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Homologous recombinaltion tiniker (lol science reporting)

FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style?Registered User regular
edited April 2011 in Debate and/or Discourse
homologousrecombinaltiot.jpg

Q: What is homologous recombinaltion tiniker?
A: Nobody knows!

billkn.jpg

Q: So where did it come from?
A: It's verbal diarrhea shit from the mouth of CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson in a March 31 article titled "Vaccines and autism: a new scientific review"

The idea? It doesn't matter, because it's complete horseshit, but it helps to know the premise to see where the mental train not only went off the track, but straight off the logic cliff into Aphasia Ravine. The idea here is that vaccines cause autism... no, not because of thimerosal... no, not immune load... wait, just listen... wait, it's because vaccines have human DNA in them and human DNA causes brain damage.

Whenever you're done laughing, here's the really damning part (as opposed to the mildly damning part):

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31727_162-20049118-10391695.html
Why could human DNA potentially cause brain damage? The way Ratajczak explained it to me: "Because it's human DNA and recipients are humans, there's homologous recombinaltion tiniker. That DNA is incorporated into the host DNA. Now it's changed, altered self and body kills it. Where is this most expressed? The neurons of the brain. Now you have body killing the brain cells and it's an ongoing inflammation. It doesn't stop, it continues through the life of that individual."

Q: So what does it mean?
A: Nothing!

Q: Really?
A: Yes.

Q: So if those words were used properly...
A: ...'tiniker' isn't a word. Homologous recombination (not 'recombinaltion') is a meaningful phrase, and happens when a mammal creates sperm and eggs. 'Homologous recombination' is a thing that could happen in the brain, in the sense that spontaneous combustion is a thing that could happen in the brain. Getting DNA sequences into the bloodstream, past the blood-brain barrier, and into nuclei is no simple task; there are literally billions of dollars being spent every year trying to get stuff into brain cells. DNA is fragile when not protected in a nucleus; most of the human body is highly inhospitable to DNA. It's a little like trying to carry a Faberge egg on a spoon into a firefight in Fallujah... or, alternately:

mordorz.png

Is this an April Fool's joke? No, it was posted a day early. And Attkisson has posted anti-vaccine woo before.

Sadly, the journal article is not available for free perusal, as far as I can tell. Respectful Insolence posted a nice little summary. Needless to say, it doesn't make a very convincing argument that human DNA in vaccines causes autism. (Actually, it doesn't make an argument at all, for that matter.)

We all know that science reporting is shitty in the US right now. But how can a major media source be so negligent of basic fact-checking that they would post something so completely nonsensical?

O'Reilly and ICP courtesy of ERV. Alligator courtesy of yours truly.

Feral on
every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
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Posts

  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Is it even a new scientific review, or is it just the same outright fraudulent bullshit that has been circulated all this time?

    Gamertag: PrimusD | Rock Band DLC | GW:OttW - arrcd | WLD - Thortar
  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    Alligator courtesy of yours truly.

    :^:

  • SanderJKSanderJK Crocodylus Pontifex Sinterklasicus Madrid, 3000 ADRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I read this story yesterday, when looking at Bad Astronomy. It's basicly pseudo-science hogwash, and the Insolence blog eplains why better then I could.

    To depress people further:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/04/08/antiscience-bill-passes-tennessee-house-vote/

    Basicly, the bill says "If a teacher decides to teach something, you can't stop him based on the fact that it's untrue"

    Aaaaaawwwweeeessoooommeeeee.

    Steam: SanderJK Origin: SanderJK
  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck you must go on i cant go on ill go onRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    science reporting is always depressing but such is life

    obF2Wuw.png
  • ArchArch Viruses are totally dependent on knowledge of every eternity. Renounce faith. Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    There IS an actual review behind all of this, which I can't quite get to at the moment.

    It is cited in the CBS article- Helen V. Ratajczak "Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes—A review" The Journal of ImmunoToxicology 2011; 8(1): 68–79

    I will see if I can get to it and report back, but in the meantime...

    I would like to take credit for introducing Feral to this story, although he made a brilliant OP, and a much funnier image meme for it than I did.

    DNA-y-u-no-homologous-recombinaltio.jpg

    As to what can be done about science journalism in the US?

    Well, firstly I would ask for more obvious citations of the story in question.

    Ben Goldacre mentioned this in a recent post, although the criticism is not entirely accurate in this case, as CBS did link to a primary source....albeit one that returns a "server too busy" load error when attempting to access it directly from CBS's hyperlink.

    A citation such as the one I posted above would be helpful for those of us interested in finding out what this woman really said, although given her quotes I am not sure if I want to know.

    It is unclear whether or not the amusing quote (homologous recombinaltion tiniker) is from the "researcher" herself, or just a typo but I just found the paper (during the time it took me to write and post this) and will report back.

  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    So what she's saying is the human body is one giant ecoli bug and we just soak up any stray DNA sequences we come across?

    sig.jpg
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Yeah, it was kind of amazing that the full name of the researcher, the full name of the article, and the full name of the journal were all stated in the article, in the same paragraph even!

    Edit: and yeah Arch did introduce me to this, and it took my brain a good 45m to recover.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • ArchArch Viruses are totally dependent on knowledge of every eternity. Renounce faith. Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Hmm....reading further into this paper I am really more disappointed at CBS than anything else- the researcher in question (and the review reported on) are rather tame.

    In fact, here is a snippet of the conclusion!
    Autism has been documented to be caused by genetic defects and/or inflammation of the brain. The inflammation could be caused by a wide variety of environmental toxicants, infections, and co-morbidities in individuals genetically prone to the developmental disorder.

    Extremely tame and not that controversial, from what I understand.

    Now, what I am worried about is two things

    Either the researcher (Ratajczak) really misspoke during this interview, or the reporter (Sharyl Attkisson) really really doesn't understand basic scientific concepts.

    The review documents a lot of putative influences during development that could lead to autisim- whether or not the cases and events she documents are legitimate is another story, and a bit out of my depth to be honest.

    In this case I am going to be putting the benefit of the doubt on the researcher and the onus and blame on the journalist, which gives me more to say.

    Is it possible this Sharyl Attkinsson is simply so ignorant of biology that she is unable to realize that "homologous recombinaltion tiniker" was supposed to be "homologous recombination"?

    I guess in order to increase the ability of science journalism to effectively communicate science, I would like to see science journalists with actual scientific training commenting on the news articles, although even big journals like Nature have problems with sensationalism as of late.

    Someone recently talked about this (should journalists have a science education), but for the life of me I can't remember who it was.

    Either way, I would like to see more responsibility on the reporter's end so that the scientific community doesn't have to continually put out fires, so to speak.

    Basically I want to vaccinate the public against bad pop-sci by educating reporters.

  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    What's a tiniker, then? Tinker? Tincture?

    Kudos on the OP, it gave me a good long laugh followed by a deep sigh.

    etxvv5.jpg
  • enlightenedbumenlightenedbum Ann Arbor, MichiganRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Last Wednesday's xkcd summarized the state of science reporting pretty well.

  • DivideByZeroDivideByZero Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Any day now we should start seeing stories about how vaccines cause autism because Timecube.

  • JihadJesusJihadJesus Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The general consensus seems to be that, whenever a story pops up, the people who are professionals in that area agreet that _____ reporting is miserable.

    At this point I think that's being overly specific; reporting is miserable, because our media is miserable. Our media is miserable because its top two drivers are inevitably profit and ageneda in some order.

    Tired of getting reamed by Gamestop? Sign up for Goozex!
  • dlinfinitidlinfiniti Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    adytum wrote: »
    What's a tiniker, then? Tinker? Tincture?

    Kudos on the OP, it gave me a good long laugh followed by a deep sigh.

    well they arent exactly clear on which variety we're talking about
    currently it is accepted that there are two versions:
    Spoiler:
    Though the general consensus revolves around the Tolkein Hypothesis as laid out in his seminal trilogy: Goblins are smaller orcs which in turn are corrupted elves. In which case, they would be divergent species much like darwin's finches. All thats left to do then is find the common ancestor which while should be simple, has not yet been done which is what the theory's opponents point to when arguing their points. Its all very controversial and theoretical at this point in time though.

    AAAAA!!! PLAAAYGUUU!!!!
  • RobmanRobman Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Raw DNA in vivo causes immunological and inflammatory reactions. That's a fact. This bunkum about the brain is hilarious though, DNA can't really penetrate the BBB. If it could we could use plasmid kill vectors aimed at brain tumors.

  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    This is so retarded, I do homologous recombinaltion tiniker in lab everyday with my plasmidoidecal samples. I've gone through at least dozens of rounds of transfosubstantiations with human DNA that has undergone polyephemerase mutanotototogenesis. None of my test subjects ever got brain damage.

    f1i3ys.jpg
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    dlinfiniti wrote: »
    adytum wrote: »
    What's a tiniker, then? Tinker? Tincture?

    Kudos on the OP, it gave me a good long laugh followed by a deep sigh.

    well they arent exactly clear on which variety we're talking about
    currently it is accepted that there are two versions:
    Spoiler:
    Though the general consensus revolves around the Tolkein Hypothesis as laid out in his seminal trilogy: Goblins are smaller orcs which in turn are corrupted elves. In which case, they would be divergent species much like darwin's finches. All thats left to do then is find the common ancestor which while should be simple, has not yet been done which is what the theory's opponents point to when arguing their points. Its all very controversial and theoretical at this point in time though.

    Wait, if you're replacing one DNA sequence with another, then it's clearly...
    Spoiler:

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Winky wrote: »
    mutanotototogenesis. None of my test subjects ever got brain damage.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Fuck that card Feral.

    Fuck it straight to hell.

    sig.jpg
  • RobmanRobman Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Tinker was so broken. Ornithopter, black lotus, darksteel colossus

  • MarathonMarathon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'm just going to go sit in the corner with my Biology degree and cry.

    Dumb Hero wrote: »
    "Okay, you take 2d4 damage from the ogre's dick impaling your 2inch anus"
    Hey, Satan.
  • ArchArch Viruses are totally dependent on knowledge of every eternity. Renounce faith. Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Winky wrote: »
    This is so retarded, I do homologous recombinaltion tiniker in lab everyday with my plasmidoidecal samples. I've gone through at least dozens of rounds of transfosubstantiations with human DNA that has undergone polyephemerase mutanotototogenesis. None of my test subjects ever got brain damage.

    You are getting far too good at this Winky

    It pleases me

  • surrealitychecksurrealitycheck you must go on i cant go on ill go onRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The general consensus seems to be that, whenever a story pops up, the people who are professionals in that area agreet that _____ reporting is miserable.

    At this point I think that's being overly specific; reporting is miserable, because our media is miserable. Our media is miserable because its top two drivers are inevitably profit and ageneda in some order.


    It's notably worse with science because the failure combines both statistical failure with knowledge failure

    obF2Wuw.png
  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Apparently the journal Ratajczak's article is published in is so obscure my university doesn't even have access to it. I wonder if this is a case of a low impact factor journal trying to boost its numbers by publishing a controversial report.

    MSL59.jpg
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Arch wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    This is so retarded, I do homologous recombinaltion tiniker in lab everyday with my plasmidoidecal samples. I've gone through at least dozens of rounds of transfosubstantiations with human DNA that has undergone polyephemerase mutanotototogenesis. None of my test subjects ever got brain damage.

    You are getting far too good at this Winky

    It pleases me

    One of my backups if I can't get into grad school is science reporting.

    EDIT:
    This isn't even a joke :P.

    f1i3ys.jpg
  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Robman wrote: »
    This bunkum about the brain is hilarious though, DNA can't really penetrate the BBB.
    Sure it can, just use higher velocities. As a bonus, I've got a fix for people who can't manage basic literacy, much less managing some fairly basic understanding of science (for example, the bit where you ask "I didn't quite get that bit, could you cover it a bit simpler for me?").

    Alternately, if we think homicide or eugenics aren't in play as solutions, what I'd love to see is a rating system for news organizations and reporters for their ability to reason/read/whatnot.

    edit: reading that Tennessee bill, it looks like it still allows the school system to require all teachers to cover the scientific flaws in every theory they cover. Did I misread? Yes I'm aware that will never happen anywhere in the country, but I can dream.

  • dlinfinitidlinfiniti Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Winky wrote: »
    Arch wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    This is so retarded, I do homologous recombinaltion tiniker in lab everyday with my plasmidoidecal samples. I've gone through at least dozens of rounds of transfosubstantiations with human DNA that has undergone polyephemerase mutanotototogenesis. None of my test subjects ever got brain damage.

    You are getting far too good at this Winky

    It pleases me

    One of my backups if I can't get into grad school is science reporting.

    EDIT:
    This isn't even a joke :P.

    pfft you wish
    everyone knows science ruins your ability to write in active voice

    AAAAA!!! PLAAAYGUUU!!!!
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    dlinfiniti wrote: »
    everyone knows science ruins your ability to write in active voice

    This author loled in response to the above quote.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • HonkHonk Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited April 2011
    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do homologous recombinaltion tiniker more like?

  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Honk wrote: »
    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do homologous recombinaltion tiniker more like?

    This is more Wernicke's, the reporter sounded more Broca's.

    f1i3ys.jpg
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Super Moderator, Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited April 2011
    First: lol OP, five stars, would read again

    Second: My working hypothesis is that the problem stems from the fact that no casual consumer of news will pay attention to anything that requires more than a single sentence to explain. They will read more than a single sentence about a topic, but mostly for the sake of elaboration and exploring response to the article's topic. If the actual meat of the article cannot be explained in one single sentence that converts the reader into a layman's expert on the topic material, his eyes will glaze over and he will move on.

    (As a corollary to my hypothesis, I submit that nothing that can be completely explained in a single sentence is actually worth knowing.)

    And journalists know this. It's fine if your article is "Yankees Win World Series" or "Man Murders Five With Axe," and this kind of reporting is generally fine as long as nothing complicated happened. But if you're talking sciense, or politics, or economics, or just about anything more involved than basic human interest, you're boned. Because none of those things can be adequately explained in a single sentence. And yet the journalists will try to do it anyway, because if they don't nobody will read it. Moreover, since science reporting now consists of whatever you can get across in a sentence, there's no reason to bother learning how science works. Because all you'll be regurgitating is single-sentence bastardizations of whatever the scientist has to say. (And it doesn't help that your average scientist sucks at communicating their ideas to real people, since they're more accustomed to communicating with fellow scientists.)

    So we wind up with retarded monosyllabic approximations of scientific endeavors. And people, being people, will fill in the (many, many) holes in the journalists' explanations with their own understanding of how the world works. The dreaded common sense and conventional wisdom. So you get something like global warming reduced to "Humans are putting stuff in the air and it's making the climate change, and this could be really bad." This really explains nothing, and the holes will be filled in with the obvious facts that the Earth is huge and we are small and how can something small affect something huge, lol liberal alarmists QED.

    Basically, it's impossible, via mainstream media, to communicate anything to anyone that will actually inform them in a way that does not already conform with how they choose to view the world. And at this point, science reporting probably does more harm than good. I legitimately think that, the way media is currently constructed, we would see less harm if major outlets just never said anything about science ever. People would be ignorant, but at least it would be the more benign sort of ignorance whereby they just don't know things, rather than the malicious form we have now where people enthusiastically know wrong things.

    [While watching popcorn in the microwave]
    Maddie: "Look Riley, the bag's as big as your head now!"
    Riley: "Hahaha, yeah!"
    Maddie: "Look, now it's as big as your butt!"
    Riley: "Omigosh, it looks just like my butt!"
  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    ElJeffe wrote: »
    And it doesn't help that your average scientist sucks at communicating their ideas to real people, since they're more accustomed to communicating with fellow scientists.

    I agree with the rest of your post but, even at the risk of going slightly off topic for a moment, I'm not sure the above is correct. It can take a scientist years to produce a result worth reporting, and after that you often need a lot of additional research (in addition to all your previous education and experience) to figure out what the result means. It isn't easy to communicate such results and their scientific value to a layperson in an honest, non-authoritarian way. Usually it goes a bit like this:

    Uneducated Friend: What exactly is this paper about?
    Me: Well it looks like some patients with disease A have a genetic variant of enzyme B that renders commonly used medication C ineffective or even dangerous to them.
    Friend: So if I get disease A I should get tested for variant B before the doctors kill me with medication C?
    Me: It's just a preliminary study...
    Friend: OMG WHY ISN'T THIS IN THE PAPERS THEY'RE KILLING PEOPLE WITH THE WRONG MEDICATION!
    Me: Dude it's just a statistical correlation in one sample set. Maybe there's a confounding variable at play, or it could be just random chance. It's a pretty exciting result, but without additional research it can't be taken as fact.
    Friend: So what's the point of your paper?
    Me: Well it's an addition to this greater pool of knowledge that will hopefully lead to better treatments...
    Friend: So basically you haven't discovered anything.
    Me: ...

    It's worth noting that the paper mentioned in the OP is a review article, ie. not original research. Review articles can have considerable clout in scientific circles. Ideally they describe the current state of the art in the field. But these articles are published in the top journals of their fields, not some obscure rag nobody ever heard of. I'd be suspicious of Ratajczak's review even without the homologous recombinaltion tiniker debacle.

    MSL59.jpg
  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Uneducated Friend: What exactly is this paper about?
    Me: Well it looks like some patients with disease A have a genetic variant of enzyme B that renders commonly used medication C ineffective or even dangerous to them.
    Friend: So if I get disease A I should get tested for variant B before the doctors kill me with medication C?
    Me: It's just a preliminary study...
    Friend: OMG WHY ISN'T THIS IN THE PAPERS THEY'RE KILLING PEOPLE WITH THE WRONG MEDICATION!
    Me: Dude it's just a statistical correlation in one sample set. Maybe there's a confounding variable at play, or it could be just random chance. It's a pretty exciting result, but without additional research it can't be taken as fact.
    Friend: So what's the point of your paper?
    Me: Well it's an addition to this greater pool of knowledge that will hopefully lead to better treatments...
    Friend: So basically you haven't discovered anything.
    Me: ...
    People aren't magically going to become able to understand what a result means unless someone takes the time to explain it to them. Allow me to adjust your dialogue in to two options:
    Uneducated Friend: What exactly is this paper about?
    Me: Are you going to overreact and waste my time again if I tell you?
    Friend: Yup
    Me: Not telling

    Or

    Friend: Not if you take your time to explain it to me
    Me: Some patients with disease A have a genetic variant of enzyme B that might render commonly used medication C ineffective or even dangerous to them. Of course, I could have gotten some bad data, an unlucky set of people or there might be some other thing going on. I won't be able to tell you which of those 4 is the case until more research is done.
    Friend: So, as of right now, you know there's something worth looking into, but you don't exactly know what it means?
    Me: Yup, that's about it.

    edit: the problem is you wouldn't put the unqualified statement "well it looks like some patients with disease A have a genetic variant of enzyme B that renders commonly used medication C ineffective or even dangerous to them" into any sort of formal document because its wrong. Either don't bother telling someone who will be an idiot, or treat them like they can think and give them the qualifiers. Also, don't assume they know all the qualifiers that go with statistics.

  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Syrdon wrote: »
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    Uneducated Friend: What exactly is this paper about?
    Me: Well it looks like some patients with disease A have a genetic variant of enzyme B that renders commonly used medication C ineffective or even dangerous to them.
    Friend: So if I get disease A I should get tested for variant B before the doctors kill me with medication C?
    Me: It's just a preliminary study...
    Friend: OMG WHY ISN'T THIS IN THE PAPERS THEY'RE KILLING PEOPLE WITH THE WRONG MEDICATION!
    Me: Dude it's just a statistical correlation in one sample set. Maybe there's a confounding variable at play, or it could be just random chance. It's a pretty exciting result, but without additional research it can't be taken as fact.
    Friend: So what's the point of your paper?
    Me: Well it's an addition to this greater pool of knowledge that will hopefully lead to better treatments...
    Friend: So basically you haven't discovered anything.
    Me: ...
    People aren't magically going to become able to understand what a result means unless someone takes the time to explain it to them. Allow me to adjust your dialogue in to two options:
    Uneducated Friend: What exactly is this paper about?
    Me: Are you going to overreact and waste my time again if I tell you?
    Friend: Yup
    Me: Not telling

    Or

    Friend: Not if you take your time to explain it to me
    Me: Some patients with disease A have a genetic variant of enzyme B that might render commonly used medication C ineffective or even dangerous to them. Of course, I could have gotten some bad data, an unlucky set of people or there might be some other thing going on. I won't be able to tell you which of those 4 is the case until more research is done.
    Friend: So, as of right now, you know there's something worth looking into, but you don't exactly know what it means?
    Me: Yup, that's about it.

    edit: the problem is you wouldn't put the unqualified statement "well it looks like some patients with disease A have a genetic variant of enzyme B that renders commonly used medication C ineffective or even dangerous to them" into any sort of formal document because its wrong. Either don't bother telling someone who will be an idiot, or treat them like they can think and give them the qualifiers. Also, don't assume they know all the qualifiers that go with statistics.

    Well I guess ElJeffe was right after all. :oops:

    In my defense, I picked a conclusion-jumping idiot as an example because I thought it's a decent analogy to how communication fails between scientists and the media/general public. It's also pretty much what happens between me and my extended family, and yeah I'm going with the "not telling" option these days. If the person in your second example were interested in something we've published, I could just send him or her the abstract and Wikipedia would fill in the blanks.

    On one hand there's a need to emphasize the importance of your result, partly because public attention often does affect your funding (and your family demands justification for you not having a real job), but on the other you want to keep your credibility and avoid overreaction.

    MSL59.jpg
  • RobmanRobman Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Most scientists don't understand statistics. They just enter their data into JMP or SigmaStat and hit ANOVA.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Robman wrote: »
    Most scientists don't understand statistics. They just enter their data into JMP or SigmaStat and hit ANOVA.

    I think that's rather unfair, honestly.

    Or, rather, it depends on what you mean by "understand statistics." You need to have a basic understanding of statistics - type I and type II errors, p-values, confidence intervals, statistical significance, being able to tell the difference between ANOVA and a chi-square test, etc. - in order to design even the most rudimentary of studies. At the other end, a lot of research is done using pretty advanced statistical models with some complex multivariate analysis that goes way over my head.

    So I'd say that statistical literacy among "scientists" (that is to say, researchers published in mainstream journals and people whose day jobs involve interpreting and applying that research for business or public policy) ranges from "basic fundamentals" up to "as much as any human being can know right now."

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Robman wrote: »
    Most scientists don't understand statistics. They just enter their data into JMP or SigmaStat and hit ANOVA.

    And many of them don't even consider this a problem. I once had to listen to a speech by a fresh PhD who proudly proclaimed that she hadn't looked up what linear regression means until the day before her dissertation. Everything in her thesis rested on interpreting linear regression statistics. I can only hope someone double-checked her work.

    MSL59.jpg
  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Bliss 101 wrote: »
    In my defense, I picked a conclusion-jumping idiot as an example because I thought it's a decent analogy to how communication fails between scientists and the media/general public. It's also pretty much what happens between me and my extended family, and yeah I'm going with the "not telling" option these days. If the person in your second example were interested in something we've published, I could just send him or her the abstract and Wikipedia would fill in the blanks.
    Its actually a perfectly valid example for the cases where you're going into it without an idea of how the person will react. I can't come up with a way to find out if they're going to overreact without insulting them except through giving any random person the benefit of the doubt the first time around. I honestly can't fault anyone for making the decision that its not worth trying to explain things to any given member of the public, simply on the grounds that there's no reasonable expectation that you'll get a reasonable person this time (although, at least around here, the reverse is sadly not true). I wish I could blame the public for that, but mostly I blame school administrators and teachers (ok, indirectly I do blame the public for setting school agendas, but that's another thread).
    On one hand there's a need to emphasize the importance of your result, partly because public attention often does affect your funding (and your family demands justification for you not having a real job), but on the other you want to keep your credibility and avoid overreaction.
    That's what sentences composed entirely of six syllable words are for. Particularly if you lead into them with "my research might lead to a cure for $thing, provided we get a lot more funding and $bigwords." Yes, its a terrible way to treat people, but with any luck the folks who you would want to actually give information to will call you on it, at which point you just own up to your attempt to blind them with bullshit and give them information (well, or they just decide you're an idiot. there isn't a risk free path here).

    edit: bias note: Its possible I left my old job because baffling them with bullshit was way more effective than blinding them with brilliance (well, competence. it passed for brilliance there). Its further possible I'm still bitter.

  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    Robman wrote: »
    Most scientists don't understand statistics. They just enter their data into JMP or SigmaStat and hit ANOVA.

    I think that's rather unfair, honestly.

    Or, rather, it depends on what you mean by "understand statistics." You need to have a basic understanding of statistics - type I and type II errors, p-values, confidence intervals, statistical significance, being able to tell the difference between ANOVA and a chi-square test, etc. - in order to design even the most rudimentary of studies. At the other end, a lot of research is done using pretty advanced statistical models with some complex multivariate analysis that goes way over my head.

    So I'd say that statistical literacy among "scientists" (that is to say, researchers published in mainstream journals and people whose day jobs involve interpreting and applying that research for business or public policy) ranges from "basic fundamentals" up to "as much as any human being can know right now."

    I read a paper as part of my philosophy of science class that actually argued that p values are an awful way to test for significance and there needs to be a fundamental reworking of how we statistically interpret scientific data.

    If anyone's interested I can dig it up.

    I'll admit that I work in a lab and I know very little about statistics outside of a chi-square. Then again, I still have a research stats class to take before they'll hand me a BS.

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  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Do you recall the short version of why they didn't like p-values? If not, no worries, just kinda curious.

  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Syrdon wrote: »
    Do you recall the short version of why they didn't like p-values? If not, no worries, just kinda curious.

    There isn't exactly a short version, but I'll try to quote/paraphrase a bit:
    Spoiler:

    EDITEDIT:
    Actually, I suppose there is a short way to say it. Essentially, the p value gives you the probability that you get your data given your hypothesis is false, when what you need is the probability that your hypothesis is false given your data.

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