Researchers frequently report results as relative effects, for example, “Male flies from selected lines had 50% larger upwind flight ability than male flies from control lines (Control mean: 117.5 cm/s; Selected mean 176.5 cm/s).” where a relative effect is \[\begin{equation} 100 \frac{\bar{y}_B - \bar{y}_A}{\bar{y}_A} \end{equation}\] If we are to follow best practices, we should present this effect with a measure of uncertainty, such as a confidence interval. The absolute effect is 59.

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A Harrell plot combines a forest plot of estimated treatment effects and uncertainty, a dot plot of raw data, and a box plot of the distribution of the raw data into a single plot. A Harrell plot encourages best practices such as exploration of the distribution of the data and focus on effect size and uncertainty, while discouraging bad practices such as ignoring distributions and focusing on \(p\)-values. Consequently, a Harrell plot should replace the bar plots and Cleveland dot plots that are currently ubiquitous in the literature.

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Author's picture

R doodles. Some ecology. Some physiology. Much fake data.

Thoughts on R, statistical best practices, and teaching applied statistics to Biology majors

Jeff Walker, Professor of Biological Sciences

University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine, United States