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Cherry-picking, statistical adjustment, and fishing expeditions

December 5th, 2011

My Jockology column in this week’s Globe and Mail takes a look at three questions:

  1. How do cigarettes help marathoners run faster?
  2. Why does eating red meat cause car crashes?
  3. Does caffeine cause breast cancer?

In each case, I analyze studies that seem to “prove” these surprising findings, and identify the errors (cherry-picking data, inadequate statistical adjustment, and fishing expeditions) that lead to these conclusions. Basically, it’s a “how to assess medical research” primer. Read the whole thing here.

(Hat tip to Travis Saunders for his blog post at Obesity Panacea about the smoking study.)

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  1. jb
    December 7th, 2011 at 15:12 | #1

    Great article. Here’s a great cartoon illustrating “fishing expeditions” (and the role of “science” journalism):
    http://xkcd.com/882/

  2. alex
    December 7th, 2011 at 15:54 | #2

    @jb: Ha! Awesome — I recommend everyone click on the xkcd link for a good laugh (and concise demonstration of the problem with fishing expeditions).

  3. December 17th, 2011 at 16:34 | #3

    It’s covered fairly well in “bad science” in simple laymans terms so even I can understand.

  1. December 7th, 2011 at 04:24 | #1
  2. December 8th, 2011 at 16:46 | #2