Index of Unfairness

  • Ilija Barukcic Internist, Germany
Keywords: study design, study type, measuring technique, publication bias


Objective. Objective scientific knowledge for many authors more valuable than true subjective belief is determined by research on primary data but a renewed analysis of already recorded or published data is common too. Ever since, an appropriate experimental or study design is an important and often a seriously underappreciated aspect of the informativeness and the scientific value of any (medical) study. The significance of study design for the reliability of the conclusions drawn and the ability to generalize the results from the sample investigated for the whole population cannot be underestimated. In contrast to an inappropriate statistical evaluation of a medical study, it is difficult to correct errors in study design after the study has been completed. Various mathematical aspects of study design are discussed in this article.

Methods. In assessing the significance of a fair study design of a medical study, important measures of publication bias are introduced. Methods of data or publication bias analysis in different types of studies are illustrated through examples with fictive data. Formal mathematical requirements of a fair study design which can and should be fulfilled carefully with regard to the planning or evaluation of medical research are developed.

Results. Various especially mathematical aspects of a fair study design are discussed in this article in detail. Depending on the particular question being asked, mathematical methods are developed which allow us to recognize data which are self-contradictory and to exclude these data from systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses. As a result, different individual studies can be summed up and evaluated with a higher degree of certainty.

Conclusions. This article is intended to give the reader guidance in evaluating the design of studies in medical research even ex post which should enable the reader to categorize medical studies better and to assess their scientific quality more accurately.


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Index of unfairness and probability