Please note that this is a forum for statisticians and mathematicians to critically evaluate the design and statistical methods used in studies. The subjects (products, procedures, treatments, etc.) of the studies being evaluated are neither endorsed nor rejected by Sense About Science USA. We encourage readers to use these articles as a starting point to discuss better study design and statistical analysis. While we strive for factual accuracy in these posts, they should not be considered journalistic works, but rather pieces of academic writing. 


The biggest stats lesson of 2016

Here at, we believe 2016’s major message is that statistical issues should be reported clearly and frequently to avoid miscommunication. This message was highlighted by the mismatch between the 2016 presidential election predictions and outcome.

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What do we mean by “reproducibility”?

Amid a growing concern about research reliability, funders have called for a greater effort to make research reproducible. The call is admirable, but the discussion is often confusing, since “reproducibility,” “replication,” and related terms are used in many different ways across, and even within, scientific disciplines. So, what do we mean when we say “reproducibility”?

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Suspicious supervisors and suspect surveys

Public opinion polls are ubiquitous in rich countries, especially during elections. The classical ideal for building polling samples is that they should be random, and are likely to resemble microcosms of the general population up to a margin of error. In practice, real samples deviate considerably from this random ideal. But even real surveys have patterns, and when these patterns are violated, we might suspect fraud.

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The Sun is Out: Risk of Skin Cancer in different groups

A common refrain about skin cancer is that it affects one in five Americans in their lifetime. Yet not all skin cancer is the same, and its impact varies tremendously according to its type. Teasing out the risks from sunburn is a daunting task; our aim here has been to present the overall population-based risk and then focus in on what an individual’s risk might be depending on who that individual is.

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To err is human

One of the oddest study results in recent years, one which you (probably) never heard about until now, must be the randomized control trial on massage therapy in which the participants—all adults—grew by almost two-and-a-half inches over eight weeks.

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Editorial: On PACE

Study design is now one of the most pressing issues in scientific integrity. It is not just that the problems with PACE could have been—and should have been—seen beforehand; it is that poor study design appears to be a major factor behind the much larger reproducibility and replication crisis in science.

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