Blog Archives

Acupuncture and confirmation bias

Here’s another excerpt from The decline effect and the scientific method that I wrote about a couple weeks ago. Between 1966 and 1995, there were forty-seven studies of acupuncture in China, Taiwan, and Japan, and every single trial concluded that

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A couple preprints

Here are a couple new preprints. Block-adaptive randomization. A proposed method for limiting the size of runs in a response-adaptive clinical trial. Skeptical and optimistic robust priors for clinical trials. Joint work with Jairo Fúquene and Luis Pericchi from University

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Posted in Clinical trials, Statistics

Subtle variation on gaining weight to become taller

Back in March I wrote a blog post asking whether gaining weight makes you taller. Weight and height are clearly associated, and from that data alone one might speculate that gaining weight could make you taller. Of course causation is

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Predicting height from genes

How well can you predict height based on genetic markers? A 2009 study came up with a technique for predicting the height of a person based on looking at the 54 genes found to be correlated with height in 5,748

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Managing biological data

Jon Udell’s latest Interviews with Innovators podcast features Randall Julian of Indigo BioSystems. I found this episode particularly interesting because it deals with issues I have some experience with. The problems in managing biological data begin with how to store

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Posted in Clinical trials

Bayesian clinical trials in one zip code

I recently ran across this quote from Mithat Gönen of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: While there are certainly some at other centers, the bulk of applied Bayesian clinical trial design in this country is largely confined to a single zip

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Make up your own rules of probability

Keith Baggerly and Kevin Coombes just wrote a paper about the analysis errors they commonly see in bioinformatics articles. From the abstract: One theme that emerges is that the most common errors are simple (e.g. row or column offsets); conversely,

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Posted in Science, Statistics

Highlights from Reproducible Ideas

Here are some of my favorite posts from the Reproducible Ideas blog. Three reasons to distrust microarray results Provenance in art and science Forensic bioinformatics (continued) Preserving (the memory of) documents Programming is understanding Musical chairs and reproducibility drills Taking

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Posted in Science, Software development

Science versus medicine

Before I started working for a cancer center, I was not aware of the tension between science and medicine. Popular perception is that the two go together hand and glove, but that’s not always true. Physicians are trained to use

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Posted in Clinical trials

Cost-benefit analysis versus benefit-only analysis

Hardly anyone cares about statistics directly. People more often care about decisions they need to make with the help of statistics. This suggests that the statistics and decision-making process should be explicitly integrated. The name for this integrated approach is

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Posted in Statistics

Subjecting fewer patients to ineffective treatments

Tomorrow morning I’m giving a talk on how to subject fewer patients to ineffective treatment in clinical trials. I should have used something like the title of this post as the title of my talk, but instead my talk is

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Posted in Clinical trials

Problems versus dilemmas

In a recent interview on the PowerScripting Podcast, Jeffrey Snover said that software versioning isn’t a problem, it’s a dilemma. The difference is that problems can be solved, but dilemmas can only be managed. No versioning system can do everything

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Posted in Software development, Statistics

Galen and clinical trials

Here’s a quote from the Greek physician Galen (c. 130-210 A.D.) All who drink of this remedy recover in a short time, except those whom it does not help, who all die. Therefore, it is obvious that it fails only

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Posted in Clinical trials, Statistics

Water and epistemology

According to the latest Scientific American podcast, there is no scientific evidence to back up the common belief that everyone should drink eight glasses of water per day. Nor is there scientific evidence to back up many of the claimed

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Randomized trials of parachute use

It is widely assumed that parachute use improves your chances of surviving a leap from an airplane. However, a meta analysis suggests this practice is not adequately supported by controlled experiments. See the article Parachute use to prevent death and major

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Posted in Clinical trials, Science, Statistics