This week: OLS regression is like democracy (it’s the worst option, except for all the others), xkcd vs. coronavirus, and more.
RIP Adam Schlesinger, brilliant songwriter and fellow Eph. I got to see Fountains of Wayne once in Boston, they were excellent.
This is probably the last thing the faculty among you want to hear right now, but have you started to think yet about how you’re going to teach your classes in the fall? Especially the big ones? Note that the linked post doesn’t even get into the challenges of wet labs. I confess I find it hard to think about this. Presumably because I wish I didn’t have to.
The latest “many analysts, one dataset” project, this one from sociology. 160 analytical teams were given a massive, well-known, long-term longitudinal monitoring dataset on people’s life outcomes. The teams were asked to predict the next as-yet-unpublished tranche of life outcomes, using any statistical method they wanted. Despite (or because of?) having data on thousands of potential predictor variables, and despite the fact that social scientists think these predictor variables are informative about life outcomes, even the best models–which were machine learning models–did poorly. Even the best models had very low predictive ability in an absolute sense, and only barely improved on garden-variety least-squares linear regressions using just a couple of predictor variables chosen by subject matter experts. Basically, all methods are about equally good at predicting typical life outcomes, and equally terrible at predicting extreme or uncommon life outcomes (e.g., predicting which subjects would go on be laid off from a job). I leave it to you to decide if this is encouraging or depressing news for (i) sociologists, (ii) machine learning methods, and (iii) OLS regression. Related old post from Brian on how many predictor variables your model should include. (ht @kjhealy)
Hey look, there’s still some professional sport being played. The sport of…responding to peer reviews. 🙂 (ht Meghan)
It almost seems too far off to even dream about right now, but someday instead of having to hear the socially-distanced Ode to Joy I linked to the other week, we’ll be able to hear it like this again: