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November 22, 1985

Observations vs Statistics

Author Affiliations

University of Chicago

JAMA. 1985;254(20):2896. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360200046025

To the Editor.—  In a recent editorial1 it is stated that "many papers submitted for publication in JAMA are rejected as a direct result of statistical evaluation. If a study has not been designed and conducted in a manner such that the investigator's hypotheses can be tested by the selected methodological approach, then no statistical revisions will suffice to correct this basic flaw.... Support for publication can be given only to well-designed studies that incorporate sound research methods."Some statistically "sound" experiments are flawed by unsound logic, while many of the great studies in medicine have come from careful observation without the benefit of statistical analysis. Dr Vaisrub does not discuss observational studies such as Withering's description of the clinical use of digitalis,2 Prinzmetal and co-workers'3 recognition of coronary spasm, and the recent description of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)4 (these being only a few among many classic