Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the plural of anecdote is not data

Andrew Gelman has a great post on how statisticans do not always apply the lessons of statistics to their everyday lives. And it is true -- a lot of what we do in our lives is from custom and tradition that has never undergone rigorous evalaution. I'd be curious to see how teaching would change if we tested pre- and post-class knowledge (and had a control group who did not take the class). One suspects that the results might be humbling . . .

This reminds me of Miquel Hernan arguing in the journal Epidemiology (sadly, gated) that epidemiologists should be skeptical of journal impact factors because of our training. Unfortunately, despite this skepticism, it is rare for an active researcher not to have a good idea of the ranking of various journals (often based off of the impact factor). I think that staticisticans are better at disregarding impact factors but that's not a universal rule.

But I wonder if we could improve a lot of everyday tasks with a slightly tigher focus on statistical and/or epidemiological reasoning?

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