This article discusses issues related to alpha spending, effect sizes used in power calculations, multiple endpoints in RCTs, and endpoint labeling. Changes in endpoint priority is addressed. Included in the the discussion is how Bayesian probabilities more naturally allow one to answer multiple questions without all-too-arbitrary designations of endpoints as “primary” and “secondary”. And we should not quit trying to learn.
What are the major elements of learning from data that should inform the research process? How can we prevent having false confidence from statistical analysis? Does a Bayesian approach result in more honest answers to research questions? Is learning inherently subjective anyway, so we need to stop criticizing Bayesians’ subjectivity? How important and possible is pre-specification? When should replication be required? These and other questions are discussed.
To avoid “false positives” do away with “positive”.
A good poker player plays the odds by thinking to herself “The probability I can win with this hand is 0.91” and not “I’m going to win this game” when deciding the next move.
State conclusions honestly, completely deferring judgments and actions to the ultimate decision makers. Just as it is better to make predictions than classifications in prognosis and diagnosis, use the word “probably” liberally, and avoid thinking “the evidence against the null hypothesis is strong, so we conclude the treatment works” which creates the opportunity of a false positive.
Professor of Biostatistics
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Professor of Psychiatry and, by courtesy, of Medicine (Cardiovascular Medicine) and of Biomedical Data Science
Stanford University School of Medicine
Revised July 17, 2017 It is often said that randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are the gold standard for learning about therapeutic effectiveness. This is because the treatment is assigned at random so no variables, measured or unmeasured, will be truly related to treatment assignment.
Misinterpretation of P-values and Main Study Results Dichotomania Problems With Change Scores Improper Subgrouping Serial Data and Response Trajectories Cluster Analysis As Doug Altman famously wrote in his Scandal of Poor Medical Research in BMJ in 1994, the quality of how statistical principles and analysis methods are applied in medical research is quite poor. According to Doug and to many others such as Richard Smith, the problems have only gotten worse.
The difference between Bayesian and frequentist inference in a nutshell:
With Bayes you start with a prior distribution for θ and given your data make an inference about the θ-driven process generating your data (whatever that process happened to be), to quantify evidence for every possible value of θ. With frequentism, you make assumptions about the process that generated your data and infinitely many replications of them, and try to build evidence for what θ is not.
What clinicians learn from clinical practice, unless they routinely do n-of-one studies, is based on comparisons of unlikes. Then they criticize like-vs-like comparisons from randomized trials for not being generalizable. This is made worse by not understanding that clinical trials are designed to estimate relative efficacy, and relative efficacy is surprisingly transportable. Many clinicians do not even track what happens to their patients to be able to inform their future patients.