On the passing of Hans Rosling

It would be remiss not to mention briefly the passing of Hans Rosling. Data needs storytellers and the world needs advocates for evidence-based decision making. We have lost one of the best.

For some insights into the man and his interesting (and at times challenging) life, I highly recommend this news feature. You can enjoy presentations at the Gapminder website: I’d start with the documentary The Joy of Stats.

Perhaps I should not be surprised or annoyed – but I am – at the lack of coverage this story received at news outlets, particularly in Australia. Aside from an obituary at Guardian Australia (not on the front page), I don’t believe the news featured at all in any other major Australian news publisher. Perhaps not unrelated, stories like this feature quite frequently.

I’m told that in Europe, this effort at the BBC was one of few major reports.

Maybe I live in a data science bubble, but I would think this is a person and an event “of note”. Thanks for the stories, Hans.

Presentations online for Bioinformatics FOAM 2015

Off to Melbourne tomorrow for perhaps my favourite annual work event: the Bioinformatics FOAM (Focus on Analytical Methods) meeting, organised by CSIRO.

Unfortunately, but for good reasons, it’s an internal event this year, but I’m putting my presentations online. I’ll be speaking twice; the first for Thursday is called “Online bioinformatics forums: why do we keep asking the same questions?” It’s an informal, subjective survey of the questions that come up again and again at bioinformatics Q&A forums such as Biostars and my attempt to understand why this is the case. Of course one simple answer might be selection bias – we don’t observe the users who came, found that their question already had an answer and so did not ask it again. I’ll also try to articulate my concern that many people view bioinformatics as a collection of recipe-style solutions to specific tasks, rather than a philosophy of how to do biological data analysis.

My second talk on Friday is called “Should I be dead? a very personal genomics.” It’s a more practical talk, outlining how I converted my own 23andMe raw data to VCF format, for use with the Ensembl Variant Effect Predictor. The question for the end – which I’ve left open – is this: as personal genomics becomes commonplace, we’re going to need simple but effective reporting tools that patients and their clinicians can use. What are those tools going to look like?

Looking forward to spending some time in Melbourne and hopefully catching up with this awesome lady.