Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fright night in the doctors' lounge

It doesn't come as a terrible shock to hear that a lot of patients struggle with statistics. It's a little more scary, though, to be reminded that doctors' understanding of health statistics and data on screening isn't all that fabulous either. And now this month we hear that "a considerable proportion of researchers" don't understand routinely used statistical terms in systematic reviews. Gulp.

We definitely need bloggers and journalists to help turn this around. Improving the use of numbers - and critiquing misuse of statistics - is the focus of a session co-moderated by Evelyn Lamb and me coming up this month at Science Online. Evelyn gets the ball rolling further discussion in her blog at Scientific American. And Frank Swain from the Royal Statistical Society also weighs in on journalists' desire to learn more about statistics in the era of data journalism. (#scio13 #PublicStats)

Trials show that reading this book, Know Your Chances, could help.


  1. Okay, I'll bite. Those questions are pretty hard! I am by no means innumerate, but I admit I don't know what "pooled odds ratio", "pooled risk ratio", or "weighted mean difference" mean. I had basic statistics, and I remember what a p-value is, but that's about it.
    So, do you know if there are any resources or tutorials on the interwebs that explain the statistics of meta-analysis? Maybe my old statistics books covers it -- I'll have to dig it out.

    1. "Know Your Chances" is a good place to start (linked in the post). For meta-analysis statistics, section 9.2 of the Cochrane Handbook ( ). Sooner or later, I'll cartoon about them all....

  2. lol though the matter is serious I just find the photo funny thanks for posting