StATS: Educational Resources (February 3, 2004)
Someone posed a question on the IRB Discussion forum wondering if there was a source of
free materials "that we can email or distribute as hardcopy to our study coordinators and
other research staff to help them keep up to date on issues relevant to human subjects
There' a lot of good stuff on the web, I wrote back, but you have to live with uneven
quality, partisan viewpoints, and there is no one to collate and synthesize the results. But
then I thought that maybe I could do this. So as I have time, I'll highlight some of the
interesting developments and controversies in research and provide links to free sources of
information on the web. Here are some examples of sources that I will draw on.
- STATS (www.stats.org). This page is
published by the Statistical Assessment Service. I'm worried that they will come after me
because I use the same acronym STATS that they do, but as far as I know you cannot copyright
an acronym. If they complain, I'll change my web page to "A fair and balanced look at
Statistics." The STATS web site "monitors the media to expose the abuse of science and
statistics before people are misled and public policy is distorted" and they do a pretty
good job. Sometimes they come across as partisan to me, but that may reflect my biases
rather than theirs. As an example of an interesting recent article, see their December 15,
2003 discussion about hormone
replacement therapy and the perils of observational research. My favorite take on this
controversy, by the way, was an editorial by David Sackett titled "The
arrogance of preventive medicine." I hope to write a web page about this controversy
myself when I have time.
- Junkscience (www.junkscience.com). This
page, published by Steve Milloy, is definitely partisan. He scoffs at the purported risks
from global warming, environmental tobacco smoke, mad cow disease, and so forth. But he
knows his statistics and is good at uncovering methodological weaknesses in various medical
and environmental research. I believe he lapses into statistical nihilism, where any flaw in
the methodology is enough to toss out the results. Steve Milloy also writes a regular column
for the Fox News web site, and you might find a January 30, 2004 article about the
controversy over carbohydrates
in diet to be interesting.
- AHRP (www.ahrp.org). The Alliance for Human
Research Protection sends out regular press releases about research abuses and provides
testimony to government agencies in favor of greater research protections. Since AHRP is an
advocacy group, you won't find too many articles that are complimentary of research
methodology and I disagree sharply with their criticisms about research with children.
Perhaps I am conflicted, though, because my salary is paid for by a hospital that does
research with children. A December 7, 2003 press release on
conflict of interest highlights
problems at the National Institute of Health. Conflict of interest is such an important area
for those of us who perform research, but also for those who have to interpret research
where the journal authors have a conflict.
- BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.com).
BioMed Central publishes a large number of open access journals with the full text available
on the web. My favorite journal is BMC Medical Research Methodology. Some of these articles
are a bit technical, but there are also some real gems, such as a December 22, 2003 article
on pragmatic trials.
- BMJ (bmj.bmjjournals.com). One of the
pioneering journals in open access has been the British Medical Journal. They will
limit access to articles
starting January 2005, though, but they would still have a wonderful archive going
back to the mid 1990's and they would still re-open access to published articles six months
after the publication date. BMJ has always done a nice job of highlighting research
methodology and their collected resources
page is a nice place to explore, with sections on Epidemiology, Ethics, Statistics. A
good example of research methodology is a January 31, 2004 article on
improving self report
- Bandolier (www.jr2.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/).
There are many resources for Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), but Bandolier is my favorite.
The writing is crisp and clean and they have wonderful real world examples. The November 12,
2003 issue has an article about
the value of searching
skills in EBM. While you might think that training people how to find the evidence would
lead to better outcomes, the evidence is actually mixed.
There are many more resources, of course. Send me an email if you have a favorite.
An additional educational resource
Someone else on the IRB Forum listed a
nice educational resource from Illuminata. This web site lists recent news stories about
research controversies, such as a February 1, 2004 report about a
from the families of five patients who died in a controversial medical experiment. The
web site describes Illuminata as "a Seattle-based education and information services
company, providing services and resources in the areas of human subjects research, ethics,
and genetics. We support IRB professionals, research teams and others through identifying
their information and education requirements and developing tailored products and services to
meet their needs."
This page was written by
Steve Simon while working at Children's Mercy Hospital. Although I do not hold the copyright for this material, I am reproducing it here as a service, as it is no longer available on the Children's Mercy Hospital website. Need more
information? I have a page with general help
resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Category: Teaching resources.