Short review of the R book

January 5, 2011
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(This article was first published on Xi'an's Og » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

David Scott wrote a review of Introducing Monte Carlo Methods with R in the International Statistical Review that is rather negative, since the main bulk reads as follows:

I found some aspects of the book very disappointing. The first chapter (“Basic R Programming”) has some unfortunate mistakes and some statements, which are contentious at least (“An older assignment operator is <- . . . but it should be ignored for cleaner programming”). The graphs throughout the book appear to be bitmaps—they are quite blurred. Either postscript or pdf graphs should have been produced which would have immeasurably improved the presentation. The book is not an easy read, requiring considerable background to be understood. I found the chapters on MCMC easier than the chapters on general Monte Carlo methods because I had a reasonable understanding of the theory beforehand. There are exercises within and at the end  of all chapters, which appear to be fairly challenging, with the possible exception of the first two chapters.

As undoubtedly obvious to regular readers of the ‘Og, there are certainly many typos found throughout of the book and Chapter 1 is no exception. (The point about using “<-” versus “=” assignment operator is subject to many discussions and I should not have used “older”, even though I strongly dislike the “<-” operator!) David Scott is completely right in complaining about the quality of the graphs, in that the jpeg versions we used to speed up compilation were taken at the production stage instead of the postscript or pdf files we had prepared. We only saw the outcome once the book had been produced, i.e. too late… The French version avoids this editorial mistake altogether and we should see a corrected printing of the original version any time now. On the other hand, the criticism on the difficulty of the book feels a wee hard, given that we started from Monte Carlo Statistical Methods to build Introducing Monte Carlo Methods with R and that we use the book from the third university year onwards. The third-year students in my R class do manage to solve problems from the first four chapters on a regular basis and one can check through the student solution manual that the difficulty is altogether relative.


Filed under: Books, R, Statistics, University life Tagged: book review, Introducing Monte Carlo Methods with R, R

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