Recommended: Randomized Controlled Trials in Health Insurance Systems

While researchers often use data from health insurance systems to conduct observational studies, the authors of this research paper point out that you can also conduct randomized trials as well. You can randomly assign different levels of insurance coverage and then get claims data to evaluate how much difference there is, if any, in the levels of coverage. This approach is attractive because you do not need a lot of resources, and you can very quickly get a very large sample size. Since insurance data is collected for administrative needs rather than research needs, you have to contend with inaccurate or incomplete data, potentially causing loss of statistical efficiency or producing biased results. The authors offer some interesting examples of actual studies, propose new potential studies, and offer general guidance on how to conduct a randomized trial from health insurance systems. Continue reading

Recommended: Announcing a new monthly feature: What’s going on in this graph

Through the effort of a team of statisticians with the American Statistical Association, the New York Times is producing a new resource for educators called “What’s Going On in This Graph?”. This is similar to another New York Times effort called “What’s Going On in This Picture?”

Every month the New York Times will publish a graph stripped of some key information and ask three questions: What do you notice? What do you wonder? and What do you think is going on in this graph?

The content will be suitable for middle school and high school students, but I suspect that even college students will find the exercise interesting.

The first graph will appear on September 19 and on the second Tuesday of every month afterwards. Continue reading

Recommended: Good enough practices in scientific computing

There is more than one way to approach a data analysis and some of the ways lead to easier modifications and updates and help make your work more reproducible. This paper talks about steps that they recommend based on years of teaching software carpentry and data carpentry classes. One of the software products mentioned in this article, OpenRefine, looks like a very interesting way to clean up messy data in a way that leaves a well documented trail. Continue reading

PMean: Open source as a budgetary measure

Like a lot of public universities, UMKC is having a lot of financial difficulty. They are asking for advice from faculty members on how to address this budget shortfall. Not being the bashful type, I suggested that we stop paying commercial software vendors and commercial journal publishers and rely instead on open source. Here’s the details of my letter. Continue reading