Skip navigation

1 Introduction & Overview

“while it’s easy to lie with statistics, it’s far easier to lie without them” (Unknown source)

Some of you may see learning statistics as a distraction and something to tolerate while you concentrate on the subject matter of your programme of study. If so, I hope this 30 minute introductory video will at least challenge some of this perception, by showing you the relevance and usefulness of learning statistical ideas.

The video describes what statistics is and what role it plays, how statistics is both a direct and indirect part of many aspects of our lives, why understanding statistics helps you read, interpret and conduct research, and why we cannot rely on peer review or the fact a paper has been published as an indication of the quality of a research study. We have to be able to interpret and critically appraise research ourselves. I also try to show why statistics is not intuitive and hence needs to be learnt no matter how numerate you are:

                           “clever people believe stupid things”  - Ben Goldacre

Lastly I briefly explain why statistics is entirely complimentary to the scientific method, both practically and philosophically; and show the bigger picture of the statistical process of a study and how the topics of this course fit into this picture.

I hope you will see that statistics is a natural part of science - science being the process by which knowledge is accrued, and and a natural part of modern medicine - with its emphasis on using evidence to inform best practice.  

Learning Outcomes

On watching this video, students should be able to:

  1. Explain the role of statistics in science and research and discuss how it tries to estimate uncertainty in settings where there is an element of randomness or noise.
  2. Confirm that statistics plays a much larger role in research than just analysing data.  
  3. Explain the difference between descriptive statistics and inferential statistics.
  4. Identify how statistics is complimentary to the scientific method, both practically in terms of the way in which science is done but also philosophically in terms of how science progresses through testing theories and models.
  5. Describe the statistical process of a study.

Optional further reading/study:

If you’re interested in the more general way statistics plays a role in medicine and science with some interesting examples of faulty reasoning and some blatant examples of statistical misuse, then the following popular science books are well written and perhaps offer an alternative way of expressing some of the ideas we’ll discuss in this course.