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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Posdoc Research Fellowship

We have just advertised a 2 year post-doctoral research fellowship in connection with the new Oxford Network for Social Inequality Research. This is essentially a research centre that will build on the already substantial amount of research on social inequality going on in and around the department. For somewhat inscrutable intra-university political reasons we were not permitted to call it a "centre" - but a centre is what a centre does and the name doesn't matter too much. Its first director is my colleague Dr Tak Wing Chang and the fellowship is a really great opportunity to join us and help shape the future of social inequality research in Oxford. Further details about the post can be found here

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Statistical Significance

In a world of uncertainty it is nice to have the illusion that something is solid. We spend a lot of time in our introductory quantitative methods courses teaching our students about statistical techniques that were designed essentially for situations where making a decision is the object of the exercise. Reject or fail to reject the null with such and such a probability of making a reject decision when the null is in fact correct. What could be more solid than that? Unfortunately most of the time, at least in the social sciences, decision making is largely irrelevant and a judgment about statistical significance is only one of the things that should go into a proper evaluation of the evidence for or against a particular scientific proposition. Regrettably scientific institutions, like journals, often get into the hands of people who don't appear terribly thoughtful about the publication criteria they establish and enforce. Their psychological need for what they think of as clear rules often gets the better of their scientific judgment - at least that is the charitable interpretation. For why paying too much attention to significance levels isn't a great idea follow this link http://www.demogr.mpg.de/papers/working/wp-2007-037.pdf