Title text: We reject the null hypothesis based on the 'hot damn, check out this chart' test.
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The main focus of the comic is a graph showing cases of COVID-19 versus time for two groups: one group was vaccinated and the other group was not. Graphs are ways to visualize data, and almost always indicate specific values. This graph does not; it simply has two lines, and no indication of any of the scale values involved. The higher line ("placebo group") rises in a steep curve. The lower line ("vaccine group") follows the first for a bit but then levels out to a much slower rate of climb. The caption eschews statistical analysis in favor of a holistic assessment: the vaccine is clearly working; just look how much those lines diverge.
This comic was released one day after the FDA's Dec 17th briefing document for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was released. The document includes the following chart: File:FDA Modena Dec17.png. The charts draw the integral of the incidence data rather than the data itself ("cumulative" rather than "rate"): this results in changes in disease rate towards the left side of the chart, being added into the data on the right side, amplifying their difference. This technique for emphasizing the data is valid: the spread between the lines only continues to increase if the effect continues happening, such that the total spread at the right is proportional to the total effect the vaccine had. The charts do not show any information on other possible variables. Randall has described previously in his webcomics how very clear charts can be made to hide misleading data. The linked graph does not leave the numbers out [and this editor isn't a statistics major, but it looks like the numbers indicate the vaccine has a 95% chance of being at least 91% effective at completely preventing the disease].
The advice here could be seen as the inverse of the "science tip" in 2311: Confidence Interval, in which the data was so bad that its error bars fell outside of the graph and were not shown.
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
- [Shown is a graph with the x-axis labeled "time" and the y-axis labeled "COVID cases." There is a black line on the graph labeled "placebo group", which has a roughly linear slope moving toward the top right corner. There is a red line labeled "vaccine group", which follows the black line for about an eighth of the width of the graph before leveling off.]
- [Caption beneath the graph]:
- Statistics tip: Always try to get data that's good enough that you don't need to do statistics on it
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