RAND Statistics Seminar Series

Everything is Dangerous: A Controversy

Presented by Stanley Young, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Bioinformatics, NISS Triangle Park, NC
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
Conference Room 6202, RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA

Other Locations/Times:
Washington, D.C., Conf. Rm. 4132 1:30 p.m. ET
Santa Monica, CA, Conf. Rm. 4312 10:30 a.m. PT
Please contact Denise Miller if you would like to attend this seminar.


Some statistical analysis mistakes are due to ignorance (how often are you asked to re-examine the data to see if something can be found?), but others are intentional, planned and well-understood policy. Over one billion dollars of grant/tax money flows to institutions with serious reproducibility problems. These problems typically revolve around multiple testing and bias/sample sizes strategies. Statisticians need to understand both ignorance and devious policy. It serves neither society nor our profession to ignore devious uses of statistics. As a profession we have worked to reduce ignorance; we should spend some time on how to recognize deviousness. At a minimum we need to protect the integrity of our profession. Numerous examples will be presented. I will give a proof that all drugs are unsafe. Survey results of journal editors will be given on multiple testing and data sharing. I will present a case study on why the claim, “Eating breakfast cereal leads to more boy babies” is a likely multiple testing false positive.

How can you improve the situation? First, learn to recognize the tricks. When you suspect a false positive due to multiple testing or bias/sample size games, write a letter to the editor. Ask for the data set; if it is not available, protest to the journal. It is a target rich environment for false claims and letters to the editor.

Speaker Bio

Dr. S. Stanley Young is the Assistant Director for Bioinformatics at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. NISS' mission is to identify, catalyze and foster high-impact, cross- disciplinary research involving the statistical sciences. He is also the CEO of Omicsoft Corporation.

He worked in the pharmaceutical industry on all phases of pre-clinical research, first at Eli Lilly and then at GlaxoSmithKline. He has authored or co-authored over 50 papers including six “best paper” awards, and a highly cited book, Resampling-Based Multiple Testing. He has two issued patents. He is interested in all aspects of applied statistics, with special interest in chemical and biological informatics. He conducts research in the area of data mining.

Dr. Young is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is an adjunct professor of statistics at North Carolina State University, the University of Waterloo and the University of British Columbia where he co-directs thesis work.

Attending a Seminar

RAND visitors are welcome to attend and must RSVP at least one day prior to the seminar. To ensure your attendance please contact Denise Miller at dmiller@rand.org with your name, company (or university) affiliation, and national citizenship (for security purposes).

For parking and directions to RAND's Santa Monica office, please see: http://www.rand.org/about/locations/santa-monica.html.

For parking and directions to RAND's Pittsburgh office, please see: http://www.rand.org/about/locations/pittsburgh.html.

For further information and to be added to the mailing list contact Denise Miller at dmiller@rand.org.