(van Dyk, Gandy, Hand, Young, Mortlock, Montana)

The Statistics Section at Imperial College London has close ties with the Astrophysics Group, and members of both groups make up the recently-formed Imperial Centre for Inference and Cosmology (ICIC).  We are involved in researching problems of astrostatistics, an exciting and emerging field devoted to the application of modern statistical techniques to solve problems of astronomical data analysis and to the use of astronomical data-sets to test and develop new statistical methods.  The astrostatistics research at Imperial has two main threads.  The main thread of astrostatisics research here is the development - and application - of principled statistical methods to make sense of the massive data-sets that are now routinely produced by large astronomical surveys.  This can include fundamental techniques for data processing (or "data reduction" as it is often termed in astronomy), as well as science exploitation projects, such as rare object searches (e.g., looking for the most distant objects in the Universe) and Bayesian parameter inference (e.g., measuring the ages and other properties of stars given only very imprecise measurements).  We also use astronomical data as a testing ground for innovative statistical techniques, with a particular emphasis on examining the roles of priors in Bayesian parameter estimation and model comparison.  The latter is particular important in cosmology, as while the available data are exquisitely characterised and the theoretical models are entirely quantitative, the lack of well-motivated priors on model parameters makes model-testing and checking problematic.  We are actively involved in finding new methods to solve such problems.

Selected Publications (in chronological order):

Invited Talks / Keynote Presentations:

  • van Dyk D. (2013) Keynote Plenary lecture, UK Young Statisticians Meeting
  • van Dyk D. (2013) "Embedding astronomical computer models into principled statistical analyses", Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute, University of Southampton
  • van Dyk D. (2011) "Future directions of astrostatistics", Statistical Challenges in Modern Astronomy V, State College, Pennsylvania
  • Mortlock D.J. (2013)  "Finding the most distant objects in the Universe by finding anomalous entries in big databases", Royal Statistical Society meeting, Newcastle
  • Mortlock D.J. (2013) "Finding the most distant objects in the Universe by finding anomalous entries in big databases", Big Data meeting, Newton Institute, Cambridge

Upcoming Events:

  • ICIC Inaugural Workshop, Imperial College London, January 2012
  • ICIC Data Analysis Workshop, Imperial College London, September 2013

Related Grants:

  • STFC Bridging Grant "Statistical Astrophysics" (Mortlock D.J. and van Dyk D.)
  • Marie-Curie Integration Grant "New MCMC-enabled Bayesian statistical methods for complex data and computer Models in astronomy" (van Dyk D.)

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