The Other B-Word

February 26, 2013
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(This article was originally published at Normal Deviate, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Christian has a fun post about the rise of the B-word (Bayesian). “Bayesian ” kills “frequentist.”

Well, how about the other B-word, “Bootstrap.” Look at this Google-trends plot:

BvsB

The bootstrap demolishes Bayes!

Actually, Christian’s post was tongue-in-cheek. As he points out, “frequentist” is … not a qualification used by frequentists to describe their methods. In other words (!), “frequentist” does not occur very often in frequentist papers.

But all joking aside, that does raise an interesting question. Why do Bayesians put the word “Bayesian” in the title of their papers? For example, you might a see a paper with a title like

“A Bayesian Analysis of Respiratory Diseases in Children”

but you would be unlikely to see a paper with a title like

“A Frequentist Analysis of Respiratory Diseases in Children.”

In fact, I think you are doing a disservice to Bayesian inference if you include “Bayesian” in the title. Allow me to explain.

The great Bayesian statistician Dennis Lindley argued strongly against creating a Bayesian journal. He argued that if Bayesian inference is to be successful and become part of the mainstream of statistics, then it should not be treated as novel. Having a Bayesian journal comes across as defensive. Be bold and publish your papers in our best journals, he argued. In other words, if you really believe in the power of Bayesian statistics, then remove the word Bayesian and just think of it as statistics.

I think the same argument applies to paper titles. If you think Bayesian inference is the right way to analyze respiratory diseases in children, then write a paper entitled:

“A Statistical Analysis of Respiratory Diseases in Children.”

Qualifying the title with the word “Bayesian” suggests that there is something novel or weird about using Bayes. If you believe in Bayes, have the courage to leave it out of the title.




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