Vision No. 4 June 2007

More on GenStat in Africa

VSNi are delighted to be involved in the exciting developments in teaching in Africa, and we’re pleased to include the following report from John Rowlands, one of the developers of the Biometrics and Research Methods Teaching Resource CD.

John Rowlands

“ The primary reason for producing the CD was associated with the knowledge that the teaching of statistics/biometrics at universities in some sub-Saharan African universities tends to be somewhat theoretical and not directly related to the real applied problems of biological research. One of the problems has been the lack of relevant text books. The Biometrics & Research Methods Teaching Resource has been developed to help fill this gap by providing statistical, biometric and research method knowledge in interactive, electronic form. A key feature of the CD is it contains 13 case studies drawn from a variety of real-life agricultural studies across East and Southern Africa. The Teaching Resource is for use by the teacher in class and allows him/her to take the students through the process that they are likely to encounter in developmental or applied research, namely Research strategy, Study design, Data management, Exploration & description, Statistical modelling and Reporting.

“Teaching guides are also included in the CD to describe these processes. These guides are not complete course notes. Rather their aim is to provide supplementary notes to lecturers and their students that cover some of the more practical aspects of biometrics. Each case study has a set of questions and a data set that the teacher can use with his/her students. Various photographs are included to illustrate the environments in which the case studies took place, and some case studies also contain short videos to illustrate study design and methods of data collection in the field. The CD also contains the CAST for Africa software (Computer Assisted Statistical Teaching) developed by Doug Stirling (Massey University, New Zealand) that enhances in an elegant and graphical way the understanding of elementary statistical concepts. Two of the case studies use InStat+, a useful teaching statistical package developed by the Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading, and this software is included in the CD too. Also Harvey Dicks (University of Kwazulu-Natal) has kindly provided a number of GenStat data sets drawn from a wide number of agricultural experiments.

“An important feature of the Teaching Resource is that it uses the GenStat statistical software for much of the data analysis. Each case study not only illustrates how to apply GenStat but also shows users how to interpret the outputs. A free version of the software known as GenStat Discovery has been produced by the developers VSN International Ltd , Hemel Hempstead, UK for non-commercial use in a number of developing countries. The software is available to lecturers, researchers and students to help alleviate the problem of limited access to professional statistical software. It is distributed in Africa by the ICRAF-ILRI Research Methods Group (RMG) on their Research Methods Resources CD. So far, over 7,000 CDs have been distributed across sub-Saharan Africa.

“The Biometrics & Research Methods Teaching Resource CD is also free and can be obtained from the RMG, contact Agnes Odanga. A web-based version is due for release shortly. With the recent introduction of the Teaching Resource these two CDs provide the opportunity for appropriate and effective use of statistical methods and, together, will help to improve the quality, not only of biometric teaching, but also of design and analysis of agricultural research.

The development of the Biometrics & Research Methods Teaching Resource was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Further information about the Teaching Resource can be obtained from either me or from Jane Poole of the RMG.”

Read more about GenStat’s support for African agriculture.

Out and about with VSNi

VSNi will be attending a number of events later this year – to find out where we will be click here. If you are involved in organising an event which may be of interest to VSNi and our users please let us know by emailing us.

Latest training courses

Don’t forget to check out the latest VSNi training course schedule to find out when your nearest course will be held, or email us to request a specific event. In addition to our own training courses, we’re delighted to report on courses led by some of our colleagues world-wide.The second in a series of workshops on “Statistics for Plant Breeding and QTL Analysis” was held at the Joodoburri Conference Centre on Bribie Island, Queensland, Australia, from 16-19 April. The thirty-four participants were drawn from diverse backgrounds in the disciplines of Statistics, Plant Physiology, Plant Breeding, Cereal Chemistry and Molecular Biology. Course presenters Brian Cullis, Ari Verbyla and David Butler presented informative and challenging sessions covering the latest developments in statistical methodology with applications in plant breeding and genetics. ASReml-R was the chosen package for workshop demonstrations and hands-on sessions.

The third workshop in this series will be held in Canberra on 23-26 July. This workshop will cover both the phenotypic and genetic aspects necessary for analysis of plant breeding and marker data. The workshop spans 4 days and includes:

  • phenotypic analysis of individual one and two phase experiments
  • combined phenotypic analysis of a series of experiments
  • foundation concepts in genetics
  • linkage analysis and QTL analysis
  • practical computing sessions with the opportunity to analyse your own data
  • the use of the R statistical package throughout the workshop, with learning of the package integrated and relevant to the material covered

For more information on this workshop contact the organisers. For the current course schedule visit the VSNi website, or contact the VSNi training team.

VSNi photography competition

Fancy yourself as a photographer? Well, don’t forget now is your chance to show us your skills, and to show us how you use our software. The VSNi photo competition is now open. For a chance to win £150 worth of Amazon vouchers, send us your photos via the online competition form. For full terms and conditions see terms.

Staff Changes

VSNi are pleased to announce the appointment of two new staff members, who join our technical team: Ian Channing and Alex Glaser. Ian Channing joined us in April from Credit Suisse where he spent five years working in the Risk Measurement and Management technology department. He has a breadth of experience across web design, database (including data warehousing) and desktop application development. He joined Credit Suisse from Imperial College where he did a four year undergraduate Masters in Mathematics and Computer Science. He continued his studies whilst at work, spending the past three years completing a Postgraduate Certificate (conversion course) and Masters in Economics at Birkbeck College. He is currently working on extensions to the website, including the e-store and the infrastructure for web demos etc. He will also be closely involved in ADVISE.

Alex Glaser joined us in February after completing his PhD at the universities of Surrey and Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Steve Brooks. His PhD involved computational routines for the calculation of time series models and he has had many routines incorporated into the Fisheries Science in R project. Previous work experience has included working in the Operational Research unit of the Department of Transport and teaching statistics modules to final year undergraduates at the University of Surrey. Since joining VSNi he has worked on Redundancy Analysis, False Detection Rates in microarray analysis and is currently involved in the analysis of Joint Regression and Associative modelling (with dropout) for longitudinal data.

Sadly we also have two staff departures to announce: Many of you have worked closely with Anna Kane, our long-time Customer Support Manager and more recently Training Manager and Carey Biggs, our Business Development Manager. With sadness we announce that both Anna and Carey have decided that it is time for them to move on from VSNi.

Anna’s relationship with GenStat predates VSNi from her NAG days when Anna joined NAG in 1994. Carey has been with VSNi for five years and as some of you may be aware has recently been on a 3 month sabbatical helping in an Orphanage in Africa and Carey has decided that she will not be returning to the UK. I know many of you have developed long standing relationships with both Anna and Carey and you may well miss them as much as we will.

Anna and Carey have been valuable members of our team and we are very sorry to see them go. With a heavy heart we wish them every success in their new ventures.

We are in the process of appointing new members to our commercial team, we are always interested to hear from interested candidates and should you be interested would be happy to hear from you. Our first vacancy can be found here.


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