Carnegie Mellon University
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Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical Practice.

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posted on 2001-05-01, 00:00 authored by Robert KassRobert Kass, Brian S. Caffo, Marie Davidian, Xiao-Li Meng, Bin Yu, Nancy Reid

Several months ago, Phil Bourne, the initiator and frequent author of the wildly successful and incredibly useful “Ten Simple Rules” series, suggested that some statisticians put together a Ten Simple Rules article related to statistics. (One of the rules for writing a PLOS Ten Simple Rules article is to be Phil Bourne [1]. In lieu of that, we hope effusive praise for Phil will suffice.)

Implicit in the guidelines for writing Ten Simple Rules [1] is “know your audience.” We developed our list of rules with researchers in mind: researchers having some knowledge of statistics, possibly with one or more statisticians available in their building, or possibly with a healthy do-it-yourself attitude and a handful of statistical packages on their laptops. We drew on our experience in both collaborative research and teaching, and, it must be said, from our frustration at being asked, more than once, to “take a quick look at my student’s thesis/my grant application/my referee’s report: it needs some input on the stats, but it should be pretty straightforward.”

There are some outstanding resources available that explain many of these concepts clearly and in much more detail than we have been able to do here: among our favorites are Cox and Donnelly [2], Leek [3], Peng [4], Kass et al. [5], Tukey [6], and Yu [7].

Every article on statistics requires at least one caveat. Here is ours: we refer in this article to “science” as a convenient shorthand for investigations using data to study questions of interest. This includes social science, engineering, digital humanities, finance, and so on. Statisticians are not shy about reminding administrators that statistical science has an impact on nearly every part of almost all organizations.


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