History is important: it explains us how we got to the place were we are and interferes more with our future than many would admit. This is true in life, but also in science. In lecturing we usually teach concepts and methodologies, many developed in the last five centuries and they are all developed with a background. This background tells us a lot about why these methodologies gained its importance they nowadays have and only when we understand them we understand why they are so highlighted compared to other methodologies, which we do not necessarily teach nowadays. Nevertheless, usually we keep the mentioning of this background quite brief and when at all, some words about it can be found in books. But is it the right way?
It’s over. Five days of interesting talks, posters and discussions are finally done and the EGU 2017 has reached its end. The final day was for me the only one where I had some contributions on my own and so it was a busy one.
After I have hung up my posters (yes, I had two to cover today), I went to a palaeo-session and listened to many talks about ice sheet modelling and data collection in Antarctica. After lunch I had the session in which I had to give my talk on the seasonal prediction of the SNAO.
The session lasted two slots long and the final talk on the supermodel reminded me of the SIRF I applied in my last paper. Interesting to see it applied to a full-scale model. Finally the day ended with the poster session, but this time I had my two posters and a lot of talking to do (and yeah, EGU finally retweeted a tweet of mine ;)).
So all in all it was a great conference. I enjoyed Vienna once again, met many interesting people and saw so many interesting talks and poster that I look forward to the next time. The hottest topic in my view was the warning of the observationalist that there is really a problem building up in Antarctica. I saw two medal lectures on this topic and the claim that models currently underestimate the potential sea level rise are quite worrisome. The thing I was not so happy about was the provisional building in front of the main building as it covered the meeting place and changed the atmosphere of the breaks. But to answer the question of my first post from this years EGU, it seemed as the resources for beers and wine for the poster sessions were alright, as the complaints were relatively quite during the days. At the end it is time for me to say goodbye from Vienna (I will do that with another day here) and taking all the new ideas home and hopefully having the time and opportunity to make something out of them.
It was the fourth day and at this time a conference gets a bit exhausting. I started the day with a visit to statistical post-processing and walked then on to the sea level session for the rest of the morning. As I have worked in my past position in sea-level science the topic is still very familiar for me. Especially the large range of topics, from palaeo-reconstructions to engineering advice makes a visit to such a session always an interesting adventure. After lunch I switched to the precipitation databases session, which was after the break followed with homogenisation approaches. The end of the day was as always filled with the poster session.
Tomorrow, I will finally have the opportunity to show my own work. In the afternoon I will have my talk on seasonal prediction and in the evening a poster on past sea-level change. Traditionally, the friday tends to be quite empty and it is usually not so good to have the contributions so late in a conference, but I am sure it will still be an interesting final day.
The third day of the EGU is over and my day got busier than yesterday. It started with a look into a sea-ice session with an interesting view of predicting its decline. A key is not to look at the time as the decisive variable, but on the development of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The second half of the first session I went into a more applied geological session, which mainly asked questions about how boulders get onshore. Quite interesting were the implications on potential storm climate during the last interglacial. The second session I paid a visit to precipitation its retrieval and the resulting products. Precipitation is one of the most complicated variables to predict as well as to measure and has therefore always interesting developments to offer.
After lunch my next stop was again a medal lecture, this time on chaos and the presenter had some really nice examples. The remaining session was on ENSO, before I decided to visit the open session on ocean science. Some interesting talks, for example on the uncertainty of deep ocean heat content made it an interesting session. The final of the day was as always the poster session.
Conferences like the EGU are always great for researchers like me, who prefer to take look into different fields (as I personally focus on the developments of statistical methodologies, which do not require to stick to one field). Unfortunately, this leads even more to the problem that you have to decide what you would like to see. While often schedulers take care to give a consistent schedule for one discipline (even when it does not really work every time), having several different divisions to follow needs some extra care. When I look onto the first three days, I have visited sessions of the following divisions (only the first division on the list): OS, GM, G, CL, AS, GI, CR, NP and NH. I am not quite sure, which division I belong to myself, but I have learned that it would be simpler to stick to one division only. Often the computer systems/apps are not designed to assist in the search of session of many (or all) divisions and it requires some extra work to do it properly. There is always a session you felt you have missed. Anyway, it is worth the effort and everyone has problems to get their ideal scheduling done. The current app is a nice feature, but there is still the question on how it will get better to really assist every type of scientist at such a huge conference.
The second day of the conference was a quiet day for me, as no must see sessions were scheduled for me today. It started again with the North Atlantic session, which this time focussed more on the oscillations, like NAO. Afterwards, I visited a medal lecture on SAR. This topic is quite far away from my daily work, but such conferences are always a chance to see things you are usually not confronted with. Important for me was the statement that in times in which data can be generated in huge numbers, data management gets more and more important. Big data requires new ideas on workflows, might have to include cloud services and poses new questions on data availability.
After lunch I visited a palaeo session on the common era, which also addressed in many points the long-term variabilities of our climate system. In a last session another medal lecture was scheduled and again the southern ocean was the topic. This time it was the circular current and a good overview on the methods used to understand this important part of the global circulation was illustrated in this talk. A good thing about medal lectures is that you can see in a compact way a whole topic. Even when you now bits and pieces about it, it helps to get deeper into it to by getting it introduced by a real expert of the research field. The final stage of the day was then the traditional poster session. Tomorrow will be half time, and it will start the busy part of this week for me.
Here we are. My fourth time at the EGU and as always there is a new record in the number of participants (somewhere around 14,000). The last time I attended this conference was 2014 and so a lot has changed. A symbol for this are the tents on the former meeting area in front of the main building, which are really a pity (I certainly will complain about it a lot this week ;)). My personal contributions will be all on Friday, so I have some days to look around and enjoy some chit-chat in the poster sessions. Continue reading
From time to time you listen to talks and in a moment you do not expect any surprises you hear the argument that statistics is objective. It is often used to strengthen other arguments and tries to prevent doubts in them. Much to often statistics is given a credibility it does not deserve and so the times it gets usefully applied get devalued. With this in mind, one thing have to be clear: Statistics is subjective…. always!
Quite often the words on objectivity are used in haste, often also from scientists who should know it better. Many arguments on the objectivity of statistics comes from the past, where frequentist statistics was the norm and its application for nearly every problem was seen as appropriate and therefore objective. But many forget, that by using frequentist statistics they make a choice. A choice on assumptions many have learnt years ago and are long forgotten.
May it be an assumption on normal distributions, on stationarity or ergodicity. Let’s be honest, those are never fulfilled, but always accepted indirectly by choosing a standard methodology. And when you doubt that you have a choice on your statistical methodology, then the answer is in nearly ever case that there is one. You do not have to go all the way to Bayesian statistics, there are many steps in between. The start is usually to think about the assumptions you are currently making in your methodology and then go the extra step to think what happens when one of these fails.
Most important is that we start to teach the students that statistics is based on assumptions. For myself it is a game of assumptions and usually you have a lot of freedom to make them. That does not mean that standard methods should not be taught, yes, for everyone who works in geoscience a foundation in statistical techniques is necessary. But it is important at the same time that we make clear that each methodology has its disadvantages and that alternatives exist. They are not necessarily easily to calculate, but they are certainly at least some seconds worth to think about.