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Introducing a new series - Topics and controversies in biostatistics

Presentando una nueva serie - Temas y controversias en bioestadística

Which is the most viewed article in Medwave? The chi-square [1]. Published in 2011, this article has received to date, 34,555 true visits (excluding robot activity) and 262 PDF downloads. Quite astonishing. Granted, not all the articles we have published on statistics and biostatistics have received that much attention, but here we see a clear sign of interest and need. Indeed, the article of the series "Practical concepts in evidence-based medicine and clinical epidemiology", containing the magic words p value and confidence intervals in its title [2], has also been a success, accumulating since its publication in late January this year, the remarkable amount of 5,610 visits and 89 PDF downloads.

Biostatistics is a discipline that all of us find daunting. Our editors Martínez and Madrid have used the term “statistics for the faint of heart”. At the same time, we are compelled to understand the reality around us by measuring and counting, values that should be subject to good statistical analysis. We must be able to consider robust study designs for our research in order to decrease random error, and we must deal with the confounding variables that leach into our inquisitive gaze upon the natural and social world that surrounds us when we seek answers to questions about cause and risk in observational studies. We must have a healthy dose of suspicion when a randomized controlled trial is shown to us. We must be able to analyze the results and reach our own conclusions, instead of blindly believing what authors tell us, as they too often are pushed to transform into “favorable” what never actually was.

This is the world in which we attempt to answer basic questions concerning individual health and how to guide decisions on the health of populations. In this world, the biostatistical method is applied [3].

We announce the launch of a new Medwave series that responds precisely to this need: Topics and controversies in biostatistics. The authors of this series are the professors of biostatistics, Luis Carlos Silva Ayçaguer, senior researcher and professor at the University of Medical Sciences of Havana (La Habana, Cuba), and Sergio Muñoz Navarro, professor at the University of La Frontera (Temuco, Chile), respectively PhDs in mathematical sciences and biostatistics. After an initial exchange of views during the summer, we agreed on a list of the most important issues and the nature of the series. We also concluded that the best methodology would be for each author to be responsible for an article of the series, and the other would be the corresponding peer reviewer, while leaving open the option for occasional joint contributions. The Journal is proud to host this counterpoint between two internationally prominent biostatisticians.

This series now starts in May, but has no predetermined end, unlike others. Our common vision is that delivery must be didactic and occasionally controversial; it should not be a mere repetition of things already said many times. The first article will address the issue of temporality in observational studies to establish causal relationships (doi: 10.5867/medwave.2014.04.5944). Other topics to be covered will relate to issues such as sample size, use of regression, common biases, prediction, and software applications.

As a journal, our goal is to promote awareness and discussion of biostatistics as part of our ongoing efforts to educate in methodology and critical analysis. Our expectation is that this series will become an indispensable resource in the teaching process of new cohorts of professionals dedicated to clinical practice, research, clinical epidemiology and evidence-based medicine. We are confident that a cross-country editorial collaboration will enhance the validity of our articles, increasing the likelihood of generating regional academic common grounds and a shared meaning around research and teaching.


Declaration of interests
VCB has declared that she does not have any conflicting interests with the article’s content.

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