Department of Biostatistics Seminar/Workshop Series

Fat Chance: Adventures in Debunking

Russell Lyons, PhD

Professor, Department of Mathematics, Indiana University, Bloomington

Thursday, March 15, 4:00-5:00pm, 206 PRB

A series of recent highly touted papers by Christakis and Fowler claim to have demonstrated the existence of transmission via social networks of various personal characteristics, including obesity, smoking cessation, happiness, and loneliness. Those papers also assert that such influence extends to three degrees of separation in social networks. However, their statistical methodology is so flawed that the only reliable conclusion one can make is that we need to improve statistics education. In this talk, I explain the flaws and describe the reactions of journals when I tried to publish my critique. I also describe reactions to my eventually published paper, including media attention and adoption as reading material in graduate courses.
Topic revision: r3 - 26 Apr 2013, JohnBock

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