The hidden benefits of open-source software

I’ve been having discussions with colleagues and university administration about the best way for universities to manage home-grown software.

The traditional business model for software is that we build software and sell it to everyone willing to pay. Very often, that leads to a software company spin-off that has little or nothing to do with the university that nurtured the development. Think MATLAB, S-Plus, Minitab, SAS and SPSS, all of which grew out of universities or research institutions. This model has repeatedly been shown to stifle research development, channel funds away from the institutions where the software was born, and add to research costs for everyone.

I argue that the open-source model is a much better approach both for research development and for university funding. Under the open-source model, we build software, and make it available for anyone to use and adapt under an appropriate licence. This approach has many benefits that are not always appreciated by university administrators. Continue reading →

Data Science for Managers (short course)

I am teaching part of a short-course on Data Science for Managers from 10-12 October in Melbourne.

Course Overview

The impact of Data Science on modern business is second only to the introduction of computers. And yet, for many businesses the barrier of entry remains too high due to lack of knowhow, organisational inertia, difficulties in hiring the right manpower, an apparent need for upfront commitment, and more.

This course is designed to address these barriers, giving the necessary knowledge and skills to flesh out and manage Data Science functions within your organisation, taking the anxiety-factor out of the Big Data revolution and demonstrating how data-driven decision-making can be integrated into one’s organisation to harness existing advantages and to create new opportunities.

Assuming minimal prior knowledge, this course provides complete coverage of the key aspects, including data wrangling, modelling and analysis, predictive-, descriptive- and prescriptive-analytics, data management and curation, standards for data storage and analysis, the use of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data as well as of open public data, and the data-analytic value chain, all covered at a fundamental level.

More details available at

Early-bird bookings close in a few days.


New R package for electricity forecasting

Shu Fan and I have developed a model for electricity demand forecasting that is now widely used in Australia for long-term forecasting of peak electricity demand. It has become known as the “Monash Electricity Forecasting Model”. We have decided to release an R package that implements our model so that other people can easily use it. The package is called “MEFM” and is available on github. We will probably also put in on CRAN eventually.

The model was first described in  Hyndman and Fan (2010). We are continually improving it, and the latest version is decribed in the model documentation which will be updated from time to time.

The package is being released under a GPL licence, so anyone can use it. All we ask is that our work is properly cited.

Naturally, we are not able to provide free technical support, although we welcome bug reports. We are available to undertake paid consulting work in electricity forecasting.


Online course on forecasting using R

I am teaming up with Revolution Analytics to teach an online course on forecasting with R. Topics to be covered include seasonality and trends, exponential smoothing, ARIMA modelling, dynamic regression and state space models, as well as forecast accuracy methods and forecast evaluation techniques such as cross-validation. I will talk about some of my consulting experiences, and explain the tools in the forecast package for R.

The course will run from 21 October to 4 December, for two hours each week. Participants can network and interact with other practitioners through an online community. Continue reading →

Forecasting annual totals from monthly data

This question was posed on

I have a monthly time series (for 2009-2012 non-stationary, with seasonality). I can use ARIMA (or ETS) to obtain point and interval forecasts for each month of 2013, but I am interested in forecasting the total for the whole year, including prediction intervals. Is there an easy way in R to obtain interval forecasts for the total for 2013?

I’ve come across this problem before in my consulting work, although I don’t think I’ve ever published my solution. So here it is. Continue reading →