Tag Archives: p-hacking

Covering vascular surgery? Watch for selection bias in this database

If you cover medical research related to vascular procedures and conditions, you’ve likely come across studies using data from the Society for Vascular Surgery Vascular Quality Initiative (SVS VQI).

As a database designed to improve patient safety, the SVS VQI can be very useful for analyzing outcomes and associated variable for 12 major vascular procedures as long as researchers (and journalists) are aware of the limitations of the data set. Continue reading

Panelists explain how to begin mastering medical studies

Comic by xkcd.com

At some point almost all health care journalists will need to cover a medical study or two. When that happens, you’ll want to have at least a passing understanding of p values and statistics and you’ll need to know that correlation does not imply causation.

For a session on May 2, AHCJ’s medical studies topic leader Tara Haelle moderated a panel, “Begin mastering medical studies.” Haelle and two experts in the topic explained some of the finer points of covering studies: Ishani Ganguli, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and an internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Regina Nuzzo, Ph.D., a freelance journalist and professor of science, technology and mathematics at Gallaudet University. Continue reading

Assessing the red flags in a study … annotated

I’m frequently asked on social media for my thoughts on a particular study. In this situation, I thought the quick analysis I did may be instructive for others, so I’ve Storified it here, along with additional commentary and resources. Continue reading

P-hacking, self-plagiarism concerns plague news-friendly nutrition lab

Photo: Dominic Rooney via Flickr

Some of the most difficult research to make sense of comes from nutrition science. It is difficult, expensive and labor-intensive to conduct randomized controlled trials in nutrition, in part because they require randomizing what people eat and then ensuring they eat what they’re supposed to – no more and no less.

Even when such trials are finished (often at in-patient labs), the populations are usually small and somewhat homogenous, thus reducing the generalizability and overall clinical utility of results. Continue reading

A guide to understanding why science is messy, hard and wonderful

Photo: Gareth Jones via Flickr

Photo: Gareth Jones via Flickr

An utterly fantastic long read by Christie Aschwanden at FiveThirtyEight.com, cuts to the chase very early: “Science is hard – really f***ing hard.”

Christie Aschwanden

Christie Aschwanden

Aschwanden’s piece – which ought to be required reading for every health journalist (and probably every news consumer, too) – aims to convey just how challenging it is to get reliable findings through scientific research and all the ways that science, despite our best efforts, is ultimately a human enterprise subject to human failings.

“If we’re going to rely on science as a means for reaching the truth – and it’s still the best tool we have – it’s important that we understand and respect just how difficult it is to get a rigorous result,” she writes. And of course, this reality is part of what makes responsible and thorough reporting on medical research such a challenge at times. Continue reading