Using R for Introductory Statistics

Versani, J (2013) Using R for Introductory Statistics (Second Edition)

This book has a laudable aim: to introduce R and topics from an introductory statistics curriculum to students “outside of a classroom environment”. Now in its second edition, the book introduces the reader to exploratory data analysis and manipulation, statistical inference and statistical models. Particular attention is given to thoroughly learning base R before extending R’s capabilities with packages.

Author John Verzani includes information on computationally intensive approaches and manages to explain these topics with interesting, topical and challenging examples. The text includes a plethora of exercises which encourage the reader to test their understanding of the material as well as a useful appendix on R programming and a valuable bibliography.

Although informative, I don’t think this text will be useful for readers without any previous exposure to either statistical computing or statistics. The text does begin simply enough, but my impression is that the reader will need to refer to additional resources. I’m therefore not convinced by claims that the book may be used without a teacher. Indeed, the fact that the solutions to exercises are only available to those who adopt the book as a course text suggests that the book is intended for use by university teachers rather than autodidacts.

In short, a stimulating read for the classroom-based student, but too challenging for a neophyte learner studying at home.

Review originally published in Reviews. Significance, 12:2 44{45. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2015.00818.x

Lingua, politica, cultura

 

Books which honour the achievements of a notable scholar don’t conventionally have much of a readership outside of the select group of peers who are familiar with the honorand’s work. Such a view would be unwarranted in the case of Lingua, politica, cultura: Serta gratulatoria in honorem Renato Corsetti

Edited by Federico Gobbo, Professor of Interlinguistics and Esperanto at the University of Amsterdam, the book includes 29 chapters written by an international cohort of established scholars and friends of the honorand in the broad areas of language policy, language learning and Esperanto studies with two additional sections of miscellanea……

The complete review of Lingua, politica, cultura: Serta gratulatoria in honorem Renato Corsetti is available here

Revival Linguistics

There are approximately 6000 languages in the world and one of these dies every two weeks.

Alivorte, Esperanto havas propran ideologion, ĝi estas pli ol lingvo. Ĝiaj uzantoj vidas en ĝi la lingvan elementon de la batalo por pli bona mondo. Kaj inter la celoj de tiu agado estas konservado de malgrandaj lingvoj; …. estas ankoraŭ proksimume ses mil lingvoj en la mondo sed ciun duan semajnon, unu el ili mortas. (my italics)
Professor Ghi’lad Zuckermann, 12th September 2011.

This is an absolutely shocking statistic so what can be done? Learning about Revival Linguistics might be one possible solution. Revival linguistics studies languages which have either died, are seriously endangered or are endangered. Perhaps the most successful example of a language which has been revived is modern Hebrew or Israeli.

For linguist Ghi’lad Zuckermann, the aim of everyone who is interested in languages should be to reclaim languages which have died, to revitalise languages which are seriously endangered and to reinvigorate endangered languages.

But what’s the point? Zuckermann offers three reasons for preserving our linguistic heritage: the ethical, the aesthetic and the utilitarian.

For my part, Zuckermann’s explanation of the ethical reasons for defending language diversity are the most persuasive as he movingly describes the loss of cultural autonomy and intellectual sovereignty  of human beings whose languages disappear.

So why not take a look at Zuckermann’s web site together with other resources by Zuckermann on the web?

In particular, I would recommend the following:

  • “Sleeping Beauties awake: Language Revival, Cognitive Empowerment and Social Well Being” – a lecture at a recent Polyglot Conference;
  • His work with the Barngarla people of Australia to help them rediscover their language;
  • Zuckermann talking about Revival Linguistics and about what Revival Linguists can learn from the Esperanto community and vice versa.

Handling the Media

John Illman – a former Media Editor at The Guardian  – has published Handling the media: communication and presentation skills for healthcare professionals.

The book is exceptionally well written as well as being packed full of information and would therefore appeal to any health professional who wants to work with the media but who does not know where to begin. It’s short too which will appeal to the time limited reader!

Take a look at my review of Handling the media in the April issue of Significance magazine – the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association – for further details…….

Writers’ Rights

….a lucid, informative and passionate defence of the central role that journalists continue to play in enriching democratic debate and a valuable addition to the literature on self-employment more broadly…

If you believe that good journalism is an indispensable part of living in a democratic society, then take a look at my review of Nicole S. Cohen’s new book, Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age here.

English as an EU Lingua Franca?

Everyone speaks English in the EU now right? Well actually, wrong…..

In a recent study of approximately 170,000 people living in 25 EU countries, Michele Gazzola concludes in a paper in European Union Politics that the introduction of an English-only policy in the EU would exclude between 45% to 79% of adult residents from being able to understand EU documentation, web pages or debates in the EU Parliament.

Similarly, a trilingual language regime – based on English, French and German – would continue to disenfranchise between 26% to 49% of residents in the 25 EU countries studied.

Gazzola therefore concludes that the EU’s existing multilingual language policy is both the most inclusive and the most cost effective.

For readers who are interested in Gazzola’s work:

  • take a look at his web page here
  • watch a presentation on Multilingualism & Linguistic Justice in the EU here (in English)
  • watch a presentation on the same theme here (in Esperanto with Catalan sub titles)
  • download and read a presentation which Gazzola gave at the ‘Internacia Kongresa Universitato’ in Buenos Aires in 2014 here (in Esperanto with summaries in English, French and Spanish).

Digital Scholarship

In Being a Scholar in the Digital Era: Transforming Scholarly Practice for the Public Good, Jessie Daniels and Polly Thistlethwaite explore how digital media can be used to support scholarship and teaching and also further the pursuit of social justice. Paul Webb recommends this fascinating book for showing how digital scholarship can help generate robust research with genuine impact and can enable the convergence of academia, activism and journalism in productive ways.

If this appeals, take a look at my review at LSE Review of Books here.