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Dennis Lendrem
Dennis Lendrem
MSc in Medical Statistics, PhD from Oxford. Background in Pharmaceutical R&D. Contributor to popular magazines and trade magazines including Scrip Magazine, New Scientist and the Economist. Formerly Editor of the journal Pharmaceutical Statistics.
Oct. 14, 2012 8:43 am
All models are wrong. But some are more useful than others. George Box I was brought up with a simplistic model of the world. A world of right and wrong. A world of correct and incorrect. A world where accuracy was king. And then I stumbled upon mathematical modelling. This opened up a far more useful world. Instead of right and wrong I learned of useful and less useful. Of...  Read More
Oct. 11, 2012 5:58 am
At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable. Raymond Chandler This reminded me of the First Fundamental Law of Science . That a scientific truth, once revealed, must seem to be obvious. Norman Einstein, The Fundamental Laws of Science  Read More
Oct. 4, 2012 2:27 pm
The first rule of management is delegation. Don't try and do everything yourself because you can't. Anthea Turner Problems with delegation arise when people don’t understand what tasks have been delegated. And when they don’t understand the limits of the authority they have been delegated. This list is based on Tim Brighouse ’s Levels of Delegation. 1. Look into this problem....  Read More
Sep. 29, 2012 3:40 pm
I don't do subtext. If I think you are a waste of space, I will tell you that you are a waste of space. It's not always pleasant, but I'm not paid to be pleasant. Norman Einstein, CEO Scientific Radicals I've always been fascinated by the hidden language of subtext. Subtext refers to the undertone in a conversation - the unspoken thoughts and motives of people - what they really...  Read More
Sep. 27, 2012 11:06 am
What We Say and What We Mean The executive committee is looking at structures… The executive committee is hoping for a miracle That matter will be carefully considered Stop asking about that matter There will be further consultation needed… We need to talk to the usual heads first ...  Read More
Sep. 24, 2012 2:09 pm
Funny piece from Norman Einstein, CEO Scientific Radicals What your consultant says What your consultant means Sure, we can do that. I'm sure we can wing it. Sure, we do that. How hard can it be? Sure, we did that with another client only last month. We've done that once before. Sure, we do that all the time. ...  Read More
Sep. 20, 2012 2:39 pm
The Plain English Campaign has introduced a new tool for aspiring writers of simple, straightforward English. This organization has been fighting for crystal-clear communication since 1979. Their free Drivel Defence software allows users to analyze their writing. To look at ways of reducing complexity in their writing. Increasing simplicity. Seeking clarity. I tested it on some of my...  Read More
Sep. 18, 2012 2:23 pm
Language can be used both to facilitate and to block communication. The Code-Talker Paradox describes how human beings can create references that are mutually intelligible to each other but completely unintelligible to those unfamiliar with the structure and meaning of the signals. The name code talkers is strongly associated with bilingual Navajo speakers recruited during World War...  Read More
Sep. 13, 2012 1:17 pm
Always plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. Richard Cushing The trouble is that planning requires cognitive effort. And many people seem to prefer the hard physical graft involved in clearing up a mess to the cognitive effort required to avoid it. A little risk management saves a lot of fan cleaning. Anon  Read More
Sep. 10, 2012 1:02 pm
What have these got in common? Consider the following three scenarios - one from the world of election polling, the second from the world of human heredity and the third from the world of neurophysiology. Polling? You want to know the election result before the count is completed? So you decide to conduct an exit poll. You stop the first person leaving the polling station and ask them...  Read More
Sep. 3, 2012 1:45 pm
The base rate fallacy , also called base rate neglect or base rate bias , is an error that occurs when the conditional probability of some hypothesis given some evidence is assessed without taking into account the prior probabilities. The base rate error happens when values of sensitivity and specificity, which depend only on the test itself, are used in place of positive predictive value...  Read More
Aug. 30, 2012 3:08 pm
If reproducibility may be a problem, conduct the test only once. Velilind's First Law of Experimentation Despite all the evidence to the contrary many people don't believe in variation. At least, not in their own data. You will try to get away without replication until the first time you get burnt. Lendrem's Corollary to Velilind's First Law  Read More
Aug. 26, 2012 4:26 am
Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning. Rick Cook Despite all the evidence to the contrary, humans do not believe in human error. In others, maybe, but not their own. Nowhere is this more obvious than in our use of...  Read More
Aug. 23, 2012 10:32 am
In the 1990s Business Process Engineering sought to minimize development speed by pushing R&D sub-processes into parallel - except where constrained by the laws of physics or nature eg. a six month stability study takes at least six months or a two year carcinogenicity study takes at least two years. However, there is an absolute limit to how much any system can be improved by simply pushing...  Read More
Aug. 6, 2012 12:51 pm
I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) There is a view that randomized controlled trials are probably one of the best ways of determining whether a government policy or intervention is working. That without such trials, the tiller of public policy remains at the mercy of cyclical swings in...  Read More
Jul. 31, 2012 1:40 pm
Appleton's Law The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time available, while the last 10% of the project takes the remaining 90% of the time. See also Westheimer's Rule and Hofstadter's Law . Sometimes known as the 90:90 Rule The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the...  Read More
Jul. 26, 2012 3:15 am
Obviously, the money and the fast cars help, but... As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life - so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls. M Cartmill Looking back on the late 70's, when scientific research spending in the UK dried to a trickle, my...  Read More
Jul. 25, 2012 12:51 pm
Braess’ Paradox states that: Adding extra capacity to a network may reduce network flow . Or, alternatively: Reducing network capacity may increase network flow . How can that be? And what does it tell us about R&D? Take a look at the simple network in Figure 1. Assume we have 4000 vehicles we need to get from A to B. We have two alternative routes – either route ACB or...  Read More
Jul. 22, 2012 12:22 pm
"Do you floss your teeth regularly?" Careful how you answer this question. One of the questions asked by many of the web-based life expectancy calculators is "Do you floss your teeth regularly?" So what, you might ask, has dental flossing got to do with the price of eggs? Is oral hygiene a useful predictor of life expectancy? Well, the short answer is that dental flossing is a...  Read More
Jul. 20, 2012 2:37 pm
People who retire at 55 years of age live longer than those who retire at 65. True or False? The BBC does a great show on "Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics" called More Or Less . Amongst other things this week - including a nice piece on the Tour de France cycle race - they did a good job debunking some of the myths surrounding retirement and life-expectancy . Check out the ...  Read More
Jul. 17, 2012 1:00 pm
The Overconfidence Effect is a well-established cognitive bias in which someone's subjective confidence in their judgments is reliably greater than their objective accuracy . People feel extremely confident in a judgement even when they are dead wrong. And experimental studies, using multiple choice questions or other quizzes, demonstrate that even when 100% certain they are right, people...  Read More
Jul. 12, 2012 3:24 pm
It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. Arthur C Clarke I have a friend who has spent his entire adult life studying Chironomidae (Ki-ron-o-mid-ee). Chironomidae are a tiny insect. And there are good, sound economic reasons for studying Chironomidae . But this isn’t the reason he studies Chironomidae . The reason he studies Chironomidae is...  Read More
Jul. 10, 2012 1:17 pm
In When HRT Met CHD we learned that epidemiological studies seem to tell us that women who agree to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) appear to have a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). However, when the first randomized clinical trials were performed to test this hypothesis these demonstrated that HRT actually increases the risk of CHD. How so? Well, what the epidemiological...  Read More
Jul. 7, 2012 4:14 pm
My colleague Iain Grant once told me the secret to a successful launch. 1. Say what you mean. 2. Mean what you say. 3. Do what you say. 4. Say what you do. The first step is about communicating facts - explaining what it is you are doing. People need to know what you are asking them to do and why you are asking them to do it. The second is about communicating feelings - it's about honesty....  Read More
Jul. 4, 2012 2:58 pm
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. Charles Darwin The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from the illusion that they are better than others - mistakenly rating their skills much higher than average. This bias is attributed to an inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes. People with poor...  Read More
Jul. 3, 2012 1:03 pm
In Do Scientists Do Science? we questioned what scientists actually know about scientific method. We observed alarming gaps in the teaching of scientific method - the elimination, or minimization of bias through sound experimental design. Instead graduate students are left to pick it up as they go along. Learning by osmosis. I came across Richard Feynman's opening remarks again in his...  Read More
Jun. 30, 2012 4:56 am
The good money is on the myth. At least in the short-term. Myths are widely held but false beliefs or ideas. And the difficulty with myths is that they are hard to de-bunk without reinforcing the myth. A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Mark Twain To counter the myth we have to address that myth. And in addressing that...  Read More
Jun. 26, 2012 12:36 pm
Argument: a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition. Monty Python Rational thinkers frequently call upon logic to defend an argument. But not everyone thinks logically. Pointing out logical fallacies may win over logical thinkers to your argument. But, like I said, not everyone thinks logically. Logical thinking is powerful. But logical thinking is...  Read More
Jun. 19, 2012 1:49 pm
The problem with smart people is they have no idea how real people think. Norman Einstein, Scientific Radicals Unthinking attempts to debunk myths may reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To effectively debunk a myth requires three things: the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth - otherwise the misinformation becomes more familiar and may be...  Read More
Jun. 13, 2012 1:05 pm
Defensive communication is a guarded form of communication designed to protect the sender rather than inform the recipient of the message. Like my mayonnaise. Allergy Advice: Contains Egg. May Contain: Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds, Mustard, Celery, Wheat, Barley, Fish, Soybeans, Milk, Sulphites and Cereals containing Gluten. Mayonnaise Labelling The manufacturer seems...  Read More
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