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Researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Secures Grant to Develop a Standard Statistical Evidence Measure to Reduce Errors in Biomedical Research

Columbus, OH - 1/13/2015

Veronica Vieland, PhD, director of the Battelle Center for Mathematical Medicine in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation for her research study, “Measuring the Evidence in Evidence-Based Medical Research.”

Currently, standards of measurement to assess the strength of evidence in biomedical research have a number of issues associated with them. A variety of statistical measures are used to assess the strength of the evidence for or against hypotheses based on scientific data, but comparisons among these standard measures can be difficult.

“Since different measures are based on fundamentally different scales, a given change in one particular measure does not always correspond to the same amount of change for another measure,” explained Dr. Vieland, who holds the Battelle Endowed Chair in Quantitative and Computational Biology at Nationwide Children’s. “One type of measure might even indicate, incorrectly, that the strength of evidence is decreasing, when the evidence strength is actually increasing.”

By analogy, it is well known that improperly calibrated lab equipment can lead to incorrect interpretations of the data they generate and erroneous comparisons across experiments. Similarly, if the statistical measures used to assess the strength of evidence are not calibrated, this can also result in inaccurate interpretations of data and errors of scientific inference.

The goal of this study, says Dr. Vieland, is to develop an absolute measure of the strength of evidence, one that is independent of the specific research context in which it is used. This will be done by using a novel information-dynamic paradigm (IDP), which is a framework developed by Dr. Vieland and her team for measuring evidence in biomedical research. Team members from the Battelle Center for Mathematical Medicine include Jayajit Das, PhD, Susan Hodge, DSc, and Sang-Cheol Seok, PhD.

Dr. Vieland is also vice president for Computational Research at Nationwide Children’s and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Statistics at The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on the measurement of statistical evidence, both from a theoretical perspective and also as a foundation for understanding human genetic and genomic data.

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company.  The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical, science and engineering research.  The Foundation also maintains an undergraduate education program that promotes distinctive learning and research experiences for students in the sciences and in the liberal arts, and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth from low-income families, special needs populations and safety-net services.  For more information, please visit www.wmkeck.org.

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