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Transforming and Combining Statistical Models

For our August Meetup, we're thrilled to have Dr. Ben Klemens from the US Census Bureau talking about statistical models that tell stories. Rather than simply scaling up simple models, or throwing horsepower at black boxes, Ben prefers to estimate and test models whose structure reflects theories about the world and how people make decisions. In a recent article, he developed a formal algebraic system of statistical models that makes it easier to define and fit complex models to data. And in a related software package, he can compare and combine models from genres including linear models, Bayesian hierarchies, and microsimulations. If you're interested in new ways to build useful, insightful, descriptive statistical models, you should definitely attend!


• 6:30pm -- Networking, Empenadas, and Refreshments

• 7:00pm -- Introduction

• 7:15pm -- Presentation and Discussion

• 8:30pm -- Data Drinks (Tonic, 2036 G St NW)


Social scientists develop nuanced, rich narratives. But when turning those narratives into testable models, a great deal is lost, leaving linear models or simple combinations of distributions. Can we do better? This talk will discuss the development of an algebraic system of models that provides a well-defined space of models, and transformations and combinations of models. This allows a researcher to develop descriptive models that mirror the narrative. Because even complex models have a standard form, they can be parameterized, estimated with data, and tested.


Ben Klemens has been doing statistical analysis and computationally intensive modeling of populations ever since getting his Ph.D. in Social Sciences from Caltech. He has written agent-based models and microsimulations for the Brookings Institution and the World Bank, and done statistical analyses with the National Institute of Mental Health and the US Census Bureau (where he currently works in the research division). He wrote a book on Modeling with Data, and was on the Kojo Nnamdi show. As a nonresident fellow at Brookings and with the Free Software Foundation, he has done work on ensuring that creative authors retain the right to use the software they write. Follow his blog or his Twitter account.


This event is sponsored by the GWU Department of Decision SciencesClouderaStatistics.comLivingSocialIBM Analytics Solution CenterNovetta SolutionsElder Research, and Five 9 Group.

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  • ravindra b.


    September 5, 2014

  • Harlan H.

    Oops, just realized that the paper sign-up sheet for DC2 Newsletter signups got thrown away during cleanup after the event. If anyone wanted to sign up for the newsletter, please do so here: Sorry about that!

    1 · September 5, 2014

  • Lance

    Great presentation by Dr. Klemens. When I read this Wash Post article, I was reminded of this meetup again. Sad, but a very interesting realm of study.

    September 2, 2014

  • Harlan H.

    OK, audio for the presentation is here: and the slides are here: . If you missed it, you can now follow along! Also, the IoTDC survey results are here: Great to see everyone!

    4 · August 29, 2014

  • Nevin H.

    Great talk; thought provoking ideas about statitical models and tools

    August 29, 2014

  • Owen H.

    Very interesting talk, lively, and just about the right technical level.

    1 · August 29, 2014

  • Scott O.

    Apparently there's going to be math in this one....

    Does anyone who plans on going to the meetup have to go home to the vicinity of Dale City afterwards? My carefully crafted transportation plan got upended by a family emergency.

    1 · August 28, 2014

  • Stacy G.

    Hi all,

    I am the recruiter for the Dept of Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital and I wanted to announce an exciting job opportunity to work for the Massachusetts General Hospital right in Bethesda, MD. Through our work with the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN) we are currently recruiting a Biostatistician to join our team in MD! If you or someone you know might be interested in learning more about this opportunity please visit and use the advanced search tool to find Job ID#2252774. Please feel free to direct any questions or referrals to me, Stacy, at [masked]. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you!

    August 27, 2014

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