Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Making more sense with numbers, part 4

In the spirit of helping us all make better sense of data we read, I encourage you to read Mark Liberman's Thou shalt not report odds ratios in his Language Log if you write about data. If you read reports containing data (including the newspaper), read it, too, to help decipher what you read.

It's a somewhat long article, but you'll probably get the message by the end of the first example. (There is a possibly useful pointer to odds ratios and risk ratios on Wikipedia at the end of the article.) If you want another view on the same subject, see Odds ratios should be avoided when events are common, a letter by Douglas Altman, Jonathon Deeks, and David Sackett in BMJ. For an opposing view, see Stephen Senn's response.

If you're not writing for a highly technical audience and making it clear (perhaps through context) what you mean, I agree with the first and second articles.

Thanks to Jeremy Miles for the pointer.

Those curious about the title of this posting can read part 3 and find earlier parts.

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