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The standards of medical statistics

Tony Elliman Tony.Elliman at brunel.ac.uk
Thu Feb 27 23:56:12 EST 1997

Vassili P. Leonov wrote:
>                          Dear colleagues!
>       I work in Tomsk State University (Russia, Siberia) and
>    more than 10 years I be busy in the statistical analysis
>    of data in medicine, biology, psychology, ecology and etc..
>    In these years 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. Errors in use of statistics in
>    medicine resultin errors in methods treatments of the ill people.
> ...

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

Dr A D Elliman, BTech MBCS CEng      Email: Tony.Elliman at brunel.ac.uk
Senior Lecturer                             ellimana at acm.org
    & Undergraduate Course Director
Room SJ027 St Johns Building         Phone: +44 1895 274000 ext 2129
Department of Computer Science          or: +44 1895 203394
    and Information Systems          Fax:   +44 1895 251686
Brunel University
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UXBRIDGE,  UB8 3PH                   Fax:   +44 1923 443548

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