The standards of medical statistics

Tony Elliman Tony.Elliman at brunel.ac.uk
Sun Feb 23 02:10:18 EST 1997


Athel wrote:
> 
> Vassili P. Leonov wrote:
> 
> >"I have collected large collection of examples of misuse of statistics
> >in the dissertations and articles. Their analysis shows, that most of
> >all errors in use of statistics is observed in medicine and biology.
> >Especially it is bad when it is observed in medical work.
> > .....
> 
> There is no doubt that this is a very serious problem, certainly in
> biology (I can't speak for medicine), and it is not confined to Russia.
> So I would say that it is *not* solved in USA, UK ...
> 
> You can find examples of misuse and misunderstanding of statistics at
> all levels, in journals from the most famous to the most obscure.
> ....
> 
> I am pessimistic enough to doubt whether any solution is in sight, ...
>
> ...
> 
> Athel


I have been aware of the misuse of statistical methods
in medical research (bothh USA and UK) since starting
my doctoral work around 1980.  A key article which tries
to address this is:

Altman, D G (1980) Statistics and Ethics in Medical Research,
    British Medical Journal, vol 281 pp 1182-1184.

This is the first of a series in which he persues the notion
that poor statistical work is unethcal and looks at their
use. The subsequent parts are:

vol 281: p1267-9, p1336-8, p1399-401, p1473-5, p1542-4, p1612-4
vol 282: p44-47 plus letters p480 and p990

There is a strong ethos in medical publishing which suggests
that meaningfull research can only be done through controlled
trials with quantitative statistical otcomes.  This notion that
statistics are good (or do I mean God?) is very pervasive
and ignores other research methods.  With this sort of
preasure both authors and referees demand statistical results
even where there use is inappropriate and misleading.


-- 
Best wishes

Tony E

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