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The Origins of Statistical Inference – “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns”, Sasha Issenberg

December 4th, 2012 · No Comments · Data, Policy, Statistical Inference, Statistics

Not far from Fisher, a young economist named Austin Bradford Hill was growing similarly impatient with the limits of statistics to account for cause and effect in health care. In 1923, for example, Hill received a grant from Britain’s Medical Research Council that sent him to the rural parts of Essex, east of London, to investigate why the area suffered uncommonly high mortality rates among young adults. Hill returned from Essex with an explanation that had little to do with the quality of medical care: the healthiest members of that generation quickly left the country to live in towns and cities. The whole British medical system was built on similarly misleading statistics, and Hill worried that the faulty inferences drawn from them put people’s health at risk. Hill joined the Medical Research Council’s scientific staff and began writing articles in the Lancet explaining to doctors in straightforward language what concepts like mean, median, and mode meant.

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