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Dennis Lendrem
Dennis Lendrem
Making Data Make Sense
Posted in Business / Industries / Pharmaceuticals

Multiple Transgression Analysis

Apr. 1, 2017 2:59 am

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"He uses statistics like a drunk man uses a lamppost; more for support than illumination"

You can lead a man to the light, but you can't make him think.
Norman Einstein, CEO Scientific Radicals

Multiple regression analysis is a really useful technique. It allows us to model the simultaneous impact of several variables on an outcome of interest.

But in the 1980s, multiple regression analysis developed something of a bad name.

The advent of modern computing meant that it became widely available and open to much abuse during the 1970s. It's unthinking use as a 'Hail Mary' method to pull something interesting from a motley collection of variables led to an entire literature based upon utter nonsense. Rather than think about the data, developing and then testing hypotheses about the science, it became the weapon of first choice for the data fisher. The thinking, if any, ran along the lines:

'I'm interested in Y. I've measured Y. I've also got a bunch of other data that I've measured. Let's throw the whole damn lot into a pot and see what comes out.'

Not surprisingly, what popped out was often a bunch of random nonsense. Anyone with half a brain needed just five minutes to see it was clearly nonsense. But the abuser had the 'statistical' support they needed.

'He uses statistics like a drunk man uses a lamppost; more for support than illumination'
Mark Twain
Mike Sutton
April 1, 2017 at 8:58 am
Worse than nonsense is fraud
I've seen senior Home Office managers demand senior researchers continue to use this technique until the cherry-chosen and slyly-excluded variables produce a model that shows an expensive initiative worked to reduce crime. And then those are the only results published!
Thinker's Post
Dennis Lendrem
April 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Figures don't lie, but liars can figure!

Mike Sutton
April 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm
Words don't lie but liars write lies!
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