Q: Why is this happening?

A: The Rtools compiler creates binaries that are statically linked to the C++ runtime. This is good because it means that R does not need to ship with a dynamic link library (DLL) for the C++ runtime (avoiding DLL Hell). It is harmless for the vast majority of R packages that are completely self contained. However, it is a problem for packages that need to interface to an external C++ DLL. Both the R package (e.g. rjags) and the external DLL (e.g. JAGS) must be compiled with the same compiler.

Q: This is a bit awkward isn’t it?

Yes it is awkward for JAGS users. However, in terms of the management of R packages this is a minority issue. As far as I know, the only other R packages affected are the ones that interface to SYMPHONY, gdal, and QuantLib.

 

Generalized additive models with jagam

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Simon N. Wood has arXived a paper on  Just Another Gibbs Additive Modeller: Interfacing JAGS and mgcv. Simon is the author of the mgcv package for R, which provides functions for generalized additive (mixed) modelling and is distributed with base R as a recommended package.

Since R version 3.2.0, the mgcv package has included the jagam() function, which generates BUGS code and data for generalized additive models. The  jagam() function uses the same interface as the other functions in the mgcv package. The output of jagam can be analyzed directly by JAGS, or modified and incorporated into a larger Bayesian model. We are using jagam in a couple of projects and I highly recommend it if you want to include some smoothing in a hierarchical model.

Grid shading by simulated annealing (or what I did on my holidays)

The UK spy agency GCHQ is often in the news for the wrong reasons and has recently been on something of a charm offensive to improve its tarnished image. This campaign includes stencilling job adverts on the pavement in the trendy Shoreditch area of London  and, more recently, setting a series of incredibly difficult puzzles for the general public to solve. GCHQ director Robert Hannigan included a grid shading puzzle in his Christmas cards that received wide attention in the UK press. Continue reading

JAGS 4.1.0 is released

JAGS 4.1.0 was released at the weekend. The project page on Sourceforge has download links for the source, as well as binaries for Windows and Mac OS X.

This is a bug fix release. The main purpose was to fix some of the issues that arose in JAGS 4.0.0. Among these was a spurious warning about unused variables which confused a lot of people using the command line interface (This did not affect the R interfaces). Further improvements been made to the error messages about undefined variables and directed cycles. I have to thank users of the JAGS forums on Sourceforge for bringing problems to my attention.

So what’s next? I plan to continue working on the 4.x.y series for some time and my three priorities are

  1. Documentation
  2. Finalizing the glm module (and loading it by default)
  3. Optimization

So I will be pushing further releases as and when I reach milestones for these goals.