Critical analysis skills are a key survival skill, but facts-on-demand has taken over in many modern educational structures. And despite the best intentions, the ‘openness’ of the internet has simply confused things. Opinions on scientific issues regularly rub shoulders with evidence and sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which (for scientists and non-scientists alike).
And what is ‘scientific evidence’ anyway? I wrote about this a few years ago, but it’s much more complex than I had room to explain.
I recently stumbled across this great series on how to evaluate scientific publications, from the German peer-reviewed medical magazine Deustches Ärtzeblatt. The papers are useful for teaching, for critical news audiences, and for practicing scientists. All articles are open access, translated from German. The series started in 2009 – I haven’t found a contents list or an apparent end-date for the series, so I will keep this updated as they get published.
The series is aimed at medical scientists interpreting clinical trials, so not all of them may be relevant to sciences that do stats a bit differently from the linear standard (e.g. ecology). But they are great starting point for anyone wanting to understand basic biostatistics, and I guarantee even the most seasoned scientist will find something useful in one of the papers. Most of them at least have an absolute gem of a quote buried in the text somewhere.
(Also see my previous post on causal language)