Friday, August 27, 2010

Biostatistics vs. Lab Research

I had this same conversation just this morning!



Somehow I doubt the full humor of the situation will be apparent to most people, but this conversation occurs at my job on an occasional basis. A sample size of N=3 is a barest minimum for even a t-test, and on that basis alone probably isn't enough, but I'm willing to set that aside for the bigger issue, because it depends on the question.

It is a matter of the question asked. Not all experiments are the same, nor are all samples the same. In my conversation this morning, there was a basic misunderstanding of the sample unit. There was a sample size of N=3 in one group (treatment), and another group of 3 serving as a control. The problem (well one of the problems) was that the controls were not used as an independent group, but rather as a way to normalize each of the first 3. Instead of having two groups of 3 each, that we really had was a single group of 3 pairs of subjects (matched pairs). This lead to a few hours of trying to untangle What had been done versus what needed to be done. Frustrating, but then education is an important part of my job too.
Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature