The State of the Art

Christie Aschwanden writes:

Not sure you will remember, but last fall at our panel at the World Conference of Science Journalists I talked with you and Kristin Sainani about some unconventional statistical methods being used in sports science. I’d been collecting material for a story, and after the meeting I sent the papers to Kristin. She fell down the rabbit hole too, and ended up writing a rebuttal of them, which is just published ahead of print in a sports science journal.

The authors of the work she is critiquing have written a response on their website (the title, “The Vindication of Magnitude-Based Inference”) though they seem to have taken it down for revisions at the moment.

I’m attaching the paper that the proponents of this method (“magnitude-based inference”) wrote to justify it. Kristin’s paper is at least the third to critique MBI. Will Hopkins, who is the mastermind behind it, has doubled down. His method seems to be gaining traction. A course that teaches researchers how to use it has been endorsed by British Association of Sport and Exercise Science and Exercise & Sports Science Australia.

My reply:

The whole thing seems pretty pointless to me. I agree with Sainani that the paper on MBI does not make sense. But I also disagree with all the people involved in this debate in that I don’t think that “type 1 error rate” has any relevance to sports science, or to science more generally. See for example here and here.

I think scientists should be spending more time collecting good data and reporting their raw results for all to see, and less time trying to come up with methods for extracting a spurious certainty out of noisy data. I think this whole type 1, type 2 error thing is a horrible waste of time which is distracting researchers from the much more important problem of getting high quality measurements.

See here for further discussion of this general point.

P.S. These titles are great, no?

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