Being statistically literate

I was pleased to read the editorial in the September 2011 issue (Kokich VG. How do you determine the quality of the evidence? Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 2011;140:283). This led me to serious thoughts and a sigh of relief that a constructive effort is being launched in the AJO-DO with the prime goal to help readers understand statistics and research design. It is a known fact that quality research leads to better and more predictable treatment. Statistics, like any other science, is a developing discipline. Unlike in previous years, much of our understanding of research articles today relies on extrapolation and careful analysis of the statistical method. Misunderstanding of the use of statistical methods can have important implications in the implementation of research findings in clinical practice.

Apart from being a clinician, I am entrusted with the job of helping postgraduate students in their research activities. So as an orthodontic teacher, I often sense a lack of adequate ability or consensus when deciding on the appropriate statistical methods for research projects or dissertations. I believe that many academicians share this concern. This fact of ignorance is commonly overlooked by asking the student to prepare the same statistical analysis that was mentioned in previous key articles or to contact a biostatistician for help. I sincerely admit that this gesture is inappropriate.

Another aspect of understanding statistics will make us prudent enough to critically analyze the research and decipher the potential for associated bias. At times, there is a notion that statistics can be misleading and sometimes deliberately distorting. Mark Twain quoted that there are 3 kinds of commonly recognized untruths: lies, damn lies, and statistics. This quote can be accurate if we lack adequate knowledge of the biostatistics used in the vast publications that we read and assimilate. After all, statistics is a sort of complex mathematics that is difficult to understand. I appreciate the AJO-DO ’s effort to impart further knowledge on statistics to all readers.

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Apr 10, 2017 | Posted by in Orthodontics | Comments Off on Being statistically literate
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