How to Calculate a Partial Correlation Coefficient in R: An Example with Oxidizing Ammonia to Make Nitric Acid

Introduction

Today, I will talk about the math behind calculating partial correlation and illustrate the computation in R.  The computation uses an example involving the oxidation of ammonia to make nitric acid, and this example comes from a built-in data set in R called stackloss.

I read Pages 234-237 in Section 6.6 of “Discovering Statistics Using R” by Andy Field, Jeremy Miles, and Zoe Field to learn about partial correlation.  They used a data set called “Exam Anxiety.dat” available from their companion web site (look under “6 Correlation”) to illustrate this concept; they calculated the partial correlation coefficient between exam anxiety and revision time while controlling for exam score.  As I discuss further below, the plot between the 2 above residuals helps to illustrate the calculation of partial correlation coefficients.  This plot makes intuitive sense; if you take more time to study for an exam, you tend to have less exam anxiety, so there is a negative correlation between revision time and exam anxiety.

residuals plot anxiety and revision time controlling exam score

They used a function called pcor() in a package called “ggm”; however, I suspect that this package is no longer working properly, because it depends on a deprecated package called “RBGL” (i.e. “RBGL” is no longer available in CRAN).  See this discussion thread for further information.  Thus, I wrote my own R function to illustrate partial correlation.

Partial correlation is the correlation between 2 random variables while holding other variables constant.  To calculate the partial correlation between X and Y while holding Z constant (or controlling for the effect of Z, or averaging out Z),

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How do Dew and Fog Form? Nature at Work with Temperature, Vapour Pressure, and Partial Pressure

In the early morning, especially here in Canada, I often see dew – water droplets formed by the condensation of water vapour on outside surfaces, like windows, car roofs, and leaves of trees.  I also sometimes see fog – water droplets or ice crystals that are suspended in air and often blocking visibility at great distances.  Have you ever wondered how they form?  It turns out that partial pressure, vapour pressure and temperature are the key phenomena at work.

dew fog

Dew (by Staffan Enbom) and Fog (by Jon Zander)

Source: Wikimedia

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Why Does Diabetes Cause Excessive Urination and Thirst? A Lesson on Osmosis

A TABA Seminar on Diabetes

I have the pleasure of being an executive member of the Toronto Applied Biostatistics Association (TABA), a volunteer-run professional organization here in Toronto that organizes seminars on biostatistics.  During this past Tuesday, Dr. Loren Grossman from the LMC Diabetes and Endocrinology Centre generously donated his time to deliver an introductory seminar on diabetes for biostatisticians.  The Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences (ICES) at Sunnybrook Hospital kindly hosted us and provided the venue for the seminar.  As a chemist and a former pre-medical student who studied physiology, I really enjoyed this intellectual treat, especially since Loren was clear, informative, and very knowledgeable about the subject.

blue circle

The blue circle is a global symbol for diabetes.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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