If you listened to our recent episode of Eval Cafe with Michael Quinn Patton on principles-focused evaluation, you’ll remember him sharing his new favourite example of principles in action. It’s from the introductory article of a recent special issue of The American Statistician, which is all about moving beyond the use of p < 0.05 as the threshold for determining statistical significance. The article offers an impassioned explanation of why abandoning the entire concept of statistical significance is necessary and also outlines the beginnings of an alternative practice for valuing and interpreting statistical findings. The reason it showed up in the podcast is because the authors ground this new framework in principles, or flexible advice that can guide decisions and give direction, but must be adapted and interpreted in context. In comparison, p < 0.05 is a rule—it is applied the same way regardless of any contextual factors. (Check out the podcast and also Michael’s book, Principles-Focused Evaluation, to learn more about the implications of principles for evaluative work.) Specifically, the principles that the authors offer are, “Accept uncertainty. Be thoughtful, open, and modest” (or “ATOM”, as a mnemonic), and the remainder of the issue (43 articles worth!) goes on to offer more depth around the issues of p < 0.05 and the discussion of alternatives.
For an academic publication about statistics, it is, frankly, stirring.Read More