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Archive of posts filed under the Decision Theory category.

Can someone build a Bayesian tool that takes into account your symptoms and where you live to estimate your probability of having coronavirus?

Carl Mears writes: I’m married to a doctor who does primary care with a mostly disadvantaged patient base. The problem her patients face is if they get tested for COVID, they are supposed to self quarantine until they get their test results, which currently takes something like a week. Also, their *family* is supposed to […]

This one’s for the Lancet editorial board: A trolley problem for our times (involving a plate of delicious cookies and a steaming pile of poop)

A trolley problem for our times OK, I couldn’t quite frame this one as a trolley problem—maybe those of you who are more philosophically adept than I am can do this—so I set it up as a cookie problem? Here it is: Suppose someone was to knock on your office door and use some mix […]

This is not a post about remdesivir.

Someone pointed me to this post by a doctor named Daniel Hopkins on a site called KevinMD.com, expressing skepticism about a new study of remdesivir. I guess some work has been done following up on that trial on 18 monkeys. From the KevinMD post: On April 29th Anthony Fauci announced the National Institute of Allergy […]

covidcp.org: A COVID-19 collaboration platform.

Following up on today’s post on design of studies for coronavirus treatments and vaccines, Z points to this site, which states: In the U.S. only a few COVID-19 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have been centrally organized, e.g. by NIAID, PCORI and individual PIs. Over 400 such trials have been registered on clinicaltrials.gov with dozens being […]

This one’s important: Designing clinical trials for coronavirus treatments and vaccines

I’ve had various thoughts regarding clinical trials for coronavirus treatments and vaccines, and then I came across thoughtful posts by Thomas Lumley and Joseph Delaney on vaccines. So let’s talk, first about treatments, then about vaccines. Clinical trials for treatments The first thing I want to say is that designing clinical trials is not just […]

Years of Life Lost due to coronavirus

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. A few days ago I posted some thoughts about the coronavirus response, one of which was that I wanted to see ‘years of life lost’ in addition to (or even instead of) ‘deaths’. Mendel pointed me to a source of data for Florida cases and deaths, which […]

Here’s what academic social, behavioral, and economic scientists should be working on right now.

In a recent comment thread on the lack of relevance of academic social and behavioral science to the current crisis, Terry writes: We face a once-in-a-lifetime event, and the existing literature gives mostly vapid-sounding guidance. Take this gem at the beginning of the article: One of the central emotional responses during a pandemic is fear. […]

Is JAMA potentially guilty of manslaughter?

No, of course not. I would never say such a thing. Sander Greenland, though, he’s a real bomb-thrower. He writes: JAMA doubles down on distortion – and potential manslaughter if on the basis of this article anyone prescribes HCQ in the belief it is unrelated to cardiac mortality: – “compared with patients receiving neither drug […]

Get your research project reviewed by The Red Team: this seems like a good idea!

Ruben Arslan writes: A colleague recently asked me to be a neutral arbiter on his Red Team challenge. He picked me because I was skeptical of his research plans at a conference and because I recently put out a bug bounty program for my blog, preprints, and publications (where people get paid if they find […]

2 perspectives on the relevance of social science to our current predicament: (1) social scientists should back off, or (2) social science has a lot to offer

Perspective 1: Social scientists should back off This is what the political scientist Anthony Fowler wrote the other day: The public appetite for more information about Covid-19 is understandably insatiable. Social scientists have been quick to respond. . . . While I understand the impulse, the rush to publish findings quickly in the midst of […]

“Curing Coronavirus Isn’t a Job for Social Scientists”

Anthony Fowler wrote a wonderful op-ed. You have to read the whole thing, but let me start with his most important point, about “the temptation to overclaim” in social science: One study estimated the economic value of the people spared through social-distancing efforts. Essentially, the authors took estimates from epidemiologists about the number of lives […]

Some of you must have an idea of the answer to this one.

Suppose I play EJ in chess—I think his rating is something like 2300 and mine is maybe, I dunno, 1400? Anyway, we play, and my only goal is for the games to last as many moves as possible, and EJ’s goal is to checkmate me in the minimal number of moves. Say I have to […]

Reverse-engineering priors in coronavirus discourse

Last week we discussed the Santa Clara county study, in which 1.5% of the people tested positive for coronavirus. The authors of the study performed some statistical adjustments and summarized with a range of 2.5% to 4.2% for infection rates in the county as a whole, leading to an estimated infection fatality rate of 0.12% […]

Concerns with that Stanford study of coronavirus prevalence

Josh Rushton writes: I’ve been following your blog for a while and checked in today to see if there was a thread on last week’s big-splash Stanford antibody study (the one with the shocking headline that they got 50 positive results in a “random” sample of 3330 antibody tests, suggesting that nearly 2% of the […]

The best coronavirus summary so far

I’d still go with this article by Ed Yong, which covers biology, epidemiology, medicine, and politics. Here’s one bit: In 2018, when writing about whether the U.S. was ready for the next pandemic, I [Yong] noted that the country was trapped in a cycle of panic and neglect. It rises to meet each new disease, […]

“The Evidence and Tradeoffs for a ‘Stay-at-Home’ Pandemic Response: A multidisciplinary review examining the medical, psychological, economic and political impact of ‘Stay-at-Home’ implementation in America”

Will Marble writes: I’m a Ph.D. student in political science at Stanford. Along with colleagues from the Stanford medical school, law school, and elsewhere, we recently completed a white paper evaluating the evidence for and tradeoffs involved with shelter-in-place policies. To our knowledge, our paper contains the widest review of the relevant covid-19 research. It […]

I’m frustrated by the politicization of the coronavirus discussion. Here’s an example:

Flavio Bartmann writes: Over the last few days, as COVID-19 posed some serious issues for policy makers who, both in the US and elsewhere, have employed statistical models to develop mitigation strategies, a number of non-statisticians have criticized the use of such models as useless or worse. A typical example is this article by Victor […]

Coming in 6 months or so

I just wrote a post on George V. Higgins. Just wanted to let you know that life goes on. Also we keep bumping things to October to make room for the coronavirus posts that are running now. You can check out this list to keep track of what you’re missing.

Marc Hauser: Victim of statistics?

I have no idea; this is just a theory. In the past, when disgraced primatologist Marc Hauser has come up in this space, it’s been because he “fabricated data, manipulated experimental results, and published falsified findings” (in the words of the Department of Health and Human Services, as quoted by wikipedia), juxtaposed with the whole […]

RCT on use of cloth vs surgical masks

Barry Dehlin writes: See this blog post by “Scott Alexander” about an RCT on the use of cloth and surgical masks. As he points out, this issue is momumentally important RIGHT NOW and a real statistical expert should be evaluating this study and the conclusions the authors draw. Here, I think the value of your […]