Does bad inference drive out good?

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SUMMARYThe (mis)use of statistics in practice is widely debated, and a field where the debate is particularly active is medicine. Many scholars emphasize that a large proportion of published medical research contains statistical errors. It has been noted that top class journals likeNature Medicine and The New England Journal of Medicinepublish a considerable proportion of papers that contain statistical errors and poorly document the application of statistical methods. This paper joins the debate on the (mis)use of statistics in the medical literature. Even though the validation process of a statistical result may be quite elusive, a careful assessment of underlying assumptions is central in medicine as well as in other fields where a statistical method is applied. Unfortunately, a careful assessment of underlying assumptions is missing in many papers, including those published in top class journals. In this paper, it is shown that nonparametric methods are good alternatives to parametric methods when the assumptions for the latter ones are not satisfied. A key point to solve the problem of the misuse of statistics in the medical literature is that all journals have their own statisticians to review the statistical method/analysis section in each submitted paper.

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