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This second version of the Biometrics and Research Methods Teaching Resource (available both on CD and the web) is composed of six teaching guides and 17 case studies (with their own Excel data sets) taken from projects undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa and represents are more polished version of the Resource than the earlier one. The last four of the case studies are new to this release. We believe that the teaching guides will provide useful complementary teaching material for teachers of biometrics to agriculture students, especially at the MSc level. They also provide useful practical notes for students and researchers. The teaching guides are not intended as replacements for existing lecture notes but rather to provide some useful additional teaching material of a practical nature. These views have been endorsed at workshops held at the University of Cape Town in June 2006 and July 2008 by participants from universities and research institutes across sub-Saharan Africa who reviewed the first version of the Resource. By clicking the History button in the top row of the Home Page you can learn of the development of the Teaching Resource from its early conception.
With the addition of the four new case studies (14-17) this new version of the Teaching Resource extends the range of agricultural disciplines and statistical methods covered. Case Study 5 has been extended too to provide an example of cluster and principal component analysis. Improvements have also been made to the way users are able to move round the Resource. For example, linkages contained within the Teaching Resource now, for most part, direct the user to the appropriate page of a case study that addresses the particular subject matter of interest. The presentations of the data sets and their corresponding documentation files have also been standardised and improved. The Experimental designs folder (with experimental data provided by the late Harvey Dicks, University of Kwazulu-Natal) and Good Practice Guides folder (containing several guides written by Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading) are now more readily accessible (see Other Materials).
These have been written to cover the process typically covered in a research project:
research strategy → study design → data management
exploration & description → statistical modelling → reporting.
By clicking each teaching guide in turn the user can see the ranges of topics listed and covered by the Teaching Guides. For example, when preparing a course on regression analysis or needing to use regression analysis in the analysis of one's data, the user can see that two topics (`Fitting a straight line' and `More advanced regression models') under Statistical modelling and the topic `Regression analysis' under Reporting might provide useful material.
The teaching guides attempts to present a modern approach to the teaching of applied biometrics. Thus, the Study design guide approaches study design in a way that discusses the general concepts of the design of experiments, surveys and observational studies, rather than making distinctions between them. Likewise, the Statistical modelling guide emphasises the common features between different statistical techniques, for instance the similarities in applying analysis of variance within the fields of linear regression, designed experiments and general unbalanced sets of data.
Hopefully use of these teaching guides may be instrumental in influencing changes in university curricula in the teaching of applied biometrics and making courses better focused on the real needs of agricultural research in sun-Saharan Africa.
There are 17 case studies drawn from different fields of agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa. Summary descriptions for each of them can be seen by clicking Case studies. This heads (by clicking +) the list of the individually numbered case studies. Resting the cursor on a case study shows its title as an aide memoire. Clicking the + in front of a case study shows the data sets and documented files associated with the case study. There are linkages between the teaching guides and the case studies, so that teachers can identify those case studies that deal with the particular topics involved in courses that they may be teaching and researchers can find helpful material relevant to their particular research study. Fifteen of the case studies have Excel data sets attached which can either be used within the case study or downloaded and used separately. Case Study 10 contains two videos which give brief illustrations of livestock research and data recording in the field.
Each case study is prepared in a way that allows the user to move forwards and backwards at ease through the different pages. The background to the study is first given and the study then proceeds step by step through the separate stages of the research process (see above). By clicking any of the case studies the user can see how the contents of a case study are typically arranged.
Each case study contains a section on Objectives. It is well known that students (and researchers) find this subject difficult and so this topic receives particular emphasis. A section on Findings, implications and lessons learned is also included to describe what conclusions can be drawn from the case study, particularly those of statistical relevance. Finally, a number of Study questions are included to provide the lecturer with a set of questions that he/she might set the class.
A Subject index is included below the list of case studies to provide a summary of the different topics that are covered by the case studies. This provides an alternative route for locating relevant material of interest. For example, by clicking Subject index, then Study types the various types of studies covered by the Resource can be seen. Under Participatory studies, one of the study types, it can be seen that Case Studies 1, 6 and 10 contain subject matter related to this subject. By clicking each of CS1, CS6 and CS10 in turn the user can find out what information is there.
Instructions for downloading different software packages used or recommended by this Teaching Resource are given under Software. These packages are as follows:
GenStat is used throughout and provides the primary basis for showing how the statistical analysis is done. A 'Discovery' version of GenStat is available free of charge to teachers and researchers in Africa and must be downloaded in order for the resource to be used to its full potential.
Instat, a statistical package developed by the University of Reading Statistical Service Centre for teaching purposes and with special facilities for meteorological data analysis is used in two of the case studies (Case Study 7 and Case Study 11).
As R software is freely available its use is demonstrated alongside GenStat as annexes to Case Study 1 and Case Study 4.
SSC-Stat, an add-in for Microsoft Excel, developed by University of Reading Statistical Service Centre is also available (see Summary). As many researchers use Excel for data entry, this add-on has been developed to add on some features often needed for statistical analysis.
CAST (Computer Assisted Statistical Teaching), developed by Doug Stirling of Massey University, New Zealand is a useful package that helps graphically with the understanding of simple statistical methods.
CSPro (Census and Survey Processing System) developed and supported by the U.S. Census Bureau, is a package designed for entering, editing, tabulating, and disseminating census and survey data.
Experimental designs contain a number of experimental sets of data in fields of agronomy compiled by the late Harvey Dicks during his career at the University of KwaZulu, South Africa. These data sets cover factorial, incomplete, Lattice, Row-column designs and GxE and covariance analysis. These are Genstat data files and hence need GenStat to be stored on your computer in order to open them.
Good practice guides written by Statistical Service Centre, University of Reading for people in agricultural research include guides on planning, data management, analysis and presentation. These provide additional relevant material to that covered by the Resource's teaching guides.
Publications has the various publications referred to by Teaching Guides and Case studies and also others that may be of interest. Full texts are included where possible. Note that selected chapters on topics of study design from the book "A first course in biometry for agricultural students" by Rayner (1967) are included. Course notes on statistical methods and experimental design by the late Harvey Dicks are also included.
Web links provide links to a selection of relevant international associations and institutions, journals in biometry and applied statistics, and universities and research organisations.
Please click these in turn before starting to use the Teaching Resource.
Home page - screen reverts to that shown when Teaching Resource fist opened.
History - describes development of the Teaching Resource from its early conception.
Copyright - describes conditions under which the material in the Biometrics and Research Methods Teaching Resource can be used
Credits - acknowledges organisations and individuals involved in the development.
Dedication - obituary to Damaris Yobera.
Investors - recognition of Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation funding.
Contact - addresses for advice or requesting CD
Glossary - provides definitions of commonly used statistical terms.
Settings - lists the software that is required by the Teaching Resource.
As already explained data sets and documentation files can be opened and downloaded, either from a case study's sub-folder or from within the case study itself, to a user's own computer work space.
There are no special printing functions provided as we feel that the 'cut and paste' method is usually adequate. Cut and paste' is quite flexible and should allow teachers and students to be selective in deciding which pages they wish to provide in hard copy. Case study pages can be printed using the Print Screen button followed by Control P. We plan to translate some sections of the CD into pdf format; these will be added to the web version of this Resource as they become available.