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An interactive and lively workshop

The first PlanetS workshop on Bayesian statistics was held last November 26th at Bern University. The one-day meeting attracted over thirty PlanetS members interested in learning about the latest techniques for data modelling and analysis. Speakers from Swiss and foreign institutes lectured on various topics, ranging from basic introduction to Bayesian statistics and Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithms to more technical subjects on Gaussian random fields. Speakers were chosen from very different backgrounds –statistics, astrophysics, geophysics– in order to give an overview of state-of-the-art applications of Bayesian statistics.

PlanetS members attending the workshop at the University of Bern. (Image Rodrigo Díaz)

PlanetS members attending the workshop at the University of Bern. (Image Rodrigo Díaz)

The workshop was organised by two PlanetS postdocs and a Ph.D. student who first met during the PlanetS General Assembly last January in Anzère. “It was quickly clear that we had interests in common, and that organising such a workshop would be beneficial for the PlanetS community,” recalls Caroline Dorn, one of the organisers.

But not knowing what would be the typical previous knowledge the participants would bring, they had to aim wide. “The workshop agenda was planned as an in crescendo in technicalities and specificity, with the morning talks on more general topics and intended to bring everybody on the same page, while the afternoon ones touched on more technical aspects,” said Baptiste Lavie. “I believe there was something for everyone.”

The results were at the expected level, and participants provided positive feedback. “I definitely took some things out of it. You could tell people were listening very intently as they were writing notes and asking lots of questions,” said a Ph.D. student at UniGE who attended the workshop.

The workshop was very interactive and lively. “The participants were very active, asking questions and interacting over coffee and lunch,” said Rodrigo Díaz, one of the organisers of the workshop. Additionally, the lectures were streamed live, and up to nine persons were connected simultaneously and posed questions through the live chat. “Overall, we are very pleased with the results,” concluded Díaz.

The workshop was only possible thanks to the NCCR support through the Academic platform. The talks were recorded and are available from the NCCR PlanetS website. The organisers hope that these videos will be the first stone of a kind of statistics knowledge base that can be consulted and that will permit the data analyses performed within the NCCR to become more powerful and rigorous. The organisation of the next workshop on statistics is already underway, and will probably focus on a single topic, such as MCMC or model comparison.

References
[1] Event website: http://nccr-planets.ch/event/stats2015/
[2] Recorded lectures: https://collab.switch.ch/p9t1wv4xvjy/

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