Reviewing Comments

Personal comments
This website section includes suggestions, explanations, and motivations that may be useful when writing or reviewing research reports for scientific journals. Unless otherwise stated, all comments represent my personal opinions, which I have developed during my work as a statistical consultant and editor. The comments assume that the reader has some experience with empirical research,…

Scientific journals and statistical reviewing
The publication of research reports was an essential part of the Enlightenment. The first two scientific journals were the British Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and the French Journal des Sçavans, both of which started their activities in 1665. Today, 359 years later, the number of scientific journals exceeds 30,000. The primary purpose of…

Heterogeneity in metaanalyses
When performing a metaanalysis, the investigator often experiences heterogeneity problems; the effects planned to be pooled in a metaanalysis are more heterogeneous than could be expected just from sampling variation. One solution to the problem is to try to estimate an average effect instead of a common one. Technically, this means fitting a randomeffects model…

Adjustment problems
Confounding refers to a situation where the effect of a studied risk factor on a specific outcome is mixed with the effect of a factor not accounted for in the analysis. This other factor, known as a confounder, can distort (bias) the risk factor’s estimated effect and mislead the investigator. The problem can arise if…

Avoidable mistakes – significance
Most reports are probably written with the intention of being clear, coherent, and stringent. However, methodological misunderstandings cause many publications to be vague, ambiguous, and confusing. Misinterpretation of statistical significance plays a major role in this problem. In modern medicine, research is usually based on a dataset. Statistical methods produce pvalues, which are used to…

Spin
Spin is usually defined as reporting practices that distort the interpretation of results and mislead readers to view them in a more favourable light. A research report usually starts with a clear research question and ends with a conclusion empirically supported by the studied data. Speculations and hypotheses can be presented, but unsubstantiated claims must…

Significance and dogma
Statistical inference is essential for evaluating empirical support for medical research findings. Still, much medical research is methodologically poor. The problem is not that medical research fails to employ statistical methods; on the contrary, research reports usually include large numbers of pvalues. The poor quality is more related to the misconception that statistical methodology is…

Study protocols
Many medical publications present the results of more or less random statistical tests of data available in datasets collected for other reasons. The statistical test results are then interpreted according to the investigators’ prejudices, suitable hypotheses are formulated, and reports are written pretending that the studies from beginning to end were performed to test the…