Vision No. 11 Nov 2008

Teaching with GenStat

With all the complexities facing the world from climate and environment changes to how we feed the world, one thing is clear – we need research in order to plan effectively. And research needs well trained researchers; people who understand agricultural issues and concerns, and who know how to research effectively. GenStat is known as a key research tool for many agricultural and other bioscience researchers, but we were delighted to find GenStat also has an important role to play in the teaching of these areas.

A key user of GenStat is the IAMZ in Zaragoza, Spain, whose main aim is to train people in how to do research. The IAMZ stands (in Spanish) for the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza, it is one of the 4 sites of the CIHEAM (International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies). The main purpose of the CIHEAM is “to develop cooperation between Mediterranean countries through postgraduate training and promotion of cooperative research in the field of agriculture and natural resources.” As a part of this the IAMZ develops Master programmes and advanced courses for professionals designed to update and further the training of researchers in agriculture and its related sciences.

Students come from all over the world to study for the Master programmes, some are straight from their first degree and wish to complete their education, and some are already at work and wish to update their knowledge and understanding of agricultural research. I spoke with Dr Ramzi Belkhodja from the IAMZ, who heads up the Master in plant breeding. The programme covers several areas, one of which being statistics and the use of statistics in plant breeding research. Dr Belkhodja and his colleagues recognised the need for anyone either in plant breeding research or planning on entering the field, to have a good understanding and grounding in statistical methods.

Currently the team teach their statistics course using GenStat. Given GenStat’s history in agricultural research it is perhaps no surprise that it is used as the phraseology and terminology reflects the language used in the biosciences. GenStat contains a huge range of statistical techniques; in fact you would be hard pushed to find a statistical test or routine not included in GenStat. However, it isn’t just GenStat’s inherent statistical strength or its history that makes it so useful to Dr Belkhodja and his colleagues.

GenStat’s straightforward Windows menu system means that the statistics is easy to teach and importantly easy for the students to pick up and understand, indeed Dr Belkhodja told me that the students are up and running with GenStat and statistical techniques within 3 teaching sessions. The self-explanatory menu system means that the statistical methods and concepts are easy to manage and understand. Combined with the speed and ease of importing any data from Excel (for example) into GenStat, and the lecturers at IAMZ can spend less time on the complicated syntax and more time on the analysis itself.

Given the students come from all over the world; GenStat also provides an added advantage for those coming from the developing world. When the students return, they can obtain a free copy of GenStat – as GenStat Discovery, to continue their research. So, in a world where “time is money”, students don’t need to learn a new package in their work environment; they can implement their learning and statistical understanding in a package they already know and trust.

More information on GenStat is available on the VSNi website and for more details on the work and courses of the IAMZ look here.

Product News

ASReml, now at version 2, offers free add-ons for supported ASReml licenses, for S and R. Details on how to download this can be found on the VSNi website. Users will need to install their existing asreml.lic license key in C:\program files\Common Files\VSN International\Licenses which will enable the R and S add on to work, once downloaded. If they do not have this directory then they will need to install the asreml.lic file in the Bin directory within R and or S.

Technical tip – User Support

Whether you are installing a new license key for the first time or a replacement license key because you have changed your PC, you may come across the below error message:

[license-error image]

The reason for this error message is generally due to the following:

– The license key is being installed onto a different machine from where the license request came from
– The PC has been reconfigured or reformatted, since the license request was made, changing the Host ID of the machine.

Sometimes neither of the above has occurred, which means that your PC may be generating a new MAC address each time you reboot, which keeps changing the Host ID every time you use the machine.

The only way that users can overcome the problem if this keeps occurring is by sending us their machine details. The way to display these is by opening up a command Prompt and typing in ipconfig/all and selecting enter. This will display their machine details which they then will need to send us, the Host name and Physical address, for us to send them a license key. This will then solve the problem of the Host ID error message appearing regularly.

Out and about with VSNi

Another successful Australian GenStat User Conference is underway; this year the agenda covers a variety of presentations from developers and users alike based on “Biometrics in Primary Industries and the Environment”. Thank you to the organisers; and all those attending who will help to make a successful event.

We’re always looking for events we can support and sponsor – so please send us details of any events you are organising or involved in, and as we decide on more events for the future we’ll list them on our website.

Latest training courses

The next training course is for Regression, nonlinear and generalized linear models in GenStat, scheduled for 5th and 6th March 2009 at The Paper Trail in Apsley, UK. To find out more or to book please look at the training page on our website.

As a part of our continued update and development of our courses, please let us know if you have any suggestions or topics for future training.

Don’t forget that we also offer specific on-site training if our current schedule doesn’t fit with your requirements. Please email the training team for prices and further information.


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