Thursday, January 27, 2011

Operations Research and gerrymandering

INFORMS blog challenge for January involves Operations Research and politics.  While public debate on politics will never change perhaps one thing that can change is the involvement better decision making to solving some of the political discourse.

One area of politics is the topic of gerrymandering.  For those that are not familiar to gerrymandering it is the process of resetting electoral boundaries for voting purposes.  Gerrymandering is a hot topic around any election because it is usually the party in power controls the rights to reset the electoral boundaries.  This leads to an obvious advantage to the party as they can maintain a seat in a legislature with setting boundaries based on past voting behavior.

Operations Research can be a valuable asset to the process of redistricting.  In fact Operations Research has been very much involved in redistricting for at least 50 years.  Decisions to draw electoral lines can follow any number of constructions including demographics, population centers, municipality boundaries or industry types.  As information abounds more freely there is more opportunity to use it for decision making.  It seems every new census brings more available data.  The growth of the internet has allowed information to be available more openly.  Opportunities should grow in Operations Research to provide redistricting decision makers the information for informed analysis.

Perhaps one of the better uses of Operations Research could be the ethical context of the gerrymandering debate.  I have often heard it debated that Operations Research may have created the politically polarized country we have today.  The same tools of Operations Research could be used to allow transparency in the redistricting process.  It could be useful for citizens to know how probable or likely outcomes of elections based on redistricting suggestions.  Websites like shows how money influences party affiliation and elections.   Perhaps similar websites can emerge on electoral districts and the legislation that helped create them.

The debate of gerrymandering will last for centuries I am sure.  I believe Operations Research can play a vital part in the debate.   Information is more open and easy to access than ever.  Let's use that to our best ability and help inform the voting electorate.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Statistics blog roundup from the Internet

For those of us that want to keep up with the latest in the world of statistics here is a great list of 40 statistical blogs on the internet today from  Some of the blogs even include R (link) which is my favorite statistical computing environment. 

I have a few that I read on an occasional basis.   Those include

R-Bloggers - an R blog aggregator that is very useful for R enthusiasists

Revolutions - blog by David Smith of Revolution Analytics, an enterprise ready R support and developer company

The Numbers Guy - Wall Street Journal blog about, you guessed it, numbers and statistics.

As you can tell I have been doing a lot of statistical work lately.  Most of my efforts have been in the realm of predictive analytics.  These blogs have come in useful in finding valuable references for predictive analytics.  One book that is often mentioned in these statistical blogs is Applied logistic regression (Wiley Series in probability and statistics).  I highly recommend this book as a statistical reference for logistic regression analysis.

Applied Logistic Regression takes the reader through an understanding logistic regression model and its usage for modern prediction analysis.  The book starts with and understanding of log odds and introduction to the logistic regression model.  Then the book goes into detail of the model parameters, coefficients, and estimation.  Strategies for model building and case studies are also referred in this book.