Suggestions for future articles are welcomed as comments to this entry. Some topics I intend to write about are listed below.

- The litany of problems with p-values - catalog of all the problems I can think of
- Matching vs. covariate adjustment (see below from Arne Warnke)
- Statistical strategy for propensity score modeling and usage
- Analysis of change: why so many things go wrong
- What exactly is a type I error and should we care? (analogy: worrying about the chance of a false positive diagnostic test vs. computing current probability of disease given whatever the test result was). Alternate title: Why Clinicians' Misunderstanding of Probabilities Makes Them Like Backwards Probabilities Such As Sensitivity, Specificity, and Type I Error.
- Forward vs. backwards probabilities and why forward probabilities serve as their own error probabilities (we have been fed backwards probabilities such as p-values, sensitivity, and specificity for so long it's hard to look forward)
- What is the full meaning of a posterior probability?
- Posterior probabilities can be computed as often as desired
- Statistical critiques of published articles in the biomedical literature
- New dynamic graphics capabilities using R plotly in the R Hmisc package: Showing more by initially showing less
- Moving from pdf to html for statistical reporting
- Is machine learning statistics or computer science?
- Sample size calculation: Is it voodoo?
- Difference between Bayesian modeling and frequentist inference
- Proper accuracy scoring rules and why improper scores such as proportion "classified" "correctly" give misleading results.

A few weeks ago we had a small discussion at CrossValidated about the pros and cons of matching.

I am sorry that I did not had enough time to elaborate further on the support of matching procedures (in my field researchers do not focus much on a bias-variance tradeoff but they prioritize on minimizing biases. For that reason, they like matching procedures).

Now, I have seen that you started a blog recently (congratulations!). I would like to encourage to take up the topic of matching because it is probably interesting for many applied researchers.

I think in your ‘philosophy’, this would belong to the point “Preserve all the information in the data”.

I think in your ‘philosophy’, this would belong to the point “Preserve all the information in the data”.

Here, perhaps some input for a blog post. Back then, you wrote:

*Matching on continuous variables results in an incomplete adjustment because the variables have to be binned.*

What about propensity score matching?

*Matching throws away good data from observations that would be good matches.*

I agree

*Extrapolation bias is only a significant problem if there is a covariate by group interaction, and users of matching methods ignore interactions anyway.*

Here, you go too far (in my view). You can add interactions, again for example with propensity score matching. Imbens and Rubin (2015) suggest a procedure using quadratic and interaction terms of the covariates.

Comment: Nice to know this exists but I've never seen a paper that used matching attempt to explore interactions.

Comment: Nice to know this exists but I've never seen a paper that used matching attempt to explore interactions.

*If you don't want to make regression assumptions that are unverifiable, remove observations outside the overlap region just as with matching.*

Which assumptions do you refer to? I think that treating everyone the same (statistically) is also an unverifiable assumption (do you disagree?). What is your opinion about weighted least squares?

Arne Jonas Warnke

Labour Markets, Human Resources and Social Policy

Internet: www.zew.de www.zew.eu

Internet: www.zew.de www.zew.eu

I have read enough to know the pitfalls of using null hypoth testing. But as a teacher of stats in HS, the texts are focused on this process for inference. So is the AP exam the students take.

ReplyDeleteMy question is....what would you do as a teacher in my position?

Thanks.

An excellent question. Don Berry's intro Bayesian textbook has a wonderful introduction to descriptive data analysis. You can spend a lot of good time teaching students how to describe and explore data without getting into inference. But once inference is introduced we have some tough decision to make! More people, such as Tim Hesterberg, are rightfully pushing the bootstrap as a substitute for classical inference at this level. I would also seek a way to introduce Bayesian analysis. Software is starting to help.

DeleteIn your initial post, you identified a major problem in our scientific culture

ReplyDelete"Statistics has been and continues to be taught in a traditional way, leading to statisticians believing that our historical approach to estimation, prediction, and inference was good enough."

It's worse than that. Traditional statistics is what we're teaching our undergraduates in business and the sciences, so we're perpetuating ideas that were already threadbare decades ago (NOW we're worried about p-values? After a hundred years?)

Much of the appeal of the Fisher frequentist methods is that they can be applied by anyone competent in basic algebra, and can be taught as rote formulas, requiring only a simple calculator and a few tables of critical values. And colleges have seized upon this as a way to promote "quantitative literacy," feeding cargo-cult statistics to the math-averse undergraduate masses.

Teachers of statistics need ways to starting changing the direction of statistics education towards modern techniques. But it can't start with requiring everyone to complete a year of calculus first (even though I'd make it a requirement to graduate, or even to vote).

Mike Anderson

University of Texas at San Antonio

Excellent points. I think we can teach a lot of useful things without the need for the student knowing calculus (algebra is another matter). Bayesian modeling moves us more to careful model specification, and because simulation methods are often used to get solutions, away from calculus. We should capitalize on that. Yes, the frequentist method gives some simplification hence its heavy use and ease of programming.

DeleteFrank:

ReplyDeleteI am glad to read this new blog. Concerning future topics: I would be interested in your views on clinical trial design. Perhaps not so much on large Phase 3 type trials but more on the role of statistics in smaller, more exploratory Phase 2 trials. How can we get away from hypothesis testing of the null in these situations? How should we design and analyze trials for rare diseases?

Roy Tamura

University of South Florida

That's not my area, but one I may have to learn about in my work for FDA. I think that analysis that is only exploratory has its own set of problems, and that some inference is needed. Bayesian methods are being used more and more in Phase 2 studies, and allows adaptation and intensive sequential testing to obtain new results. And one could use the same inferential methods as for Phase III studies but just relax the criteria a bit.

DeleteYes, I hope you will be able to give us some insight in this area without releasing proprietary information. In many situations I deal with now, the traditional paradigm of a randomized trial with high power for a modest treatment effect just isn't feasible and I struggle with what alternative approaches are appropriate.

DeleteI don't think the overall approach needs to be changed in that setting, it's just that in Phase II studies we are more open to adaptation/multiple hypotheses, and there is an even greater need for a Bayesian approach because when the effective sample size is not large, it may be necessary to incorporate outside information and this cannot be don't in the traditional frequentist paradigm.

DeleteI've long wondered why many statisticians embrace Bayesian statistics (and many have done so for decades), but the FDA does not (yet, as I understand it) fully Bayesian inferences. The FDA seems to value error control. Maybe this is related to point 5? Showing concrete examples of how Bayesian statistics would improve cumulative science would also be a strong argument towards adopting those practices (preferably illustrated with real lines of research). I think most of your readers are not novices at statistics - criticism on NHST is available in dozens of articles. I would personally feel that writing about NHST is a bit of a waste of time (I'm sure you can point out the most important issues as sidenotes in other blogs). Best, Daniel

ReplyDeleteI can't disagree with any of that. I'm spending a lot of time discussing p-values and NHST in an attempt to show the emperor has no cloths and we need to change not just for the sake of change but to have better solutions with clearer interpretations. You're right about the perception of 'error control' driving many choices of statistical approaches, in industry, academia (e.g., NIH-funded research), and regulatory. Few people think about whether the false positive referred to in type I error is really an error. I'll be writing more about advantages of direct forward probabilities because in my opinion what really needs to be known is the probability that the conclusion you are about to make is true, not the probability of getting data more extreme than the current data if the effect happens to be exactly zero. The probability of being wrong about efficacy is quite simply one minus the posterior probability of efficacy given the data. In the future I'd like to expand on what type I error means.

ReplyDeleteHello, I would be interested in posts about how to "do things right". For example, an analysis of a dataset done properly, with some of the subtleties and nuances explained. In addition, I haven't heard much about design of experiments geared towards a bayesian approach.

ReplyDeleteForward and Backward probabilities, I like that. My personal view is similar: "Probability is the future tense of a proportion." P-values are proportions and calling them probabilities just confuses everything.

ReplyDeletep-values are not proportions. But I like your definition of proportions.

DeleteI was unclear. Exact p-values are proportions (proportion of possible outcomes as large or larger given the current data and some model.) If I understand your meaning, it is a "backward" probability, using the classical definition of probability,

DeleteI would say that a p-value is a probability, and I think of a proportion as something having a finite denominator.

DeleteDr. Harrell, I'm delighted that you've started this blog. I would be very interested in your view of David Glass's critique of the hypothesis as a framework for experimentation (as opposed to "the question"). Dr. Glass teaches experimental design at Harvard & his views surprised me & got me thinking. I've included two sources (a Cell paper & a Clinical Chemistry paper) in case you haven't run across his perspective. Thanks in advance for considering this topic for your blog. Go 'Dores. Ihahttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867408009537 http://clinchem.aaccjnls.org/content/clinchem/56/7/1080.full.pdf

ReplyDeleteWOW I've been looking for just this type of paper for years. From the title I think I'm going to really like it. I really don't like straw man hypotheses and frequently tell investigators to state a question or sometimes better, state the quantity you want to estimate (often an effect such as a treatment difference). I'll read that paper as soon as I can. Thanks!

ReplyDeleteTerrific! If you happen to find those papers interesting, I can highly recommend Dr. Glass's book, Experimental Design for Biologists, Cold Spring Harbor Press. It's expansive in scope, spanning philosophy of science to how a Western blot should be designed to considerations relevant to clinical trials. It doesn't dwell on any one topic terribly long, but it's packed with interesting ideas, as you can see from the Table of Contents: http://www.cshlpress.org/default.tpl?cart=148479481242280267&fromlink=T&linkaction=full&linksortby=oop_title&--eqSKUdatarq=1020 One other point I would make: his checklist of experimental design is extremely good & is worth the price of the book, even if it's only a page or so.

ReplyDeleteVery interesting looking book, thanks for the references. I bought ebook version.

Delete1. Error control in Bayesian statistics

ReplyDelete2. Robustness of Bayesian statistics: What to do if the assumption of the models are not met?

3. non-central distributions

I'll let others address noncentral distributions. There are not errors to control in Bayesian posterior inference. We might concentrate more on robustness, mainly by talking about Bayesian nonparametric and semiparametric models. Thanks for input.

Delete"There are no errors to control in Bayesian posterior inference"

DeleteDo you mean in parameter estimation? What if I test hypothesis, then I can falsely reject/accept a hypothesis. The BF can mislead in the beginning of data collection as well. As you see, even if there are no errors, it seems (at least to me) worth a discussion of that fact! I would appreciate.

It's best to spell out the steps you envision, and best to avoid hypothesis tests altogether in favor of gathering evidence for a positive effect. Bayesian inference can be misleading at early looks only if your prior specifies a high chance of obtaining a large treatment effect. The prior perfectly calibrates early looks and shrinks the posterior mean by a perfect amount depending on the information content of data collected so far.

DeleteThank you for clarifying your position and I definitely agree. Could you also elaborate how you do a kind of Bayesian power analysis? How can you estimate how many participants/data you need until your posterior is precise enough?

DeleteYes that is one good approach. The beauty of Bayesian sample size estimation is that in incorporates uncertainty yet doesn't depend on unknown parameter values. Some good papers are here: http://www.citeulike.org/search/username?q=tag%3Asample-size+%26%26+tag%3Abayesian-inference&search=Search+library&username=harrelfe

DeleteThank you very much. Last question: What scripts do you use for Bayesian parameter estimation? I am currently relying on John Kruschke's scripts (+ JAGS).

DeleteI am learning Stan, thanks to Chris Fonnesbeck and John Kruschke. In the past I've used JAGS a good deal, and liked it.

Delete1. Is machine learning statistics or computer science?

ReplyDelete2. Methods for sample size calculation (art or science)?

3. Statistical Inference

4. Is logical statistical reasoning reductio ad aburdum? Does it thus always and unavoidably have an agenda?

5. The difference between Bayesian and Frequentist statistics (to be honest, from what I understand Frquentist seems plausible while Bayesian is just vodoo ...)

6. Analysis of contigency tables

7. The p value (and its criticisms)

8. The NHST framework

9. Scientific and statistical misconduct and fraud of the pharmaceutical/nutritional/fitness industry

I'm interested in 1, 2, 5, 7, 8. I'm almost finished covering what I wanted to cover for 7 and 8 after two upcoming posts.

ReplyDeleteP.S. Bayesian modeling seems very natural to me and frequentist inference seems like voodoo. This is especially true when you get into sequential testing, multiplicity, closed testing procedures, group sequential methods, sample size re-estimation, ...

DeleteThis comment has been removed by the author.

ReplyDeleteI'd be interested in how you think about the bootstrap, given your distaste for "backwards" probabilities. The bootstrap seems to me entirely backwards, since it's all about variation in data-space rather than unknown-space.

ReplyDeleteGood question. I view the bootstrap as an amazingly versatile frequentist and exploratory tool, especially for demonstrating variation (e.g., in feature selection) and getting confidence intervals of strange things. It is not the ultimate answer, e.g., if you sample from a log-normal distribution the accuracy of all bootstrap confidence limits for the population mean is terrible. I seek exact answers much of the time, leading me to Bayes.

DeleteSuggested topic: If I give up p-values, do I also have to give up confidence intervals? Is an "estimation and uncertainty" approach also inherently flawed, even if there are no p-values?

ReplyDelete(We've had a brief discussion about this before, but I'm still fuzzy on the issue.)

I'm of two minds about this. (1) CIs are almost impossible for non-statisticians to perfectly understand because of their indirectness. They a lot of the same problems as p-values. (2) they are better than p-values and can be interpreted not matter how large the p-value; so they are a bridge to better methods with likelihood and Bayes.

ReplyDeletecan you explain the concept of "degree of freedom"?

ReplyDeleteSee Section 10.7.4 in Biostatistics for Biomedical Research available from http://biostat.mc.vanderbilt.edu/ClinStat

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