[Rd] default for 'signif.stars'

Therneau, Terry M., Ph.D. therne@u @end|ng |rom m@yo@edu
Thu Mar 28 14:27:53 CET 2019

The addition of significant stars was, in my opinion, one of the worst defaults ever added 
to R.   I would be delighted to see it removed, or at least change the default.  It is one 
of the few overrides that I have argued to add to our site-wide defaults file.

My bias comes from 30+ years in a medical statistics career where fighting the disease of 
"dichotomania" has been an eternal struggle.  Continuous covariates are split in two, 
nuanced risk scores are thresholded, decisions become yes/no, ....    Adding stars to 
output is, to me, simply a gateway drug to this pernicous addiction.   We shouldn't 
encourage it.

Wrt Abe's rant about the Nature article:  I've read the article and found it to be well 
reasoned, and I can't say the same about the rant.   The issue in biomedical science is 
that the p-value has fallen victim to Goodhart's law: "When a measure becomes a target, it 
ceases to be a good measure."  The article argues, and I would agree, that the .05 yes/no 
decision rule is currently doing more harm than good in biomedical research.   What to do 
instead of this is a tough question, but it is fairly clear that the current plan isn't 
working.   I have seen many cases of two papers which both found a risk increase of 1.9 
for something where one paper claimed "smoking gun" and the other "completely 
exonerated".   Do YOU want to take a drug with 2x risk and a p= 0.2 'proof' that it is 
okay?   Of course, if there is too much to do and too little time, people will find a way 
to create a shortcut yes/no rule no matter what we preach.   (We statisticians will do it 

Terry T.

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