Richard D. Gill’s home page
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I was asked by defense lawyers working on behalf of Ben Geen,
to analyse statistical data of
occurrence of respiratory arrest in accident and emergency at numerous
UK hospitals (draft R html notebook,
draft report). After I had done my statistical work, I dug more deeply into
other aspects of the case. The more I discovered, the more I was shocked that
this case was a carbon copy of our own (Netherlands) case of Lucia de Berk.
However there are three important differences. (1) The UK media did an even more
perfect hatchet job on him than the Dutch media did on Lucia. (2) The Criminal Cases
Review Commission is understaffed and underfunded, and takes a formalistic (legalist)
view: give us a "new legal fact" or we will do nothing. (3) There is no Metta de Noo:
no medical whistleblower. In the Lucia case, Metta de Noo fought for 7 years to get
Lucia the fair (re-) trial which Lucia deserved. Metta is a senior medical expert,
well connected in society, and she had inside information about the case.
In the Lucia case, what was needed (and finally happened at the re-trial in Arnhem,
2009--2010) was an independent and thorough re-appraisal of
existing (medical) evidence.
Ben has already sat out 8 years of his 30 year sentence. Because he claims to be innocent
he is denied any "good prisoner" benefits and will also never get parole or early release.
A small supporters' group has set up a website Justice for Ben Geen.
At last some UK journalists, at "The Times" no less,
are showing some interest:
Nurse 'was victim of Shipman hysteria'
YouTube video. Slides of my talk
Murder by Numbers.
The naked truth about the case of Lucia de B.
A historical document: statement by Haga-Hospital, 2010,
regarding the acquittal of Lucia de Berk: English translation, original.
Four days after the TEDx event, I saw the movie Lucia de B.
on its premiere night in Amsterdam. Here is my personal
film review: Splendid acting, very moving, beautifully told human story,
centering around Lucia herself. Despite compression of the story line and focus
on Lucia's personal experiences, it still contained such key features as:
the close personal links
between key people from hospital, justice and experts (image right);
the mental illness and mental breakdown of the chief-paediatrician at JKZ ...
There was a vain and ambitious hospital director. A bad statistician.
Real life heroine Metta de Noo and hero Ton Derksen
were concentrated in the film into the imaginary person
of one imaginary whistleblower at the last place you might expect
to find them: in the Public Prosecution service. But on the other hand:
it wasn't black and white. There were good medics and bad medics,
good nurses and bad nurses, good cops and bad cops ... Apparently,
even some people in the Public Prosecution service found the witch hunt
For more (much, much more) on the Lucia case,
see my collected past home-page writings on Lucia.
Some years ago
I offered a prize for the person who remasters the logo of the VVS: the Dutch statistical society (top image) in the most beautiful postscript. An exercise in
curve fitting with splines, perhaps?
Better still would be a mathematical/statistical story of the curves
themselves, providing an elegant parametric family which reproduces the
whole logo. Finally I decided to do it myself, and I think I am getting
close with this perspective image of some very simple 3-dimensional
curves, with indeed a statistical story behind them
The R script which draws this logo can be found here.
It should generate a rotatable 3-d image...
See the slides of my Amst-R-dam R users group meetup 2011 (updated 2012) talk R-fun: part 1, the VVS logo in R; part 2, R on an iDevice.
For the latest news on "R on an iDevice" see the 2014 talk R on an iDevice, given at a Data Science NL meetup.
For more R fun: I am nowadays an enthusiastic user of RStudio and RPubs.
You can find all kinds of
R work by me at my RPubs site.
VVS stands for "Vereniging voor Statistiek". SMS stands for "Section Mathematical Statistics". The VVS also has an OR section, hence the common alternative name VVS-OR.
FS: Tuesdays 11:00--12:30 room 401
Master's level (or advanced Bachelor's)
The master specialization Statistical
Science for the Life and Behavioural Sciences is a collaboration of our group with others in biomedical statistics, biostatistics, and psychometrics.
Here you can find links to various courses I have given in the past, in particular quantum statistics, statistics for astronomers, HOVO courses (adult education courses, in Dutch) on use and abuse of statistics, forensic science
For the most up to date impresion of my research interests,
take a look at my recent talks on Slideshare.
Interests, most active marked *
Recent talks and papers
WARNING: Richard P. Feynmann said
that attempting to understand quantum mechanics causes you
to fall into a black hole, never to be heard from again
The past is particles, the future is a wave
Bell’s fifth position
During the academic year 2010-2011 I was Distinguished Lorentz Fellow (DLF) at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Science, NIAS.
Here's my research proposal.
The award ceremony was at NIAS, Wassenaar, late-afternoon of March 22, 2010.
On the morning of the same day we held a complementary
Breakfast symposium "Science, Media, Justice"
The Smeesters affair (revised: July 4, 2013)
Slides of talk on Smeesters case, and on the Geraerts-Merckelbach Memory paper affair.
Talk originally given December 2012; slides updated March 2013; title "Integrity or fraud - or just questionable research practices?"
Stimulated by media interest in the Geraerts-Merckelbach controversy on their
"Memory" paper, I studied the published summary statistics in this paper using the same techniques as Simonsohn used for Smeesters, and found quite clear
statistical evidence for "too good to be true". Without
experimental protocols written up prior to the experiment, original data-sets,
and laboratory log books detailing all the data selection and manipulation steps
which resulted in the final data-set on which the summary statistics
in the paper are based, one can only guess how these patterns arose.
It certainly need not be fraud (fraud requires active intention to deceive).
R-code for experiment with Simonsohn's fraud test (new version)
Histogram of p-values of an honest researcher
Histogram of p-values of a dishonest researcher
You can continue reading here
Biography and more ...
First Leiden inaugural lecture
Past phd students
Just for fun:
things you wish your computer had
(including the classic clippy’s suicide note)
A few years ago I discovered the enormous disussion on the Monty Hall (three doors) problem on wikipedia.
My published writings on the subject are, in order of writing (and in order of
insightfulness) an invited contribution to
Springer's International Encyclopaedia of Statistical Science, 2010,
a paper in Statistica Neerlandica, 2011,
and contributions to the peer reviewed internet encyclopedias
citizendium.org and StatProb.com.
In this manuscript you will find
an expanded version the most recent published work, the
In these works I distinguish between the original, somewhat
ambiguous, real world question about a famous quiz show, and the many
mathematizations of the question which
have been proposed in the literature. Personally I prefer the lesser
theoretic version. For me, the question is not "what is this
probability?" or "what is that probability?", but: "what would you do?"
And to me, the wikipedia controversy around
the Monty Hall problems (concerning whether we should compute a
conditional or unconditional probability of getting the car if we
switch doors) is a warning against solution-driven science.
I want to thank so many wikipedia editors for the inspiration they gave
Suppose the car is hidden behind one of the three
doors by a fair randomization. The contestant chooses Door 1. Monty
Hall, for reasons best known to himself, opens Door 3 revealing a goat.
We know that whatever probability mechanism is used by Monty for this
purpose, the conditional probability that switching will give the car
is at least 1/2. We know that the unconditional probability (ie not
conditioning on the door chosen by the contestant, nor the door opened
by Monty) is 2/3.
Always switching gives the car with unconditional probability 2/3,
always staying gives it with probability 1/3. Nobody in their right
mind could imagine that there could exist some mixed strategy
(sometimes staying, sometimes switching, perhaps with the help of some
randomization device, and all depending on which doors were chosen and
opened) which would give you a better overall (ie unconditional) chance
than 2/3 of getting the car.
This is true, of course. In fact, from the law of total
probability, proving the optimality of (unconditional) 2/3 by always
switching is equivalent to proving that all the six conditional
probabilities of winning by switching, given door chosen and door
opened, are at least 1/2. We can prove the latter using Bayes' theorem,
or, better I think, using Bayes' rule in a smart way. However both
these proofs require some sophistication.
Is there an elementary proof? A short proof using words and ideas, no computations.
Yes there is, and I learnt it from Sasha Gnedin.
However you play there's always a door such that if the car is
there, you'll miss it. Consider first deterministic strategies. We only
need consider two cases: for "always switching" it's the door you
initially chose, and for "sometimes switching" it's a door you won't
switch to if you get the option. (If you never switch there are two
such doors: just choose one). Ordinary readers won't be interested in
randomized strategies but anyone who wants to include these will
understand how to do it (now the door where you'ld certainly miss a car
has to be a random door, determined by the same coin tosses used to
implement the random choices in your own strategy).
Note that the door which has been indicated in this way does not
depend on where
the car is actually hidden or how the host plays: it just depends on
how the player plays. Therefore if the car is initially equally likely
to be behind any of the three doors, we run a 1/3 chance that the car
will be missed because it's behind this door. Therefore the 2/3
success-chance of always switching can't be beaten.
I would call this a proof by coupling.
From Three Doors to Two Envelopes (what will be next? One Coffin, perhaps?). Here
is my fourth draft of the definitive article on the infamous two
envelopes problem. The problem which Martin Gardner could not solve,
and which many other famous people got wrong. Studied by probabilists,
logicians, economists, philosophers. Now studied by me ...
heart of all exchange paradoxes is encapsulated in a little
theorem which I call my "unified solution".
It seems to be new.
12 April, 2010: founding of the
This organisation has been set up inspired by the self-less efforts by so many
people over the last six years, which only just now
led to the extraordinary and total rehabilitation of Lucia de Berk.
Now that the judicial authorities have apoligized personally and publicly,
it is time to start finding out where avoidable mistakes were made. It is hard
to believe that these can only be attributed to police investigation
and legal procedures. However that is the implication of the recent
public statement by the board of Lucia's hospital, (unauthorized rough English translation).
Lucia de Berk
The tunnel-vision which characterized Lucia's case was cemented in the two
weeks around "the" nine-eleven inside a hospital in the Hague.
Once by the end of those two weeks a major
medical institution had (by implication)
told the world that it had caught a serial killer,
it must have been very hard for those who brought
charges - a few individuals at the
very top of the very same institution -
not to have had some large influence, deliberately or innocently,
on the results of police investigation,
and on the "medical" interpretation of the medical dossiers which
went to the courts. The events of the past year
which came up during those two weeks of internal investigation
and suddenly associated with Lucia
had become unexpected and inexplicable,
though previously every single one of them had been unremarkable.
The hospital investigators into
the crime were the same people earlier treating those patients, and making,
as is completely natural, errors of diagnosis or treatment from time to time.
The collegiality of the medical community means
that mistakes by medical specialists within the Netherlands
can hardly be admitted by
others inside the same relatively tight, and extremely powerful, community.
Highly placed medical authorities had to stand firm
by their own previous and now provenly mistaken diagnoses. Others
would be loath to criticise a highly regarded colleague's decisions
in such a critical case.
In the Netherlands, medical practitioners almost never admit to having made
mistakes... consequently, they do not have to insure themselves agaist being sued
for malpractice (which is good for their income), and in theory
medical treatment should be less expensive than in other countries
where lawyers and insurance companies profit from medical missers.
However the Dutch arrangement has led to increasing distress among all
those "victims" of medical errors, many of whom would probably be satisfied just
to have an "accident" admitted! This June 16, a new code of practice has been
introduced, by which medical practitioners will in future be able to apologize for errors
without thereby admitting legal responsibility. A giant step for the medical profession,
though only a very small step for their patients. Better than nothing, or merely a crumb
to keep us "consumers" (the ones who pay for health care) quiet?
One of the cases we have just taken on board is to unravel
the unbelievable story
of the illegal kidnapping of José Booij's
six week old daughter
Julia by a local child protection agency (Assen),
and the ensueing cover-up by silencing of the mother through fair means
and foul, now in it's sixth year. The kidnapping was judged illegal and
a court order was given to return the child immediately. The judges of
the courts for child-protection and family simply laughed, and did nothing.
The child protection agency had acted on the basis of lies and insinuations
of a jealous neighbour
to local police and doctors. Her claims about Jose
were believed. No attempt whatever was made to check these
accusations, nor to hear Jose.
In desparation, two and a half years ago,
Jose wrote to the Cabinet of the Queen just before she was made
homeless and all her remaining possessions were taken from her
because she could no longer
pay her bills (many of them fat lawyer's bills who did nothing except making
a phone call and deciding to keep out of this mess), after losing her job, house, and health.
Here is Jose's letter to the queen in Dutch (original) and in English (first
rough translation), written just before she went underground.
The cabinet of the queen forwarded her plea to the Ministry of Family and Welfare.
Nothing has been done
for two and a half years now.
Her case was also brought at the same time to the
European Court of Human Rights
Nothing has been done
for two and a half years now.
Here is an official report by psychiatrist Bram Bakker, Dutch original, and the report in rough English translation,
written five years ago, when Jose was up and fighting,
though already suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome.
It still then seemed that it might
not be difficult to get her baby back to her, provided she kept on fighting
against the injustice which had been done her, and someone, somewhere,
would stick out their neck for her.
Still then, it could easily have been
possible to save Josés health and livelihood and future.
would have required admitting that some mistakes had been made by some
irresponsible local officials.
Something which is Not Done in quaint
Kafkhanistan-on-Rhinemouth - where the tulips are in flower,
and the smell of fresh smoked nether-weed greets you as you wander
along the pretty canals of the old cities, advisably keeping
an eye open for dog shit below and pickpockets to the side,
as well as for the splendid seventeenth century facades above you.
picture the Dutch like to project of themselves (indeed, they believe
in it themselves!) to the outside world
is sometimes discordant with the reality within. And, as we know from
the case of Lucia de Berk, truth can be far stranger from fiction in
the Netherlands. Incredible miscarriages of justice can be triggered
when a chance event
sets off a time bomb built from the interaction of personalities of a
of people in some critical positions. Moreover, once the damage has
legal and bureaucratic thinking and the Dutch culture of "mind your own
business" (cobbler stay at your last) traps the victim in a complex
vicious circle of Catch-exponential-22 system-assumptions ensuring that
escape is impossible.
Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Read more at the Bureau of Lost Causes.
Another case we are studying, with all the same features,
is the extraordinary story of Kevin Sweeney.
More information on that case can be found below.
The incredible similarities between the cases provide a worthy study in individual
versus group mentality, and how a scape-goat is chosen when a society is feeling
under threat. This will be researched by a multidisciplinary team of
cultural anthropologists, ethologists, sociologists, historians, lawyers, psychologists
and mathematicians during my DLF fellowship at NIAS and of course by
the Bureau of Lost Causes.
Statistical ethics of the probiotica trial.
This randomized triple-blind clinical trial of probiotics treatment
for patients with predicted severe acute pancreatitis ended in controversy,
when it transpired at the conclusion of the trial in
December 2007, that rather more patients had died on the treatment
arm of the trial than on the control arm.
It seemed strange that the trial had not been terminated at the
interim analysis. The researchers were using a a stopping rule
of S.M. Snapinn, by which the trial would
to be terminated early either if it were almost certain that the
final result would be a significant positive effect of probiotica,
or if it were almost certain that the final result would be insignificant.
Here is a paper by myself, to appear
in Statistica Neerlandica,
and, in Dutch, a short article by
probabilist Ronald Meester and microbiologist Pieter ter Steeg which
appeared in the newspaper Trouw and an open letter to Meester and ter Steeg
by biostatisticians Hans van Houwelingen and Theo Stijnen. Also in Dutch there
are a series of interviews (early 2008)
on the current affairs chat show
“Pauw and Witteman”:
chairman of the hospital board Geert Blijham, 23 January;
patient Jochim Vromans, 24 Jaunary;
probiotics expert Eric Claassen, 25 January;
leader of the research team Hein Gooszen, 14 February.
Later we obtained the data at the time of the interim analysis.
It was given to journalists at a press conference on Feb. 13 2008,
but never released to interested scientists.
It turned out that the probiotica trial was
not terminated for futility (following the Snapinn stopping
rule) at the half way interim analysis,
through a mis-reading of output of the SPSS package,
which, without consulting the user,
always reports the smaller p-value of the
two one-sided Fisher's exact tests for
equality of two binomial probabilities. Proper application of their
own stopping rule would have led to early termination of the trial,
since according to the criteria set in advance,
there was no chance any more that it would result in a positive
result for the probiotica treatment. The trial
was de facto continued because there was a good chance that it
would finally result in a negative result for probiotica.
Here are slides
of my talk careless statistics costs lives
on the subject.
Kevin Sweeney ...
recently left a Dutch jail at the end of his sentence
for murder of his wife by arson. He has always claimed innocence.
Here is a link to his own site,
Justice for Kevin Sweeney, here is a
of the case, and here is my blog entry
in the Netherlands: Guilty until Proven Innocent.
In May, 2008, he put in an application
to revise the case (English translation)
Supreme Court. The application is based on an analysis of the fire
evidence by Fred Vos, entitled
Het vergeten tijdspad
(the forgotten timeline). This is the first time a careful
reconstruction of the course of the fire has taken place,
of all evidence available to the courts.
The evidence seems totally consistent with a fire accidentally
started by smoking in bed; and is totally inconsistent with the prosecution’s
claim of arson using large quantities of white spirits (Dutch: terpentine).
Vos is careful to distinguish observed facts from interpretations thereof.
Many writers on the case, including myself, have been misled by
Mathematical Centre (Amsterdam) publications are now available on internet.
Here are two early works which had quite some impact, including
the reprint of my 1979 PhD thesis:
R.D. Gill (1980),
and Stochastic Integrals, MC Tract 124.
R.D. Gill (1983),
sieve method as an alternative to dollar-unit
sampling: the mathematical background, Report SN 12
Another useful link is to my Saint Flour lectures on survival analysis.
Product-integrals are to
products, as integrals are to sums. Though they have been around for
more than a hundred years, they never became part of the standard
toolbox, possibly because no-one invented the right mathematical symbol
for them. I made a try quite some years ago, though they still have not
caught on yet. With the crucial help of JC Loredo, my efforts resulted
prodint.zip, files for getting beautiful \prodi and \Prodi and \PRODI symbols in your LaTeX, and Loredo.ttf,
a TrueType font for ordinary word processing. It is not that difficult
these days to get new fonts into your latex, see for instance TUG's font installation instructions.
My sanskrit name
Sarasvati Leela dasa (dasa: a devotee; Leela: games; Sarasvati: goddess of science, music, self-knowledge)
My Korean signature
(Last updated: 27 January 2014)