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Mathematical Sciences Colloquium, Dianne Cook

Monday, April 21, 2014 at 4:10pm
Lewis Hall, 304

Dianne Cook, a professor in the Department of Statistics and Statistical Laboratory at Iowa State University, will present "Statistical Inference by Crowd-Sourcing" as part of MSU's Mathematical Sciences Colloquium Series.

Plots of data often provoke the response "is what we see really there." In this talk we will discuss ways to give visual statistical methods an inferential framework. Statistical significance of "graphical discoveries" is measured by having the human viewer compare the plot of the real data set with collections of plots of null data sets: plots take on the role of test statistics, and human cognition the role of statistical tests, in a process modeled after the "lineup," popular from criminal legal procedures. This is a simple but rigorous protocol that provides valid inference, yielding p-values and estimates of the test power, for graphical findings. Amazon's Mechanical Turk is used to implement the lineup protocol and crowd-source the inference. Turk is a resource where people are employed to do tasks that are difficult for a computer, in this case, evaluating structure in plots of data. With a suite of experiments, the lineup protocol was run head-to-head against the equivalent conventional test, yielding results that mirror those produced by classical inference. This talk will describe these results, and show how the lineup protocol is used for assessing graphical findings and designing good data plots.

Dr. Dianne Cook is a full professor at Iowa State University in the Department of Statistics and Statistical Laboratory. Her research concentrates on the visualization of high-dimensional data which makes contributions to the areas of dynamic graphics, exploratory data analysis, data mining, multivariate statistical methods, and statistical computing. Data that can be visualized using her methods arise in many situations: environmental monitoring, experimental physics, stock markets, biological species classification, mathematics, for example. She is an author of the freely available visualization software GGobi, and its predecessor XGobi, and involved with the development of several Bioconductor packages, including explorase for visualizing transcriptomics and metabolomics data.

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