David Drukker and I just got back from the Italian Stata Users Group meeting in Bologna, arranged by TStat, the Stata distributor for Italy. It was wonderful, in part because of the beauty of Bologna, and the tasty food. The scientific committee and TStat did great jobs of selecting papers and organizing a smooth, interesting meeting.
The first day of the meeting had talks by users and StataCorp. There was good variety, with topics like investigating disease clustering, classification of prehistoric artifacts, small-area analysis, and the careful interpretation of marginal effects. This year, all the talks were in English — and it was once again amazing to see how well people can present in a second (or third) language. If you would like to see the slides which accompanied the talks, you can find them at http://www.stata.com/meeting/italy10/abstracts.html.
Recently, I have been thinking about how to interpret results from nonlinear models, so I found Maarten Buis’s talk on “Extracting effects from non-linear models” and David’s talk on “Estimating partial effects using margins in Stata 11” really useful. Both Maarten and David have thought carefully about this problem and each of them presented great introductions and easy to apply solutions. What is interesting is they favor different solutions. Maarten leaned more towards estimating and interpreting ratios that did not vary with the covariates. David recommended using the potential outcome framework which can be implemented using the margins command. The similarities and differences in these two talks made them even more informative.
As is typical for the Italian meetings, the second day had two training sessions, one given by David on programming your own estimation command in Stata (starting from the basics of Stata programming), and one given by Laura Antolini from the Università di Milano Bicocca on competing risks in survival analysis. Both courses were booked full.
I was a Stata user for 15 years before I started working at Stata, and the most fun parts of the meeting are the same now as when I was a user: the wishes and grumbles followed by the conference dinner. The wishes and grumbles session is always interesting; it shows the wide variety of approaches to using Stata. The conference dinner is always fun, because of the conversation over excellent food. In Italy, of course, the food is beyond excellent; strolling through Bologna on marble sidewalks under colonnades while talking statistics, programming and Stata made the evening, if in a intellectual fashion.