Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Second time lucky, I've just been elected Secretary of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA) Section on Biostatistics and Pharmaceutical Statistics

The aim of this specialised section of ISBA is to help network and federate under a common well-known "brand" all the initiatives to spread Bayesian methods and ideas, to solve problems in Biostatistics and its applications to the pharmaceutical industry.

I'm actually excited at the opportunity, not least because of the incredible group of officers. I think one of the tasks will be to make the Bayesian Biostatistics conference (which is usually held at MD Anderson in Houston) occasionally travel to other venues and increase the visibility and membership of the section. Hopefully, we'll be able to throw Bayes Pharma in the mix as well!

Another job

We have another job available in the Department of Statistical Science at UCL. This will be a joint post between the department and University College Hospital (we have strong links with the Joint Research Office and do collaborate with many clinicians on their applied work).

The job will be a mixture of various health research studies and clinical trials conducted at UCL and the associated NHS Trusts. I think it is interesting that the successful candidate will be able to work on applied projects as well as on some more methodological ones.

Lots of information (including links to apply) on the UCL website. Deadline for the applications is January 4th $-$ we expect to interview shortly after.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Best job ever

The job advert for the postdoc position in our MRC-funded project on the Regression Discontinuity Design is finally out.

Aidan has done a fantastic job in his little over a year in the position, but he's now moved to a lectureship in our department and so we need to find a suitable replacement. In fact, the new post has been extended and will be jointly funded by the project and the UCL department of Primary Care and Population Health $-$ who are collaborators on the RDD anyway.

The project is doing well and we do have a couple of interesting papers out $-$ here and here, for example. We're also currently working on some more extensions of the method, as well as the actual applications to the THIN dataset.

As they formally say, "Informal enquiries regarding the vacancy may be addressed to Dr Gianluca Baio, email: g.baio@ucl.ac.uk"...

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

How do you spell your name?

I've just got back from ISPOR, at which I managed to chat with several people $-$ I guess that's one of those conferences where the amount of people in the sessions is basically the same as those outside, talking (more or less quietly). 

In fact, we'll try to arrange a few workshops/meetings $-$ the first one is this coming Monday at UCL, when James O'Mahony will talk about his work on the choice of comparator strategies in cost-effectiveness analyses of Human Papillomavirus testing in cervical screening. We'll try and have seminars/events monthly.

Among the highlights of my three days in Amsterdam: 
  • after a while, I noticed that every time I was walking through the exhibitors' booths, said exhibitors would intently check my name-tag out until they actually saw my affiliation and suddenly decided they weren't really interested and move their glance away (which I thought was quite funny); 
  • the first night, as I got to my hotel room, I tried to connect to the wireless using the instructions I'd been given (which was: use your room number and surname). Because it wasn't working, I phoned the reception to ask for assistance. The lady asked me: "What name are you using", to which I replied: "mine". To which she replied: "but how do you spell it?" To which I replied: "the way it is spelled: B-A-I-O". To which she replied: "Oh, but to us it is spelt B-A-L-O. That's what you should use". It worked;
  • the nice dinner at this Italian restaurant (I didn't choose it, but it was quite good).

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

"Football"... I mean "soccer"... I mean "football"...

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Daniel Weitzenfeld $-$ a Chicago freelance data scientist (his own definition). Daniel got interested in modelling sports results and googled our football paper $-$ in his post here, he jokes that, because we're Italians, in our paper "football" means "soccer". But of course, I would respond saying that the real story is that when he says "football" he means "the weird version of rugby that Americans play"... 

Anyway, he set out to adapt our model to last year's Premier League data, using pymc. In fact, he's slightly modified our model $-$ we exchanged a couple of emails to clarify some issues from our original model (he did make a couple of good points). He then discusses the issue of shrinkage in the results of the model $-$ as he says (quoting John Kruschke) shrinkage is not necessarily good or bad and it's just a feature of how the data are modelled. 

In our case, however, model fit was massively improved by using a more complex specification that (including some prior knowledge about the potential strength of the teams) would reduce the amount of shrinkage $-$ in effect, we had assumed three different data generating processes (or some form of conditional exchangeability); one for "good" teams (fighting for the title), one for "average" teams and one for the "poor" teams (struggling for relegation).

I was quite interested in the pymc modelling $-$ I'll have to have a closer look at some point...

Monday, 27 October 2014

ISPOR posters

As the short course is fast approaching and I'm fighting with the last organisational details, I spent most of today preparing the two posters for the ISPOR congress, which I'm attending the week after next.

At first, I was a bit disappointed that none of the two abstracts I submitted had been accepted for a podium presentation, as they call it. But on reflection, in such a huge conference as ISPOR, the time scheduled for a talk is only 12 minutes, which makes it really difficult to present any methodological work, anyway. So, inspired by Marshall, I thought that posters may not be too bad after all...

The posters are about the structural zero model (which I've also discussed here and here; and some material is here) and BCEA. Because ISPOR is one of the biggest conferences in health economics, I think there's an opportunity to show these to potentially interested people $-$ also, I'll meet a few colleagues, plus I like Amsterdam, so all in all, sounds like a good trip (hopefully!).

Anyway, I've put a pdf version of the two posters here and here $-$ check them out, if you like!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

1 in 5 million

Earlier today, I've got an email from UCL Library Services, telling me that our research publications repository (UCL Discovery) has "recently passed the exciting milestone of 5 million downloads".

As it happens, the 5 million-th download was our paper on football results predictions $-$ I've already mentioned it in a few posts, for example here, here and here).

The best part of the story is that there is a "small prize" that I will be given at a forthcoming Library Conference to "mark this achievement" $-$ the achievement being having won the lottery, really...

As my friend Virgilio said, who knows what my colleagues that do "more serious stuff" will think of that...

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Evil companies, stereotypes and coffee

A couple of weeks ago, our favourite coffee place in Walton (where we live) just closed out of the blue. We were really surprised as we thought they were doing really well, as the shop was almost always buzzing with people. So we did a bit of investigation and then found out the story $-$ the supermarket giant Tesco had invested in nearly 50% of the shares in the (originally) small coffee shop chain and opened several branches in some of their supermarkets. Only to successively close a few non-supermarket branches (which were opened before the take-over), including ours. 

So we had to change coffee shop and had to (provisionally, I think) resort to one of the "Italian" places $-$ well, they do have Italian names (this, or this) and may be they are owned or founded by Italians, but they certainly do not exist in Italy... Anyway, the other day, Marta and I were in the local branch and while drinking our coffee, we noticed the big pictures on the wall, which are meant to portray Italian life, to give a touch of authenticity to the place. 

There was a picture of a couple of old men sitting outside a bar, gesticulating and arguing. And another picture of a few young men checking out a girl who had just passed by. The immediate reaction was that it was a bit insulting, really, to get stereotyped like that. But then we also thought of something we had seen last week, when we were in Italy: a few men were preparing to carry a coffin, but as a girl wearing a rather short skirt walked by, all of them intently stared at her (no whistles or shouts, though).