Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top 10 Commandments of Statistical Inference: #3

We are currently following the 10 commandments of Statistical Inference. The 3rd commandment, is that:

Thou shalt not make statistical inference with the absence of a model

The 4th commandment was to honor the assumptions of your model…as we discussed why that is important, however some people go even further down the road of insanity and not only “misplace” the assumptions, but misplace the model itself. Situations in which one wishes to infer statistical inference calls for the use of a model. This ensures that you are “following the rules” of the prescribed model. For some reason I am amazed at the backlash this sometimes gets. The “why can’t you just give me an answer” or “why do you need to make it so complicated” complaints. In our society of “quick hit answers” a lot of times, there is this thought that there is no time to set up the proper model. I used to work for this person who said “it is better to ask forgiveness, than permission” and forced the collection and analysis of data beyond the ability to model the data correctly. What happened? Well, sure, we got an answer, and he went on his merry little way…only to have to come back and do the exact same experiment because the results of the first one proved to be invalid. The result was lost time, money, and resources. If the design was set-up correctly in the beginning, it would have taken 3 days to run. He wanted it in 1. He got it in 1, and then spent months trying to backtrack to get to the answer he would have gotten in 3 days…

So, the next time someone tells you, I can model it and it will take x amount of time, you have every right to ask why, but make sure your push for a faster initial result doesn’t cause long term implications.

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