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Analysis and Comment (33)

Oh no – not that mistake again. Oh no – not that mistake again. Flickr/Alex Proimos

The 10 stuff-ups we all make when interpreting research

UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH: What do we actually mean by research and how does it help inform our understanding of things? Understanding what’s being said in any new research can be challenging and there are…
An example of unidirectional cause and effect: bad weather means umbrella sales rise, but buying umbrellas won’t make it rain. An example of unidirectional cause and effect: bad weather means umbrella sales rise, but buying umbrellas won’t make it rain. Mariusz Olszewski/Flickr

Clearing up confusion between correlation and causation

UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH: What do we actually mean by research and how does it help inform our understanding of things? Today we look at the dangers of making a link between unrelated results. Here’s an…
How do we make sense of numbers without stats? How do we make sense of numbers without stats? Jeffrey/Flickr

Statistics is more than a numbers game – it underpins all sciences

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…
Harder, faster, better, stronger. Harder, faster, better, stronger. Jose Coelho/EPA

Do winning teams at the World Cup run further and faster?

Tracking technology using video or GPS chips have transformed the ability of coaches in elite team sports to monitor the physical contributions of players in games. This type of data is usually highly…
Spain took home the 2010 World Cup trophy – can they do it again this year? Spain took home the 2010 World Cup trophy – can they do it again this year? EPA/Peter Klaunzer

World Cup 2014 predictions: who will take the title?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hard-core football nut, a once-every-four-years fan or even a psychic animal – most of us speculate on the winner of the World Cup. The 2014 competition is held in Brazil…
Sorry Rick – you should’ve been left behind about three decades ago (along with some algorithms). Sorry Rick – you should’ve been left behind about three decades ago (along with some algorithms). Claudio Poblete/Flickr

Some stats methods are like Rick Astley – best left in the 1980s

It’s an exciting time to be doing statistics. You heard me – statistics: exciting. It often gets a bad rap, but stats is after all at the business end of the research process. When I’ve collaborated on…
If the UK’s Molly doesn’t luck out, it’s not due to collusion. If the UK’s Molly doesn’t luck out, it’s not due to collusion. EPA/Joerg Carstensen

Hard Evidence: is the UK shunned at Eurovision?

It’s that time of the year again. One of the biggest events in Europe’s (and the world’s) cultural calendar, the Eurovision song contest is legendary. The attention paid to this bizarre show is enormous…
A 2% rise next year instead? You have my word. A 2% rise next year instead? You have my word. Rui Vieira/PA

Hard Evidence: does the public sector pay better?

The government’s decision to reject the recommended 1% rise in NHS salaries has been met with “contempt” by the unions. The issue of public sector pay has become highly contentious, with each side arguing…
Stacking the odds? Stacking the odds? Rebecca Siegel

Here be dragons? China’s economic data may not be all bad

The world’s second-largest economy has become the second-most watched and yet investors, politicians and economists are never quite clear what it is they’re looking at. China’s premier, Li Keqiang, is…
Measuring growth can be tough. Measuring growth can be tough. woodleywonderworks

Too soon to celebrate: a flawed obsession with economic stats

So the International Monetary Fund has revised its economic growth forecast for the UK upwards. It now expects 2.4% growth in the UK this year, up from the 1.9% they predicted a few months back. Cue celebratory…
Corporate data, once resigned to magnetic tapes, is now able to be manipulated on a much finer grained scale. Corporate data, once resigned to magnetic tapes, is now able to be manipulated on a much finer grained scale. TunnelBug/Flickr

Big data and big business: it’s what you do with it that matters

The crucial thing about “big data” is the data. “Big” is relative, and while size often matters, real disruption can come from data of any size. This is not a new idea, being several hundred years old…
Statistics can’t tell us everything: p values are only the start of the problem. Statistics can’t tell us everything: p values are only the start of the problem. chrisinplymouth

Give p a chance: significance testing is misunderstood

Yesterday’s article by Geoff Cumming, based on a very recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Science paper, argued that “null hypothesis significance tests” (NHST) are flawed – and he is correct…
A p value of .05 has been the default ‘significance’ threshold for nearly 90 years … but is that standard too weak? A p value of .05 has been the default ‘significance’ threshold for nearly 90 years … but is that standard too weak? Martin_Heigan

The problem with p values: how significant are they, really?

For researchers there’s a lot that turns on the p value, the number used to determine whether a result is statistically significant. The current consensus is that if p is less than .05, a study has reached…
Terry Speed plus maths and stats equals Prime Minister’s Prize for Science 2013. Terry Speed plus maths and stats equals Prime Minister’s Prize for Science 2013. WEHI

Is it possible to add statistics to science? You can count on it

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science recognise excellence in science and science teaching. This year, we asked three prizewinners to reflect on their work and factors that influenced their careers…
Beautiful, but is it biased? Beautiful, but is it biased? Kamyar Adl

Hard Evidence: is Oxford biased against state students?

It’s autumn, and a new batch of students are starting university. Some are walking through the ancient gates of an Oxbridge college. Others are joining a redbrick university like Manchester or Bristol…
‘Hug a hoodie’ as David Cameron would say. ‘Hug a hoodie’ as David Cameron would say. ssoosay

Hard Evidence: has life got worse for young people?

Smoking, drinking and hanging around street corners is a common characterisation of a bored, unhealthy, unemployed youth. Life is getting worse for young people, we’re often led to believe, but what do…
Wrong about migrants, wrong about benefits, wrong about choice of headgear. Wrong about migrants, wrong about benefits, wrong about choice of headgear. Torsten Reimer (http://www.flickr.com/photos/torstenreimer)

British people are wrong about everything: here’s why

People are wildly wrong when we ask them about many aspects of life in Britain, as shown in a new survey by Ipsos MORI for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London. We think one in four…
Iain Duncan Smith wants to claw back your benefits. Iain Duncan Smith wants to claw back your benefits. Ian Nicholson/PA

Welfare dependency: the use and abuse of statistics

The coalition government tells a story of “broken Britain”. Welfare spending is out of control. It is unaffordable. It is excessively generous. It undermines incentives because people are better off not…
We are all susceptible to being swayed by the whims of social movements. We are all susceptible to being swayed by the whims of social movements. epSos.de

Danger, you’re at serious risk of … no, sorry, it’s all relative

We assess risk every day. But very few of us receive any formal training in the requisite mathematics and statistics, and, partly as a result, poor decisions are made, both by individuals and governmental…
How good will Bernard Tomic turn out to be? We can look to science for (some of) the answers. How good will Bernard Tomic turn out to be? We can look to science for (some of) the answers. AAP Image/David Crosling

Numbers game: the Australian Open and predicting success

The Australian Open is upon us for another year, and the best tennis players in the world have assembled in Melbourne to compete for the right to call themselves “champion”. Much of the focus will be on…
Statistical significance doesn’t speak directly to the reproducibility of an experimental effect. Statistical significance doesn’t speak directly to the reproducibility of an experimental effect. Daniel Leininger

Putting psychological research to the test with the Reproducibility Project

An ambitious new project is attempting to replicate every single study published in 2008 in three leading academic psychology journals. It’s called the Reproducibility Project. As the name suggests, the…
Basic statistical literacy is important for communicating and understanding medical risks. Basic statistical literacy is important for communicating and understanding medical risks. Janet Ramsden

Understanding risk statistics about breast cancer screening

An article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) today says a US charity “overstates the benefit of mammography and ignores harms altogether.” The charity’s questionable claim is that early detection…
Damned lies and statistics: the figures indicate a significant deficit of dwellings in Australia. But is the methodology sound? Damned lies and statistics: the figures indicate a significant deficit of dwellings in Australia. But is the methodology sound? Capt' Gorgeous

Beware the rent-seeking organisation: don’t be dudded by housing data

One of the more interesting outcomes the 2011 Census produced was the figures concerning the housing market. The reason for this interest is how the results contrasted with the idea that Australia currently…
A small experiment won’t identify even a large effect as significant while a big experiment is likely to see even a worthless effect as statistically significant. A small experiment won’t identify even a large effect as significant while a big experiment is likely to see even a worthless effect as statistically significant. 8 Eyes Photography Flickr

Mind your confidence interval: how statistics skew research results

“Most patients using the new analgesia reported significantly reduced pain.” Such research findings sound exciting because the word significant suggests important and large. But researchers often use the…
It takes more than a batting average to find the world’s best batsman. It takes more than a batting average to find the world’s best batsman. Composite image: public domain/AAP Image/Tony McDonough

Is Don, is good? How Tendulkar eclipses Bradman

Who is the greatest test batsman of all time? In a follow up to a recent paper I created a media furore by suggesting that India’s Sachin Tendulkar had eclipsed Australian great Sir Donald Bradman in terms…
Look on the bright side, earthlings: it’ll probably never happen. Look on the bright side, earthlings: it’ll probably never happen. Shanon Wise

Incoming! What are the odds you’ll get hit by NASA’s falling satellite?

You might want to look up. Or maybe not. At some point between now and Saturday, a 6.5 tonne, bus-sized NASA satellite will burst through Earth’s atmosphere, breaking into fiery chunks that could land…
Does the finance industry rely too heavily on contestable economic data? Does the finance industry rely too heavily on contestable economic data? AAP

The problem with our economic data addiction

People who work in business and finance are obsessed with economic data releases – GDP growth figures, unemployment rates, trade statistics, and so on. Business journalists, investors, financial analysts…

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