The impact of REF on publication bias

Written by Mark Kelson on . Posted in Opinion

There is no shortage of academics complaining about the detrimental impact of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) on scientific integrity and freedom. Similarly, the undesirability of publication bias is a well-trodden trope among academic circles. With REF results for 2014 due out tomorrow, I want to look at how this influential research audit affects scientific research.

The Research Excellence Framework is the mechanism through which the four higher education funding bodies allocate funding to higher education institutions. It is meant to reward those institutions doing the best work with a greater proportion of the funding pot with which to do a greater volume of work in the hope that the quality will be unaffected. A meritocracy then.

Why the EU’s data protection law needs to support the use of personal data in research

Written by Beth Thompson on . Posted in Opinion

The Data Protection Regulation is currently making its way through the European legislative process. Once agreed, this will govern how we use the personal data in statistics and research that holds such huge potential to help us understand society, inform policies, and develop interventions to improve our lives. It is important that the controls on the use of personal data enable society to enjoy these benefits, while ensuring that an individual’s data are kept safe and used appropriately.

How far can we trust open data?

Written by Owen Boswarva on . Posted in Opinion

This is a trick question, of course, with no right answer.

When it comes to data, 'open' is mainly a licensing approach. Open release can amplify the utility of a dataset, but it tells us nothing about the quality of the data or the processes that went into its production. Those are technical features of the dataset, unaffected by the legal conditions for re-use.

Did big data kill the statistician?

Written by Martyn Jones on . Posted in Opinion

Hold this thought: ‘There are big lies, damn big lies and big data science’. Statistics is a science, some argue that it is the oldest of sciences. It can be traced back in history to the days of Augustus Caesar, and before. In 1998, Lynn Billard wrote a paper that laid out the role of the statistician and statistics. She said, 'no science began until man mastered the concepts and arts of counting, measuring, and weighting'.