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Moving beyond P values: Everyday data analysis with estimation plots

By Joses Ho, Tayfun Tumkaya, Sameer Aryal, Hyungwon Choi, Adam Claridge-Chang

Posted 26 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/377978 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41592-019-0470-3)

Over the past 75 years, a number of statisticians have advised that the data-analysis method known as null-hypothesis significance testing (NHST) should be deprecated (Berkson, 1942; Halsey et al., 2015). The limitations of NHST have been extensively discussed, with an emerging consensus that current statistical practice in the biological sciences needs reform. However, there is less agreement on the specific nature of reform, with vigorous debate surrounding what would constitute a suitable alternative (Altman et al., 2000; Benjamin et al., 2017; Cumming and Calin-Jageman, 2016). An emerging view is that a more complete analytic technique would use statistical graphics to estimate effect sizes and their uncertainty (Cohen, 1994; Cumming and Calin-Jageman, 2016). As these estimation methods require only minimal statistical retraining, they have great potential to change the current data-analysis culture away from dichotomous thinking towards quantitative reasoning (Claridge-Chang and Assam, 2016). The evolution of statistics has been inextricably linked to the development of improved quantitative displays that support complex visual reasoning (Tufte, 2001). We consider that the graphic we describe here as an estimation plot is the most intuitive way to display the complete statistical information about experimental data sets. However, a major obstacle to adopting estimation is accessibility to suitable software. To overcome this hurdle, we have developed free software that makes high-quality estimation plotting available to all. Here, we explain the rationale for estimation plots by contrasting them with conventional charts used to display NHST data, and describe how the use of these graphs affords five major analytical advantages.

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