Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You should read/listen to this

This week, NPR's series Climate Connections is focusing on the effect of global warming on disease spread. Yesterday was an interview with epidemiologists on the ground in the Amazon, today was a review of a book on yellow fever, which I reviewed here. I recommend checking out this series -- it does a spot-on job of covering some of the big issues involved, so far. We'll see what tomorrow adds.


Constance said...

Spot on? That is so British! I have heard some of this series too, and think it brings up some very interesting concerns.

lisamccay said...

Ok - so this is not about this topic, but . . . I haven't read your blog for a while and I wanted to add a pet peeve to yours (from your comment on antidepressant research of course). Once a week we have a meal that is provided to us by a pharmaceutical company of some sort. Sometimes it is without strings, sometimes it requires us to sit and listen to their spiel. Whenever it requires the spiel, I'm always annoyed by their tendency to promote their research findings by saying it was statistically significant with 1000 participants - and the implication is that the number of participants makes their statistically significant finding more impressive, rather than less.

The file drawer problem is a constant problem with all types of research that I've seen, whether it be drug companies looking to make money or more intellectual pursuits. It goes back to the basic scientific principle of not being able to prove the null hypothesis, and if you aren't proving anything why would we want to publish you. Of course it makes the whole research literature biased. Like with anything else though, there are always exceptions. In psychology, one notable one that most people have heard of is called the "Dodo bird verdict" (all have won and must get prizes), which essentially sprung from some well conducted research that said that all schools of psychotherapy were equally effective when practiced by competent therapists. Doesn't stop us from arguing about the relative benefits of our various orientations though . . . but I digress.