The Research Design Associates Blog


Health Informatics – My Current Focus

I spent a year in Arizona, during which time I worked very hard studying in more depth the issues about logistics and transportation that I had started studying during my doctoral thesis.I also had the opportunity to deepen my collaboration with my colleagues at the Department of Geography and Geo-Information Science at George Mason University. I started to work on completely different issues with them, participating as a consultant on a project that brought me closer to issues in health care and, in particular, to the system used in the U.S. for allocating organs for transplantation.

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Work Experience Opened New Interest

During my time working for the Rome Agency for the Preparation of the Jubilee Year 2000, I had changed my mind again: the desire to continue to study and investigate similar research problems was ripe inside me.  I started to study again, and I won a fellowship for a PhD in Operations Research at the University of Rome La Sapienza.

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From Political Science to Statistics

One day I was at my desk reading the same page of a sociology textbook for the tenth time, and the next day I was sitting in my first class of Mathematical Analysis. I had changed my major from Political Science to Statistics.

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Probability is hard to understand and does not really get easier with use

While jumping to conclusions can allow fast, heuristic decision that are often correct and expedient; it can also lead to false conclusions when there is insufficient information, and little reality basis for the conclusion beyond immediate experience. Research that satisfies the premises of the statistical model force logical consistency in the math and offer an opportunity to improve information quality. Careful and thoughtful probability research can provide insights and answers well beyond verbal logic. It is a second set of information available to those who will slow the decision making process and grapple with the novel way of looking at the world.

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We’re not so good at understanding probability

We routinely work with brilliant scientists, business leaders, legal adjudicators and policy decision makers of all ages and experiences. Yet these very competent folks rarely use the results of probability statistics as primary components in their decision making. They mostly substitute some form of intuitive math, “experience” or “judgment”. During political campaigns it is always frustrating to hear distorted or down right fabricated numbers being used to bolster one candidate or another. It just makes sense to disregard numbers jumble in situations where there is little capacity to easily verify or grasp truth about what the numbers mean. The tendency to disregard all politician’s’ numbers as lies throws out the baby with the bath, it is completely understandable.  Yet scientists, economists and business decision makers ought to be able to use probability to sort out fact from fiction in the fields where they are expert. But there is little evidence that these probability based judgments are routinely used in any field.

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Redistricting Battles Under Way

Research Design Associates statistical experts have been working with the the U.S. Department of Justice and voting rights organizations since the late 1980s to assess redistricting plans and voting practices for possible unlawful violations. New voting districts are drawn once a decade, after each census, to make sure that all congressional districts have roughly the same number of people and jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination are required to pre-clear new plans with the U.S. DOJ. After the 2000 census, RDA experts testified about redistricting issues in federal courts in Georgia, Montana, Virginia, and Wyoming.

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The Statistics of Redistricting

Now that the U.S. Census Bureau has tallied the 2010 population figures, the redistricting process has begun in earnest. The redistricting stakes are huge. Redistricting battles are occurring all across the U.S. Eighteen states are either adding or losing Congressional seats. The big winners are Texas which gained four seats and Florida which gained two. New York and Ohio are the big losers, each losing two seats. There is much pressure on state officials who recarve the electoral maps: to try to keep their grip on power or pry it away from opponents while taking into account pressure from those who want to lessen the impact of partisan politics.

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