Respectful Insolence

Researchers versus biostatistics

A friend of mine at work sent this video to me in great amusement.

I just hope he wasn’t making a comment on my behavior when it comes to dealing with our biostatisticians. I have, of course, seen investigators approach biostatistians this late in the game. Not that I’ve ever flirted with this sort of behavior, of course.

Comments

  1. #1 Grant
    September 20, 2010

    I can’t see the video as it’s blocked for New Zealand viewers, but judging from your text I know what you mean about people asking for data analysis assistance too late!

    One of my pet gripes is people approaching “us” (computational biologists / bioinformatics scientists, in my case) after the data analysis has been done, rather than while the grant application is being written.

  2. #2 Tort
    September 20, 2010

    Try here I think this is the same video but I’m in Australia so I can’t see it either.

  3. #3 Daniel J. Andrews
    September 20, 2010

    Blocked in Canada too, but Tort’s link worked.

  4. #4 Chris
    September 20, 2010

    There seems to be a problem with imbedded youtube links. Everywhere that I looked that had one, it is blank. Though it is okay if you link to the original youtube page:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbODigCZqL8

  5. #5 Rob
    September 20, 2010

    Also blocked in England.

  6. #6 Prometheus
    September 20, 2010

    Oh, my! That was about the funniest cartoon I’ve seen in a long time (excepting certain Bugs Bunny cartoons)!

    I’m not a biostatistician, but I work with them often enough to have heard that exact story many times. Even worse is when the “researcher” comes to the statisticians after the study is finished and asks them to find statistical significance in random noise – something like “find a publishable result in my worthless data”, but not so honest.

    I think something also needs to be said about “wannabe” statisticians (e.g. deSoto and Hitlan) who think they understand statistics (and may even teach statistics), but really only have a superficial understanding of how to type the numbers into SPSS. As I said above, I’m not a statistician, but I had to take statistics (from the Mathematics Dept.) in my graduate studies and was required to derive the equations used. There’s nothing like seeing the mathematical underpinnings of – for instance – the Student’s t-test to see what it can and cannot do.

    I’ll be sure to pass this on to my long-suffering biostatistician friends.

    Prometheus

  7. #7 spudbeach
    September 20, 2010

    As a wanna-be statistician, I’m a great fan of this quote from Ronald Fisher:

    To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking him to perform a post-mortem examination: he may be able to say what the experiment died of.

    The cartoon experiment hasn’t been done yet, but seeing as how the grant goes in tomorrow, it might as well have been done already.

  8. #8 franz dibbler
    September 20, 2010

    There are several monitors that need cleaning in gene expression labs at the University of Michigan.

  9. #9 Dan Weber
    September 20, 2010

    Why can’t she just tell me if three iPhones is enough GBs?

  10. #10 Daniel J. Andrews
    September 20, 2010

    About 10 years ago district biologists and technicians had radiotagged quite a few moose, took hair and blood samples, sexed, weighed them, and then tracked them for two years. At the end of that, they came over to the science and information branch, told us what they’d done and asked, “What ideas would you like us to test?”. Apparently they didn’t have any goals or ideas when they started the project…they just tagged moose and figured they’d come up with something to research afterward.

  11. #11 DRose
    September 20, 2010

    If you have to ask repeatedly if three people is enough of a sample size for a medical study, and have to be told repeatedly it is not, you have a bright future in homeopathy.

  12. #12 Rogue Epidemiologist
    September 20, 2010

    @Drose, well, it is true that under very certain circumstances, n=3 may be sufficient for a study. But that depends on what is being studied, and requires that it be such a rare or dangerous occurrence that asking for a greater n would be exceedingly difficult.

    I’d have told the researcher in question to punch it into C-Power at 5% alpha. Then I’d have kicked him in the crotch.

    Either way, the lot of us laughed at it over here. Y’all owe me a new keyboard here.

  13. #13 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    September 20, 2010

    Blocked in Finland as well…

  14. #14 Grant
    September 20, 2010

    @2 Tort, thanks! :-)

    @4 Chris, actually that doesn’t work for me either! (Even if you cut’n’paste the URL into a new tab.)

    Now that I’ve seen the video, beyond the point that you need to talk early, my take is that this cartoon nicely highlights the need for people who understand both or all “sides” of a bi- or multi-disciplinary area. I often find myself having to gently ask people to back up a bit and tell about the problem in biological terms. Too often people try tell me what analysis that they want done, as if I’m unfamiliar with biology. They mean well, but I’m usually (but admittedly not always) better placed to map the biological questions into an analysis strategy. (I am both biologist and computational analyst, as it were; it’s also why I prefer ‘computational biologist’ to ‘bioinformatics scientist’.)

    @7 spudbeach: Great quote. It reminds me of being approached with the results of a small-scale gene expression study (many years ago before gene arrays took off) which had no replicates or controls…

  15. #15 Grant
    September 20, 2010

    Rats. Forgot to add: thanks for showing this, “Orac”!

  16. #16 donahue
    September 20, 2010

    My favorite videos of this series are “Orthopedics vs. Anesthesia” and “Peds ER vs. Orthopedics”. Comedy gold.

  17. #17 Sauceress
    September 21, 2010

    That’s great. I know a pharmacology professor who’ll likely (if possible) make good use of that in lectures. Forwarded.

  18. #18 Kimberly
    September 21, 2010

    I teach biostatistics to masters-level students. I think this will be highly entertaining to embed on the class website. Thanks!

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