Median Watch

Eyes on statistics

What to do when applying for research grants is a waste of time for almost everybody

Reposted with permission from Campus Morning Mail. Researchers have a dark sense of humour when it comes to research funding. One of my favourite sneers was from the ecologist Terry McGlynn who said, “instead of writing this grant, I should walk the whole country and get a penny from each person. Same amount of money, but less hassle.” Applicants to last year’s early- and mid-career Medical Research Future Fund fellowships may be wishing that they had gone on a long walk rather sitting at their computers, with speculated success rates at under 5 per cent.

Success without substance

Reposted with permission from 360info. New Zealander Nigel Richards has won the French Scrabble championship twice. What’s more remarkable than double wins is that Nigel doesn’t speak French. He applied his prodigious brain to the task of memorising words from the French dictionary, bypassing the need for understanding. In 2022, The Lancet medical journal achieved a feat that has parallels with Nigel’s Scrabble win. It achieved the highest ‘impact factor’ of any scientific journal in history.

Australia does not want to share health data

I am a statistician. I rely on data for my career. Luckily data is everywhere, so I’m often spoilt for choice. One place where I no longer look for existing data is the health and medical system in Australia. This comes from multiple painful experiences of spending months on approval processes that end in failure. Ad nauseum examples Many other researchers have spoken about the difficulties of accessing health data for research in Australia.

Publication bias or research misconduct?

In my talk on bad statistics in medical research, I showed the infamous plot of Z-values created by Erik van Zwet. A version of the plot made with David Borg is shown below. The sample size is over 1.1 million Z-values. The two large spikes in Z-values are just below and above the statistically significant threshold of ± 1.96, corresponding to a p-value of less than 0.05. The plot looks like a Normal distribution that’s caved in.

A possibly enormous change to health and medical research

Re-posted from Campus Morning Mail with permission. The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research is a vitally important document for researchers and the public, because it determines what research is acceptable and guides how researchers should design studies to adhere to ethical practice. There is a current public consultation on changes to the statement. One proposed change is that this sentence: “Research may lead to harms, discomforts and/or inconveniences for participants and/or others.