Some Sampled Statisticians Are Not Always Good at Statistics

January 23rd, 2018

Even statistics researchers find that statistics can be— and sometimes are—tricky to use. A recent study by two mathematically-inclined marketing professors demonstrated that many statisticians get confused about (or ignore) some supposedly simple things:

Statistical Significance and the Dichotomization of Evidence,” Blakeley B. McShane [pictured here, pouring coffee] and David Gal, Journal of the American Statistical Association, vol. 112, no. 519, 2017, pp. 885-895. The authors, at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, report:

“In light of recent concerns about reproducibility and replicability, the ASA issued a Statement on Statistical Significance and p-values aimed at those who are not primarily statisticians. While the ASA Statement notes that statistical significance and p-values are “commonly misused and misinterpreted….” [Here we present] data showing, perhaps surprisingly, that researchers who are primarily statisticians are also prone to misuse and misinterpret p-values thus resulting in similar errors.”

Irineo Cabreros, an applied mathematician at Princeton University, wrote an appreciation of this study, and of larger issues of which it’s part. Cabreros’s article, called “Let the battle between human psychology and science have statisticians’ supervision,” is published in Massive.

If you download and read the McShane/Gal article, you will find, at the bottom of its final page, the beginning of an article called “A p-Value to Die For,” by Donald Berry of the Department of Biostatistics, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. Donald Berry does not like the McShane/Gal article (and if one judges from the style of writing, apparently does not like McShane and Gal), and explains in authoritative tones how and why he does not like it (and perhaps them).

A statistical-and-otherwise quarrel had erupted, with several scholars energetically taking part, and McShane and Gal publishing a “rejoinder.” If you enjoy statistics or scholarly quarrels, you might enjoy pursuing the participants and their arguments as they march and hop and publish into the future.

Fracking and Sexually Transmitted Disease [public health study]

January 22nd, 2018

Of all the criticisms aimed at fracking, charges that it might increase the incidence of STDs – specifically gonorrhea – are seldom heard.

Yet there might be a link – according to a new research paper published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

“We analyzed one potential cost to communities, the effect of fracking activity on public health, STDs in particular. We use a quasi-natural experiment within the Marcellus shale region plus panel data estimation techniques to quantify the impact of fracking activity on local gonorrhea incidences. We find that fracking activity is associated with a 20 per cent increase in gonorrhea.”

See: Fracking and public health: Evidence from gonorrhea incidence in the Marcellus Shale region Journal of Public Health Policy, November 2017, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 464–481

Statistical Methods Using the Stick-on-the-Wall Spaghetti Rule

January 19th, 2018

The belief that “statistics is like spaghetti” is a good starting point from which to savor this new study about statistics and spaghetti:

Exploration of Experimental Design and Statistical Methods Using the Stick-on-the-Wall Spaghetti Rule,” Simone Montangero, Francesca Vittone, Sally Olderbak, and Oliver Wilhelm, Teaching Statistics, epub 2018. The authors, at Universität Ulm, Germany, explain:

“The context we use is what we will refer to as the stick-on-the-wall spaghetti (SOWS) rule, a simple way of knowing whether spaghetti is cooked al dente (Italian for still firm), which is commonly accepted as a known fact (although unknown in Italy where pasta is simply tasted). Throw one piece of spaghetti (hereafter we will use the Italian word spaghetto) on the wall. If it sticks, the spaghetti is ready to be eaten. While the origin of this rule is unclear, its adoption into everyday life is pervasive and has led to a more general saying, ‘throw it against the wall to see what sticks’…. We now present examples for how the SOWS context can be used to teach more advanced statistical concepts.”

Shopping – more like gathering than hunting? (study)

January 18th, 2018

If you’re the type who enjoys (or otherwise takes advantage of) the January sales, you might be interested in taking a look at the work of professor Daniel J. Kruger of University of Michigan [pictured]. A news release from the university (2009) related Dr. Kruger’s take on the subject of shopping, saying :

“- it’s perfectly natural that men often can’t distinguish a sage sock from a beige sock or that sometimes women can’t tell if the shoe department is due north or west from the escalator.”

Along with Dreyson Lee Byker, Dr. Kruger published a paper in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2009, 3(4): 328-342. ‘Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shoping [sic] experiences and behaviors’ which explained that :

“For the most part, contemporary stereotypes of women in modern industrial countries perceive women as enjoying shopping more than men. Our research provides evidence that this popular stereotype exists because most shopping activities have a greater similarity to women’s traditional activities of foraging and gathering than they do to men’s traditional activity of hunting. The results of our study show that shopping has significantly more in common with gathering than it does with hunting.”

Bonus Assignment [optional] Could retailers maximise their sales by making the shopping experience more like ancient hunting and gathering – if so, how?

Brendon Smith joins Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS)

January 17th, 2018

Brendon W. Smith has joined the LFHCfS – The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. He says:

I began growing my hair in 2013, during graduate school in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois. I was dissatisfied with my clean-cut look, and was seeking a style that would express my individuality, rebelliousness, and love of rock music. As my dissertation grew, so did my hair. It developed into a flowing mane of chestnut curls. In a paramount example of my love of hair and science, I shared a video in Washington, D.C. prior to the March for Science. I defended the importance of science as my locks freely cascaded past my clavicle onto my AAAS Leonardo da Vinci t-shirt. Feast your eyes on the screenshot I have provided.

Brendon W. Smith,Ph.D., LFHCfS
Unaffiliated Nutrition Scientist and Web Developer
Boston, Massachusetts, USA