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Published exactly seventy years ago, Jeffreys’s Theory of Probability (1939) has had a unique impact on the Bayesian community and is now considered to be one of the main classics in Bayesian Statistics as well as the initiator of the objective Bayes school. In particular, its advances on the derivation of noninformative priors as well as on the scaling of Bayes factors have had a lasting impact on the field. However, the book reflects the characteristics of the time, especially in terms of mathematical rigor. In this paper we point out the fundamental aspects of this reference work, especially the thorough coverage of testing problems and the construction of both estimation and testing noninformative priors based on functional divergences. Our major aim here is to help modern readers in navigating in this difficult text and in concentrating on passages that are still relevant today.
Theory of Probability is distinguished by several high-level philosophical attitudes, some stressed by Jeffreys, some implicit. By reviewing these we may recognize the importance in this work in the historical development of statistics.
We are grateful to all discussants of our re-visitation for their strong support in our enterprise and for their overall agreement with our perspective. Further discussions with them and other leading statisticians showed that the legacy of Theory of Probability is alive and lasting.
In designed experiments and surveys, known laws or design features provide checks on the most relevant aspects of a model and identify the target parameters. In contrast, in most observational studies in the health and social sciences, the primary study data do not identify and may not even bound target parameters. Discrepancies between target and analogous identified parameters (biases) are then of paramount concern, which forces a major shift in modeling strategies. Conventional approaches are based on conditional testing of equality constraints, which correspond to implausible point-mass priors. When these constraints are not identified by available data, however, no such testing is possible. In response, implausible constraints can be relaxed into penalty functions derived from plausible prior distributions. The resulting models can be fit within familiar full or partial likelihood frameworks.
The absence of identification renders all analyses part of a sensitivity analysis. In this view, results from single models are merely examples of what might be plausibly inferred. Nonetheless, just one plausible inference may suffice to demonstrate inherent limitations of the data. Points are illustrated with misclassified data from a study of sudden infant death syndrome. Extensions to confounding, selection bias and more complex data structures are outlined.
Diverse analysis approaches have been proposed to distinguish data missing due to death from nonresponse, and to summarize trajectories of longitudinal data truncated by death. We demonstrate how these analysis approaches arise from factorizations of the distribution of longitudinal data and survival information. Models are illustrated using cognitive functioning data for older adults. For unconditional models, deaths do not occur, deaths are independent of the longitudinal response, or the unconditional longitudinal response is averaged over the survival distribution. Unconditional models, such as random effects models fit to unbalanced data, may implicitly impute data beyond the time of death. Fully conditional models stratify the longitudinal response trajectory by time of death. Fully conditional models are effective for describing individual trajectories, in terms of either aging (age, or years from baseline) or dying (years from death). Causal models (principal stratification) as currently applied are fully conditional models, since group differences at one timepoint are described for a cohort that will survive past a later timepoint. Partly conditional models summarize the longitudinal response in the dynamic cohort of survivors. Partly conditional models are serial cross-sectional snapshots of the response, reflecting the average response in survivors at a given timepoint rather than individual trajectories. Joint models of survival and longitudinal response describe the evolving health status of the entire cohort. Researchers using longitudinal data should consider which method of accommodating deaths is consistent with research aims, and use analysis methods accordingly.
Traditional methods for covariate adjustment of treatment means in designed experiments are inherently conditional on the observed covariate values. In order to develop a coherent general methodology for analysis of covariance, we propose a multivariate variance components model for the joint distribution of the response and covariates. It is shown that, if the design is orthogonal with respect to (random) blocking factors, then appropriate adjustments to treatment means can be made using the univariate variance components model obtained by conditioning on the observed covariate values. However, it is revealed that some widely used models are incorrectly specified, leading to biased estimates and incorrect standard errors. The approach clarifies some issues that have been the source of ongoing confusion in the statistics literature.
This paper reviews the maxims used by three early modern fictional detectives: Monsieur Lecoq, C. Auguste Dupin and Sherlock Holmes. It find similarities between these maxims and Bayesian thought. Poe’s Dupin uses ideas very similar to Bayesian game theory. Sherlock Holmes’ statements also show thought patterns justifiable in Bayesian terms.
Born in New Zealand, Shayle Robert Searle earned a bachelor’s degree (1949) and a master’s degree (1950) from Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. After working for an actuary, Searle went to Cambridge University where he earned a Diploma in mathematical statistics in 1953. Searle won a Fulbright travel award to Cornell University, where he earned a doctorate in animal breeding, with a strong minor in statistics in 1959, studying under Professor Charles Henderson. In 1962, Cornell invited Searle to work in the university’s computing center, and he soon joined the faculty as an assistant professor of biological statistics. He was promoted to associate professor in 1965, and became a professor of biological statistics in 1970. Searle has also been a visiting professor at Texas A&M University, Florida State University, Universität Augsburg and the University of Auckland. He has published several statistics textbooks and has authored more than 165 papers. Searle is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society, and he is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. He also has received the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt U.S. Senior Scientist Award, is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was recently awarded the D.Sc. Honoris Causa by his alma mater, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.