April 07, 2017

Rant

altman slide

Here’s a photo of a slide from a talk by Doug Altman about hypothesis tests and p-values recently (I nicked the picture from Twitter, additions by me). I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what Doug said, but I totally agree that hypothesis testing and p-values are a massive problem.

Nearly five years ago (July 2012 if I remember correctly) I stood up in front of the Warwick Medical School Division of Health Sciences, in a discussion about adopting a “Grand Challenge” for the Division, and proposed that our “Grand Challenge” should be to abandon significance testing. The overwhelming reaction was blank incomprehension. There was a vote for which of the four or five proposals to adopt, and ONE PERSON voted for my idea (for context, as a rough guess, there were probably 200-300 people in the Division at that time).

It was certainly well-known before 2012 that hypothesis tests and p-values were a real problem, but that didn’t seem to have filtered through to many medical researchers.


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