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School of Science Hosts Influential Statistical Scientist and Million-dollar Netflix Prize Winner

The School of Science and Department of Mathematics & Statistics at TCNJ are honored to host Dr. Robert M. Bell for our Spring 2014 Colloquium Series, on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 from 3:00-4:00 pm in the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall (Music Building).  A reception will follow the presentation.  Dr. Bell is a statistical scientist with extensive experience in the machine learning methods and statistical issues in health care spending.  In a talk entitled “Lessons from the $1,000,000 Netflix Prize,” he will discuss questions about building massive prediction models, as well as the role of statistics, computer science, and mathematics in such endeavors.  Details on the presentation and Dr. Bell’s background are summarized below.

“Lessons from the $1,000,000 Netflix Prize”

  • Wednesday, February 19, 2014
  • 3:00-4:00 pm, reception to follow
  • Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall, Music Building


Presentation Overview

In October 2006, the DVD rental company Netflix released more than 100 million user ratings of movies for a competition to predict new ratings based on prior ratings.  The size of the data (over 17,000 movies and 480,000 users) and the nature of human-movie interactions produced many modeling challenges.  One allure to data analysts around the world was a $1,000,000 prize for a team achieving a ten percent reduction in root mean squared prediction error relative to Netflix’s existing algorithm.  Besides producing a photo finish worthy of a movie, the 33-month competition spurred numerous advances in the science of recommender systems and machine learning, more generally.  After describing some of the techniques used by the leaders, I will offer lessons and raise some questions about building massive prediction models; the role of statistics, computer science, and mathematics in such endeavors; and prizes as a way to advance science.  This is joint work with Chris Volinsky and Yehuda Koren, current and former colleagues at AT&T Labs-Research.

About Dr. Robert M. Bell

Dr. Robert M. Bell has a Ph.D. in statistics from Stanford University in 1980.  After spending 18 years at RAND doing public policy analysis, he joined the Statistics Research Department at AT&T Labs-Research.  His research interests range from machine learning methods to survey research methods.  In addition to his work towards the Netflix prize, Dr. Bell has served on the Fellows Committee of the American Statistical Association, the board of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, the Committee on National Statistics, and several National Research Council advisory committees studying statistical issues from conduct of the decennial census to geographic variation in health care spending.

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