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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

What if a big study is done and nobody reports it?

Paul Alper writes: Your blog often contains criticisms of articles which get too much publicity. Here is an instance of the obverse (inverse? reverse?) where a worthy publication dealing with a serious medical condition is virtually ignored. From Michael Joyce at the ever-reliable and informative Healthnewsreview.org: Prostate cancer screening: massive study gets minimal coverage. Why? […]

Some clues that this study has big big problems

Paul Alper writes: This article from the New York Daily News, reproduced in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is so terrible in so many ways. Very sad commentary regarding all aspects of statistics education and journalism. The news article, by Joe Dziemianowicz, is called “Study says drinking alcohol is key to living past 90,” with subheading, […]

Problems in a published article on food security in the Lower Mekong Basin

John Williams points us to this article, “Designing river flows to improve food security futures in the Lower Mekong Basin,” by John Sabo et al., featured in the journal Science. Williams writes: The article exhibits multiple forking paths, a lack of theory, and abundant jargon. It is also very carelessly written and reviewed. For example, […]

It was the weeds that bothered him.

Bill Jefferys points to this news article by Denise Grady. Bill noticed the following bit, “In male rats, the studies linked tumors in the heart to high exposure to radiation from the phones. But that problem did not occur in female rats, or any mice,” and asked: ​Forking paths, much? My reply: The summary of […]

Discussion of the value of a mathematical model for the dissemination of propaganda

A couple people pointed me to this article, “How to Beat Science and Influence People: Policy Makers and Propaganda in Epistemic Networks,” by James Weatherall, Cailin O’Connor, and Justin Bruner, also featured in this news article. Their paper begins: In their recent book Merchants of Doubt [New York:Bloomsbury 2010], Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway describe […]

Some thoughts after reading “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”

I just read the above-titled John Carreyrou book, and it’s as excellent as everyone says it is. I suppose it’s the mark of any compelling story that it will bring to mind other things you’ve been thinking about, and in this case I saw many connections between the story of Theranos—a company that raised billions […]

China air pollution regression discontinuity update

Avery writes: There is a follow up paper for the paper “Evidence on the impact of sustained exposure to air pollution on life expectancy from China’s Huai River policy” [by Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone, and Hongbin Li] which you have posted on a couple times and used in lectures. It seems that there […]

“Seeding trials”: medical marketing disguised as science

Paul Alper points to this horrifying news article by Mary Chris Jaklevic, “how a medical device ‘seeding trial’ disguised marketing as science.” I’d never heard of “seeding trials” before. Here’s Jaklevic: As a new line of hip implants was about to be launched in 2000, a stunning email went out from the manufacturer’s marketing department. […]

Is it really true that babies should sleep on their backs?

Asher Meir writes: Arnold Kling is a well-regarded economics blogger. Here he expresses skepticism about the strength of the evidence behind recommending that babies sleep on their backs. I recall seeing another blogger expressing the same doubt at some length, or maybe it is another post by Arnold, I can’t find it right now. Of […]

The file drawer’s on fire!

Kevin Lewis sends along this article, commenting, “That’s one smokin’ file drawer!” Here’s the story, courtesy of Clayton Velicer, Gideon St. Helen, and Stanton Glantz: We examined the relationship between the tobacco industry and the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (RTP) using the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library and internet sources. We determined the funding […]

Flaws in stupid horrible algorithm revealed because it made numerical predictions

Kaiser Fung points to this news article by David Jackson and Gary Marx: The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is ending a high-profile program that used computer data mining to identify children at risk for serious injury or death after the agency’s top official called the technology unreliable. . . . Two Florida […]

Problems with surrogate markers

Paul Alper points us to this article in Health News Review—I can’t figure out who wrote it—warning of problems with the use of surrogate outcomes for policy evaluation: “New drug improves bone density by 40%.” At first glance, this sounds like great news. But there’s a problem: We have no idea if this means the […]

Answering the question, What predictors are more important?, going beyond p-value thresholding and ranking

Daniel Kapitan writes: We are in the process of writing a paper on the outcome of cataract surgery. A (very rough!) draft can be found here, to provide you with some context:  https://www.overleaf.com/read/wvnwzjmrffmw. Using standard classification methods (Python sklearn, with synthetic oversampling to address the class imbalance), we are able to predict a poor outcome […]

Power analysis and NIH-style statistical practice: What’s the implicit model?

So. Following up on our discussion of “the 80% power lie,” I was thinking about the implicit model underlying NIH’s 80% power rule. Several commenters pointed out that, to have your study design approved by NSF, it’s not required that you demonstrate that you have 80% power for real; what’s needed is to show 80% […]

Chasing the noise in industrial A/B testing: what to do when all the low-hanging fruit have been picked?

Commenting on this post on the “80% power” lie, Roger Bohn writes: The low power problem bugged me so much in the semiconductor industry that I wrote 2 papers about around 1995. Variability estimates come naturally from routine manufacturing statistics, which in semicon were tracked carefully because they are economically important. The sample size is […]

About that quasi-retracted study on the Mediterranean diet . . .

Some people asked me what I thought about this story. A reporter wrote to me about it last week, asking if it looked like fraud. Here’s my reply: Based on the description, there does not seem to be the implication of fraud. The editor’s report mentioned “protocol deviations, including the enrollment of participants who were […]

Stan Workshop on Pharmacometrics—Paris, 24 July 2018

What: A one-day event organized by France Mentre (IAME, INSERM, Univ SPC, Univ Paris 7, Univ Paris 13) and Julie Bertrand (INSERM) and sponsored by the International Society of Pharmacometrics (ISoP). When: Tuesday 24 July 2018 Where: Faculté Bichat, 16 rue Henri Huchard, 75018 Paris Free Registration: Registration is being handled by ISoP; please click […]

The necessity—and the difficulty—of admitting failure in research and clinical practice

Bill Jefferys sends along this excellent newspaper article by Siddhartha Mukherjee, “A failure to heal,” about the necessity—and the difficulty—of admitting failure in research and clinical practice. Mukherjee writes: What happens when a clinical trial fails? This year, the Food and Drug Administration approved some 40 new medicines to treat human illnesses, including 13 for […]

Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, and the FDA

I just read this horrifying magazine article by Patrick Radden Keefe: The Family That Built an Empire of Pain: The Sackler dynasty’s ruthless marketing of painkillers has generated billions of dollars—and millions of addicts. You really have to read the whole thing, because it’s just one story after another of bad behavior, people getting rich […]

“Human life is unlimited – but short”

Holger Rootzén and Dmitrii Zholud write: This paper studies what can be inferred from data about human mortality at extreme age. We find that in western countries and Japan and after age 110 the risk of dying is constant and is about 47% per year. Hence data does not support that there is a finite […]