mages' blog

Early bird registration for R in Insurance closes 30 May

Hurry! The early bird registration offer for the 4th R in Insurance conference, 11 July 2016, at Cass Business School closes 30 May.

This one-day conference will focus once more on applications in insurance and actuarial science that use R, the lingua franca for statistical computation. Topics covered include reserving, pricing, loss modelling, the use of R in a production environment, and more.

We have a fantastic programme with international speakers and conference dinner at Ironmongers Hall. Keynotes will be given by Mario Wüthrich and Dan Murphy.

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship of Verisk, Mirai Solutions, Applied AI, Studio, CYBAEA and Oasis, without whom the event wouldn't be possible.

R in Insurance 2016 Programme

We are delighted to announce that the programme for the 4th R in Insurance conference at Cass Business School in London, 11 July 2016, have been finalised.

Register by the end of May to get the early bird booking fee.

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship of Verisk, Mirai Solutions, Applied AI, Studio, CYBAEA and Oasis, without whom the event wouldn't be possible.

New R package to access World Bank data

Staying on top of new CRAN packages is quite a challenge nowadays. However, thanks to Dirk's CRANberries service I occasionally spot a new gem, such as wbstats, which appeared on CRAN last week.

Similarly to the WDI package, wbstats offers an interface to the World Bank database.

With the functions of wbstats the World Bank data can be searched and data for several indicators requested. Unlike WDI, the data is returned in a 'long' table with one column for all values and a separate column for the indicators. Additionally, the function wb allows me to specify how many most recent values (mrv) I am interested.

Thus, to recreate the famous Gapminder chart by Hans Rosling, showing the correlation between fertility, i.e. number of children per woman, and life expectancy over time by country and region, I can write (note, a Flash player is required):

If you'd like to learn more about how to create interactive charts with googleVis, then check out the free tutorial on DataCamp.

Session Info

R version 3.2.4 (2016-03-10)
Platform: x86_64-apple-darwin13.4.0 (64-bit)
Running under: OS X 10.11.4 (El Capitan)

[1] en_GB.UTF-8/en_GB.UTF-8/en_GB.UTF-8/C/en_GB.UTF-8/en_GB.UTF-8

attached base packages:
[1] stats     graphics  grDevices utils     datasets 
[6] methods   base     

other attached packages:
[1] googleVis_0.5.10 data.table_1.9.6 wbstats_0.1     

loaded via a namespace (and not attached):
[1] httr_1.1.0        R6_2.1.2          rsconnect_0.4.2.1
[4] tools_3.2.4       curl_0.9.7        RJSONIO_1.3-0    
[7] jsonlite_0.9.19   chron_2.3-47 

Notes from 2nd Bayesian Mixer Meetup

Last Friday the 2nd Bayesian Mixer Meetup (@BayesianMixer) took place at Cass Business School, thanks to Pietro Millossovich and Andreas Tsanakas, who helped to organise the event.
Bayesian Mixer at Cass

First up was Davide De March talking about the challenges in biochemistry experimentation, which are often characterised by complex and emerging relations among components.

The very little prior knowledge about complex molecules bindings left a fertile field for a probabilistic graphical model. In particular, Bayesian networks can help the investigator in the definition of a conditional dependence/independence structure where a joint multivariate probability distribution is determined. Hence, the use of Bayesian network can lead to a more efficient way of designing experiments.

Davide De March: Bayesian Networks to design optimal experiments

The second act of the night was Mick Cooney, presenting ideas of using growth curves to estimate the ultimate amounts paid in insurance by some cohort of policies.

The talk showed a model for these curves, discussed the implementation in Stan and how posterior predictive checks can be used to assess the output of the model.

Mick Cooney: Bayesian Modelling for Loss Curves in Insurance

Thanks again to everyone who helped to make the event a success, particularly our speakers and Jon Sedar of Applied AI.

We are planning to run another event in mid-June. Please get in touch via our Meetup site with ideas and talk proposals.

R in Insurance: Abstract submission closes end of March

Hurry! The abstract submission deadline for the 4th R in Insurance conference in London, 11 July 2016 is approaching soon.

You have until the 28th of March to submit a one-page abstract for consideration. Both academic and practitioner proposals related to R are encouraged. Please email your abstract of no more than 300 words (in text or pdf format) to

Invited talks will be given by:
Details about the registration and abstract submission are given on the dedicated R in Insurance page at Cass Business School, London.

Attendance of the whole conference is the equivalent of 6.5 hours of CPD for members of the Actuarial Profession.

For more information about the past events visit


The organisers gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship of Verisk/ISO, Mirai Solutions, RStudio, Applied AI, CYBAEA, and OASIS Loss Modelling Framework.

Gold Sponsors


Mirai Logo

Silver Sponsors


Applied AI


OASIS Loss Modelling Framework

Notes from the Kölner R meeting, 26 February 2016

Last Friday the Cologne R user group came together for the 17th time. This time we were in for a special treatment, with two talks by psychologists!

But, there was nothing to fear, we were in save hands, and for the first time we met at the new Microsoft office in Cologne.

Lecture room at Microsoft, Cologne

First up was Meik Michalke from the University of Düsseldorf presenting the RKWard project. RKWard is a graphical user interface and integrated development environment for statistical analysis with R. RKWard is a fully featured and extendable environment for R, available on all platforms. Furthermore, as Meik demonstrated, it is very straightforward to build new plugins for RKWard. These plugins can extend the user interface, which is great if you build tools for people who are less familiar with R, but perhaps more with SPSS. Meik is one of the developers of RKWard and he uses it to run analysis, develop packages and to teach statistics.

Download slides

Next up was Paul-Christian Bürkner from the University of Münster, presenting an overview of his brms package. The name is short for Bayesian regression models with Stan. Although the package is still less then one year old, it is already quite mature, allowing user to specify regression models in the usual R formula syntax. brms takes those formula calls, writes out the Stan code, compiles and runs the model, and it also provides methods to plot and predict brms models. Hence, it is a great way to get started with Stan and to build more complex Bayesian models.

Download slides

Following the talks there was still plenty of time for questions and networking. Microsoft provided us with a great venue and enough drinks to keep us going until finally our stomachs asked for food and, dare I say it, Kölsch. As a result some of us ended up in Rheinau, a nice gastropub around the corner.

Next Kölner R meeting

The next meeting will be scheduled in about three months time. Details will be published on our Meetup site. Thanks again to Microsoft for their support.

Please get in touch, if you would like to present at the next meeting.

Next Kölner R User Meeting: Friday, 26 Feburary 2016

Koeln R
The 17th Cologne R user group meeting is scheduled for this Friday, 26 February 2015. We have two talks, followed by networking drinks.

  • Introduction to Bayesian Regression Models using Stan with the brms package - Paul-Christian Bürkner (Uni Münster)
  • RKWard: A Graphical User Interface and Integrated Development Environment for Statistical Analysis with R - Meik Michalke (Uni Düsseldorf)
Venue: Microsoft Deutschland, Holzmarkt 2a Cologne 50676 DE, Köln

For further details visit our KölnRUG Meetup site. Unfortunately, this event is already fully booked, but please sign up if you would like to come along to future events.

Notes from past meetings are available here.