When bad control groups happen to good researchers

Steve Simon


The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences wants me to give a light humorous talk at lunch during the 2007 Homecoming CME and Reunion weekend. Somehow, they provided me with a title for my talk, “Humor, Databases and Grant Proposals: What Strange Bedfellows” which is a fine title, but not the one I would have chosen. I’ll talk it over with the organizers, but here’s a possible choice:

Here’s an abstract:

“Finding a good control group is an underappreciated art in research. We often don’t notice this until someone makes a stunningly bad choice. In this talk, you will learn what to look for in a control group. You will also see the knots that researchers tie themselves in when they insist on a placebo arm in a birth control study and when they try to evaluate the prognosis of patients who are already dead. You will also see an example where two bad control groups can add up to a good comparison.”

Most of the material for this talk will come from the first chapter of my book, Statistical Evidence in Medical Trials.

In order to get CME credit, I need to specify three objectives. Here they are:

In this talk, you will learn how to:

There’s also a nice Shakespeare quote to use in the talk: “It is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”

You can find an earlier version of this page on my old website.