Sunday, 15 January 2012

Anecdotal evidence "To report your observations does not qualify for research outcome"

Evidencia anecdotal "Reportar observaciones no califica como trabajo de investigación"

On a former post, I pointed out the benefits of forests by citing the opinion of a biologist. Then, I tried to reinforce his position on the topic through by presenting a graph I used in my former work (Figure above-link to my post). About it, I said that I found out that forests have played a fundamental role as a countermeasure against global warming, because they have kept stable the temperature of the surface of a region covered by tropical forests in the Andes (upper Amazon basin). Before thinking that such snapshot provides a relevant scientific finding, I invite you to check back the blog post I mention to read that I also point out that such finding has not yet been published because the findings have not yet been "certified" through field measurements. Without such certification, my "findings" simply constitute "anecdotal evidence", which in the words of my former imply that: "To report your observations does not qualify for research outcome".
This is a common mistake of early-stage graduate students, and in most cases, is solved after the student realizes how serious and interesting their role is. As said, the practical consequence of anecdotal evidence is that because of a small sample there is a large chance that the results may be true but unreliable.

Still did not understand how important is to adequately support your results? Well...this entry is inspired by a
TV broadcast where there was a discussion between two sides on whether or not vaccination of kids was important. The arguments of the side that was for vaccines were supported by all the theoretical and statistical information that accounts for the benefits of vaccination campaigns that were responsible for reducing the incidence of major plagues of the former century. On the other side, the arguments of the professionals against vaccination practices were supported by the information of medical cases that reported that after their vaccines, some kids had been diagnosed with, e.g., autism. The latter may sound right; however, given the limited information, it may only constitute anecdotal evidence.


- How anecdotal evidence can undermine scientific results, by M. Shermer, Scientific American, July 2008.
- Streamflow and runoff responses to climate change in high elevation watersheds, by F. Soria (2010).
- The contribution of trees to our lives: it is time to take stock, by
- Vaccines and autism: A new scientific review, by S. Attkisson, CBS News, Mar 2011.

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