CORRESPONDENCE

Stats: is this therapy useful?

Northeast Area Statistics Group, US Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland, USA.
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I disagree that the current misuse of P values in biomedical science could be solved by ‘retiring’ statistical significance (V. Amrhein et al. Nature 567, 305–307; 2019).

Like it or not, some of the blame for current practices lies in researchers’ infatuation with simply disproving the null hypothesis. They often see this as a more ‘objective’ way of doing science: collect data and let the decision about its importance be made by statistics.

The real question is whether a treatment effect is important, not whether it differs ‘significantly’ from a control. To answer this, the researcher should justify beforehand how large the effect size needs to be. Then, if a 10% improvement over the control is required, the probability that this has been attained can be calculated from the data using familiar statistical tools for hypothesis testing and sample-size determination.

Nature 569, 192 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01452-8
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