Posts Tagged ‘ Health ’

The plural of anecdote is not …

October 12, 2016
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The plural of anecdote is not …

One of my favorite statistics-related wisecracks is: the plural of anecdote is not data. In today's world, the saying should really say: the plural of anecdote is not BIG DATA. In class this week, we discussed a recent Letter to the Editor of top journal, New England Journal of Medicine, featuring a short analysis of weight data coming from a digital scale that, you guessed it, makes users consent to…

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The plural of anecdote is not …

October 12, 2016
By
The plural of anecdote is not …

One of my favorite statistics-related wisecracks is: the plural of anecdote is not data. In today's world, the saying should really say: the plural of anecdote is not BIG DATA. In class this week, we discussed a recent Letter to the Editor of top journal, New England Journal of Medicine, featuring a short analysis of weight data coming from a digital scale that, you guessed it, makes users consent to…

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Two quick hits: how bad data analysis harms our discourse

October 6, 2016
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I am traveling so have to make this brief. I will likely come back to these stories in the future to give a longer version of these comments. I want to react to two news items that came out in the past couple of days. First, Ben Stiller said that prostate cancer screening (the infamous PSA test) "saved his life". (link) So he is out there singing the praises of…

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GMO labeling is good science

August 18, 2016
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A GMO labeling law has arrived in the US, albeit one that has no teeth (link). For those who don't want to click on the link, the law is passed in haste to pre-empt a more stringent Vermont law. The federal law defines GMO narrowly, businesses do not need to put word labels on packages (they can, for example, provide an 800-number), and violaters will not be punished. One of…

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It’s more important to know the source than the value of a number

July 12, 2016
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Here we go again. ABC News reported that Ricky Williams, former NFL star, proclaimed himself as holding "the world record for most times drug tested". (link) He said he was tested 500 times. During this 11-year career, Williams failed the test four times. So there is one thing we know - the drug testing regime is not much of a deterrent. Since the athlete knows when he is juicing or…

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Tip of the day: don’t be Theranosed

May 23, 2016
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Theranos (v): to spin stories that appeal to data while not presenting any data To be Theranosed is to fall for scammers who tell stories appealing to data but do not present any actual data. This is worse than story time, in which the storyteller starts out with real data but veers off mid-stream into unsubstantiated froth, hoping you and I got carried away by the narrative flow. Theranos (n):…

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Sitting still against the myth that sitting kills

March 23, 2016
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The fad of standing while working may die hard but science is catching up to it. The idea that standing at work will make one healthier has always been a tough one to believe. It requires a series of premises: Using a standing desk increases the amount of standing Standing longer improves one's health The health improvement is measurable using a well-defined metric The incremental standing is of sufficient amount…

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Statbusters: standing may or may not stand a chance

December 7, 2015
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In our latest Statbusters column for the Daily Beast, we read the research behind the claim that "standing reduces odds of obesity". Especially at younger companies, it is trendy to work at standing desks because of findings like this. We find a variety of statistical issues calling for better studies. For example, the observational dataset used provides no clue as to whether sitting causes obesity or obesity leads to more…

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The proliferation of useless data

November 29, 2015
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One of the secrets of great data analysis is thoughtful data collection. Great data collection is necessary but not sufficient for great data analysis. I recently had the unfortunate need to select a new doctor. Every time I had to do this, it has been an exercise in frustration and desperation. And after wasting hours and hours perusing the "data" on doctors, inevitably I give up and just throw a…

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Statbusters: please back up an extreme claim with numbers

November 23, 2015
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In this week's Statbusters, my column with Andrew Gelman in the Daily Beast, we take note of Slate's recent rant about "wasteful" anti-smoking advertising, and demonstrate how to think about cost-benefit analysis. The key point is: if you are going to make an extreme claim, you better have some numbers to back it up. These numbers can be approximate, and based on (potentially dubious) Googled data. Not every analysis needs…

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