Monya Baker in Nature:
Misuse of the P value — a common test for judging the strength of scientific evidence — is contributing to the number of research findings that cannot be reproduced, the American Statistical Association (ASA) warns in a statement released today1. The group has taken the unusual step of issuing principles to guide use of the P value, which it says cannot determine whether a hypothesis is true or whether results are important.
This is the first time that the 177-year-old ASA has made explicit recommendations on such a foundational matter in statistics, says executive director Ron Wasserstein. The society’s members had become increasingly concerned that the P value was being misapplied in ways that cast doubt on statistics generally, he adds.
In its statement, the ASA advises researchers to avoid drawing scientific conclusions or making policy decisions based on P values alone. Researchers should describe not only the data analyses that produced statistically significant results, the society says, but all statistical tests and choices made in calculations. Otherwise, results may seem falsely robust.
Véronique Kiermer, executive editor of the Public Library of Science journals, says that the ASA’s statement lends weight and visibility to longstanding concerns over undue reliance on the P value.