Evidence Soup
How to find, use, and explain evidence.

34 posts categorized "analytics: data & text"

Wednesday, 09 August 2017

How evidence can guide, not replace, human decisions.

Bad Choices book cover

1. Underwriters + algorithms = Best of both worlds.
We hear so much about machine automation replacing humans. But several promising applications are designed to supplement complex human knowledge and guide decisions, not replace them: Think primary care physicians, policy makers, or underwriters. Leslie Scism writes in the Wall Street Journal that AIG “pairs its models with its underwriters. The approach reflects the company’s belief that human judgment is still needed in sizing up most of the midsize to large businesses that it insures.” See Insurance: Where Humans Still Rule Over Machines [paywall] or the podcast Insurance Rates Set by ... Machine Intelligence?

Who wants to be called a flat liner? Does this setup compel people to make changes to algorithmic findings - necessary or not - so their value/contributions are visible? Scism says “AIG even has a nickname for underwriters who keep the same price as the model every time: ‘flat liners.’” This observation is consistent with research we covered last week, showing that people are more comfortable with algorithms they can tweak to reflect their own methods.

AIG “analysts and executives say algorithms work well for standardized policies, such as for homes, cars and small businesses. Data scientists can feed millions of claims into computers to find patterns, and the risks are similar enough that a premium rate spit out by the model can be trusted.” On the human side, analytics teams work with AIG decision makers to foster more methodical, evidence-based decision making, as described in the excellent Harvard Business Review piece How AIG Moved Toward Evidence-Based Decision Making.


2. Another gem from Ali Almossawi.
An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments was a grass-roots project that blossomed into a stellar book about logical fallacy and barriers to successful, evidence-based decisions. Now Ali Almossawi brings us Bad Choices: How Algorithms Can Help You Think Smarter and Live Happier.

It’s a superb example of explaining complex concepts in simple language. For instance, Chapter 7 on ‘Update that Status’ discusses how crafting a succinct Tweet draws on ideas from data compression. Granted, not everyone wants to understand algorithms - but Bad Choices illustrates useful ways to think methodically, and sort through evidence to solve problems more creatively. From the publisher: “With Bad Choices, Ali Almossawi presents twelve scenes from everyday life that help demonstrate and demystify the fundamental algorithms that drive computer science, bringing these seemingly elusive concepts into the understandable realms of the everyday.”


3. Value guidelines adjusted for novel treatment of rare disease.
Like it or not, oftentimes the assigned “value” of a health treatment depends on how much it costs, compared to how much benefit it provides. Healthcare, time, and money are scarce resources, and payers must balance effectiveness, ethics, and equity.

Guidelines for assessing value are useful when comparing alternative treatments for common diseases. But they fail when considering an emerging treatment or a small patient population suffering from a rare condition. ICER, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, has developed a value assessment framework that’s being widely adopted. However, acknowledging the need for more flexibility, ICER has proposed a Value Assessment Framework for Treatments That Represent a Potential Major Advance for Serious Ultra-Rare Conditions.

In a request for comments, ICER recognizes the challenges of generating evidence for rare treatments, including the difficulty of conducting randomized controlled trials, and the need to validate surrogate outcome measures. “They intend to calculate a value-based price benchmark for these treatments using the standard range from $100,000 to $150,000 per QALY [quality adjusted life year], but will [acknowledge] that decision-makers... often give special weighting to other benefits and to contextual considerations that lead to coverage and funding decisions at higher prices, and thus higher cost-effectiveness ratios, than applied to decisions about other treatments.”

Monday, 31 July 2017

Resistance to algorithms, evidence for home visits, and problems with wearables.

Kitty with laptop

I'm back, after time away from the keyboard. Yikes! Evidence is facing an uphill battle. Decision makers still resist handing control to others, even when new methods or machines make better predictions. And government agencies continue to, ahem, struggle with making evidence-based policy.  — Tracy Altman


1. Evidence-based home visit program loses funding.
The evidence base has developed over 30+ years: Advocates for home visit programs - where professionals visit at-risk families - cite immediate and long-term benefits for parents and for children. Things like positive health-related behavior, fewer arrests, community ties, lower substance abuse [Long-term Effects of Nurse Home Visitation on Children's Criminal and Antisocial Behavior: 15-Year Follow-up of a Randomized Controlled Trial (JAMA, 1998)]. Or Nobel Laureate-led findings that "Every dollar spent on high-quality, birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children delivers a 13% per annum return on investment" [Research Summary: The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program (2016)].

The Nurse-Family Partnership (@NFP_nursefamily), a well-known provider of home visit programs, is getting the word out in the New York Times and on NPR.

AEI_funnel_27jul17

Yet this bipartisan, evidence-based policy is now defunded. @Jyebreck explains that advocates are “staring down a Sept. 30 deadline.... The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, or MIECHV, supports paying for trained counselors or medical professionals” where they establish long-term relationships.

It’s worth noting that the evidence on childhood programs is often conflated. AEI’s Katharine Stevens and Elizabeth English break it down in their excellent, deep-dive report Does Pre-K Work? They illustrate the dangers of drawing sweeping conclusions about research findings, especially when mixing studies about infants with studies of three- or four-year olds. And home visit advocates emphasize that disadvantage begins in utero and infancy, making a standard pre-K program inherently inadequate. This issue is complex, and Congress’ defunding decision will only hurt efforts to gather evidence about how best to level the playing field for children.

AEI Does Pre-K Work

2. Why do people reject algorithms?
Researchers want to understand our ‘irrational’ responses to algorithmic findings. Why do we resist change, despite evidence that a machine can reliably beat human judgment? Berkeley J. Dietvorst (great name, wasn’t he in Hunger Games?) comments in the MIT Sloan Management Review that “What I find so interesting is that it’s not limited to comparing human and algorithmic judgment; it’s my current method versus a new method, irrelevant of whether that new method is human or technology.”

Job-security concerns might help explain this reluctance. And Dietvorst has studied another cause: We lose trust in an algorithm when we see its imperfections. This hesitation extends to cases where an ‘imperfect’ algorithm remains demonstrably capable of outpredicting us. On the bright side, he found that “people were substantially more willing to use algorithms when they could tweak them, even if just a tiny amount”. Dietvorst is inspired by the work of Robyn Dawes, a pioneering behavioral decision scientist who investigated the Man vs. Machine dilemma. Dawes famously developed a simple model for predicting how students will rank against one another, which significantly outperformed admissions officers. Yet both then and now, humans don’t like to let go of the wheel.

Wearables Graveyard by Aaron Parecki

3. Massive data still does not equal evidence.
For those who doubted the viability of consumer health wearables and the notion of the quantified self, there’s plenty of validation: Jawbone liquidated, Intel dropped out, and Fitbit struggles. People need a compelling reason to wear one (such as fitness coach, or condition diagnosis and treatment).

Rather than a data stream, we need hard evidence about something actionable: Evidence is “the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid (Google: define evidence).” To be sure, some consumers enjoy wearing a device that tracks sleep patterns or spots out-of-normal-range values - but that market is proving to be limited.

But Rock Health points to positive developments, too. Some wearables demonstrate specific value: Clinical use cases are emerging, including assistance for the blind.

Photo credit: Kitty on Laptop by Ryan Forsythe, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo credit: Wearables Graveyard by Aaron Parecki on Flickr.

Tuesday, 03 January 2017

Valuing patient perspective, moneyball for tenure, visualizing education impacts.

Patient_value
1. Formalized decision process → Conflict about criteria

It's usually a good idea to establish a methodology for making repeatable, complex decisions. But inevitably you'll have to allow wiggle room for the unquantifiable or the unexpected; leaving this gray area exposes you to criticism that it's not a rigorous methodology after all. Other sources of criticism are the weighting and the calculations applied in your decision formulas - and the extent of transparency provided.

How do you set priorities? In healthcare, how do you decide who to treat, at what cost? To formalize the process of choosing among options, several groups have created so-called value frameworks for assessing medical treatments - though not without criticism. Recently Ugly Research co-authored a post summarizing industry reaction to the ICER value framework developed by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review. Incorporation of patient preferences (or lack thereof) is a hot topic of discussion.

To address this proactively, Faster Cures has led creation of the Patient Perspective Value Framework to inform other frameworks about what's important to patients (cost? impact on daily life? outcomes?). They're asking for comments on their draft report; comment using this questionnaire.

2. Analytics → Better tenure decisions
New analysis in the MIT Sloan Management Review observes "Using analytics to improve hiring decisions has transformed industries from baseball to investment banking. So why are tenure decisions for professors still made the old-fashioned way?"

Ironically, academia often proves to be one of the last fields to adopt change. Erik Brynjolfsson and John Silberholz explain that "Tenure decisions for the scholars of computer science, economics, and statistics — the very pioneers of quantitative metrics and predictive analytics — are often insulated from these tools." The authors say "data-driven models can significantly improve decisions for academic and financial committees. In fact, the scholars recommended for tenure by our model had better future research records, on average, than those who were actually granted tenure by the tenure committees at top institutions."

Education_evidence

3. Visuals of research findings → Useful evidence
The UK Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research. The purpose is to help teachers and schools more easily decide how to apply resources to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students. Research findings on selected topics are nicely visualized in terms of implementation cost, strength of supporting evidence, and the average impact on student attainment.

4. Absence of patterns → File-drawer problem
We're only human. We want to see patterns, and are often guilty of 'seeing' patterns that really aren't there. So it's no surprise we're uninterested in research that lacks significance, and disregard findings revealing no discernible pattern. When we stash away projects like this, it's called the file-drawer problem, because this lack of evidence could be valuable to others who might have otherwise pursued a similar line of investigation. But Data Colada says the file-drawer problem is unfixable, and that’s OK.

5. Optimal stopping algorithm → Practical advice?
In Algorithms to Live By, Stewart Brand describes an innovative way to help us make complex decisions. "Deciding when to stop your quest for the ideal apartment, or ideal spouse, depends entirely on how long you expect to be looking.... [Y]ou keep looking and keep finding new bests, though ever less frequently, and you start to wonder if maybe you refused the very best you’ll ever find. And the search is wearing you down. When should you take the leap and look no further?"

Optimal Stopping is a mathematical concept for optimizing a choice, such as making the right hire or landing the right job. Brand says "The answer from computer science is precise: 37% of the way through your search period." The question is, how can people translate this concept into practical steps guiding real decisions? And how can we apply it while we live with the consequences?

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Choices, policy, and evidence-based investment.

Badarguments

1. Bad Arguments → Bad Choices
Great news. There will be a follow-on to the excellent Bad Arguments book by @alialmossawi. The book of Bad Choices will be released this April by major publishers. You can preorder now.

2. Evidence-based decisions → Effective policy outcomes
The conversative think tank, Heritage Foundation, is advocating for evidence-based decisions in the Trump administration. Their recommendations include resurrection of PART (the Program Assessment Rating Tool) from the George W. Bush era, which ranked federal programs according to effectiveness. "Blueprint for a New Administration offers specific steps that the new President and the top officers of all 15 cabinet-level departments and six key executive agencies can take to implement the long-term policy visions reflected in Blueprint for Reform." Read a nice summary here by Patrick Lester at the Social Innovation Research Center (@SIRC_tweets).

Pharmagellan

3. Pioneer drugs → Investment value
"Why do pharma firms sometimes prioritize 'me-too' R&D projects over high-risk, high-reward 'pioneer' programs?" asks Frank David at Pharmagellan (@Frank_S_David). "[M]any pharma financial models assume first-in-class drugs will gain commercial traction more slowly than 'followers.' The problem is that when a drug’s projected revenues are delayed in a financial forecast, this lowers its net present value – which can torpedo the already tenuous investment case for a risky, innovative R&D program." Their research suggests that pioneer drugs see peak sales around 6 years, similar to followers: "Our finding that pioneer drugs are adopted no more slowly than me-too ones could help level the economic playing field and make riskier, but often higher-impact, R&D programs more attractive to executives and investors."

Details appear in the Nature Reviews article, Drug launch curves in the modern era. Pharmagellan will soon release a book on biotech financial modeling.

4. Unrealistic expectations → Questioning 'evidence-based medicine'
As we've noted before, @EvidenceLive has a manifesto addressing how to make healthcare decisions, and how to communicate evidence. The online comments are telling: Evidence-based medicine is perhaps more of a concept than a practical thing. The spot-on @trishgreenhalgh says "The world is messy. There is no view from nowhere, no perspective that is free from bias."

Evidence & Insights Calendar.

Jan 23-25, London: Advanced Pharma Analytics 2017. Spans topics from machine learning to drug discovery, real-world evidence, and commercial decision making.

Feb 1-2, San Francisco. Advanced Analytics for Clinical Data 2017. All about accelerating clinical R&D with data-driven decision making for drug development.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Improving vs. proving, plus bad evidence reporting.

Turtle slow down and learn something

If you view gathering evidence as simply a means of demonstrating outcomes, you’re missing a trick. It’s most valuable when part of a journey of iterative improvement. - Frances Flaxington

1. Immigrants to US don't disrupt employment.
There is little evidence that immigration significantly affects overall employment of native-born US workers. This according to an expert panel's 500-page report. We thought you might like this condensed version from PepperSlice.

Bad presentation alert: The report, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, offers no summary visuals and buries its conclusions deep within dense chapters. Perhaps methodology is the problem, documenting the "evidence-based consensus of an authoring committee of experts". People need concise synthesis and actionable findings: What can policy makers do with this information?

Bad reporting alert: Perhaps unsatisfied with these findings, Julia Preston of the New York Times slipped her own claim into the coverage, saying the report "did not focus on American technology workers [true], many of whom have been displaced from their jobs in recent years by immigrants on temporary visas [unfounded claim]". Rather sloppy reporting, particularly when covering an extensive economic study of immigration impacts.


Immigration

Key evidence: "Empirical research in recent decades suggests that findings remain by and large consistent with those in The New Americans (National Research Council, 1997) in that, when measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of natives overall is very small." [page 204]

Immigration also contributes to the nation’s economic growth.... Perhaps even more important than the contribution to labor supply is the infusion by high-skilled immigration of human capital that has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation and technological change. The contribution of immigrants to human and physical capital formation, entrepreneurship, and innovation are essential to long-run sustained economic growth. [page 243]

Author: @theNASEM, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Relationship: immigration → sustains → economic growth


2. Improving vs. proving.
On @A4UEvidence: "We often assume that generating evidence is a linear progression towards proving whether a service works. In reality the process is often two steps forward, one step back." Ugly Research supports the 'what works' concept, but wholeheartedly agrees that "The fact is that evidence rarely provides a clear-cut truth – that a service works or is cost-beneficial. Rather, evidence can support or challenge the beliefs that we, and others, have and it can point to ways in which a service might be improved."


3. Who should make sure policy is evidence-based and transparent?
Bad PR alert? Is it government's responsibility to make policy transparent and balanced? If so, some are accusing the FDA of not holding up their end on drug and medical device policy. A recent 'close-held embargo' of an FDA announcement made NPR squirm. Scientific American says the deal was this: "NPR, along with a select group of media outlets, would get a briefing about an upcoming announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a day before anyone else. But in exchange for the scoop, NPR would have to abandon its reportorial independence. The FDA would dictate whom NPR's reporter could and couldn't interview.

"'My editors are uncomfortable with the condition that we cannot seek reaction,' NPR reporter Rob Stein wrote back to the government officials offering the deal. Stein asked for a little bit of leeway to do some independent reporting but was turned down flat. Take the deal or leave it."


Evidence & Insights Calendar

November 9-10, Philadelphia: Real-World Evidence & Market Access Summit 2016. "No more scandals! Access for Patients. Value for Pharma."

29 Oct-2 Nov, Vienna, Austria: ISPOR 19th Annual European Congress. Plenary: "What Synergies Could Be Created Between Regulatory and Health Technology Assessments?"

October 3-6, National Harbor, Maryland. AMCP Nexus 2016. Special topic: "Behavioral Economics - What Does it All Mean?"


Photo credit: Turtle on Flickr.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Battling antimicrobial resistance, visualizing data, and value in health.

Dentist-antibiotic-board

PepperSlice Board of the Week: Dentists will slow down on antibiotics if you show them a chart of their prescribing numbers. 

Antimicrobial resistance is a serious public health concern. PLOS Medicine has published findings from an RCT studying whether quantitative feedback and intervention about prescribing patterns will reduce dentists' antibiotic RXs. An intervention group prescribed substantially fewer antibiotics per 100 cases.

The Evidence. Peer-reviewed: An Audit and Feedback Intervention for Reducing Antibiotic Prescribing in General Dental Practice.

Data: Collected using RAPiD Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial, and analyzed with ANCOVA.

Relationship: historical data ➞ influence ➞ dentist antibiotic prescribing rates

This study evaluated the impact of providing general-practice dentists with individualised feedback consisting of a line graph of their monthly antibiotic prescribing rate. Rates in the intervention group were substantially lower than in the control group.

From the authors: "The feedback provided in this study is a relatively straightforward, low-cost public health and patient safety intervention that could potentially help the entire healthcare profession address the increasing challenge of antimicrobial resistance." Authors: Paula Elouafkaoui et al.

#: evidentista, antibiotics, evidence-based practice


Distribution-plots1

2. Visualizing data distributions.
Nathan Yau's fantastic blog, Flowing Data, offers a simple explanation of distributions - the spread of a dataset - and how to compare them. Highly recommended. "Single data points from a large dataset can make it more relatable, but those individual numbers don’t mean much without something to compare to. That’s where distributions come in."


3. Calculating 'expected value' of health interventions.
Frank David provides a useful reminder of the realities of computing 'expected value'. Sooner or later, we must make simplifying assumptions, and compare costs and benefits on similar terms (usually $). On Forbes he walks us through a straightforward calculation of the value of an Epi-pen. (Frank's firm, Pharmagellan, is coming out with a book on biotech financial modeling, and we look forward to that.)


G20-bayes-johnoliver

4. What is Bayesian, really?
In the Three Faces of Bayes, @burrsettles beautifully describes three uses of the term Bayesian, and wonders "Why is it that Bayesian networks, for example, aren’t considered… y’know… Bayesian?" Recommended for readers wanting to know more about these algorithms for machine learning and decision analysis.


Fun Fact: Everyone can stop carrying around fake babies. Evidence tells us baby simulators don't deter teen pregnancy after all.


Evidence & Insights Calendar:

September 19-21; Boston. FierceBiotech Drug Development Forum. Evaluate challenges, trends, and innovation in drug discovery and R&D. Covering the entire drug development process, from basic research through clinical trials.

September 13-14; Palo Alto, California. Nonprofit Management Institute: The Power of Network Leadership to Drive Social Change, hosted by Stanford Social Innovation Review.

September 20-22; Newark, New Jersey. Advanced Pharma Analytics. How to harness real-world evidence to optimize decision-making and improve patient-centric strategies.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Evidence relativism, innovation as a process, and decision analysis pioneer.

Gold-panning

1. Panning for gold in the evidence stream.
Patrick Lester introduces his new SSIR article by saying "With evidence-based policy, we need to acknowledge that some evidence is more valid than others. Pretending all evidence is equal will only preserve the status quo." In Defining Evidence Down, the director of the Social Innovation Research Center responds to analysts skeptical of evidence hierarchies developed to steer funding toward programs that fit the "what works" concept.

Are levels valid? Hierarchies recognize different levels of evidence according to their rigor and certainty. These rankings are well-established in healthcare, and are becoming the standard for evidence evaluation within the Dept of Education and other US government agencies. Critics of this prevailing thinking (Gopal & Schorr, Friends of Evidence) want to ensure decision-makers embrace an inclusive definition of evidence that values qualitative research, case studies, insights from experience, and professional judgment. Lester contends that "Unfortunately, to reject evidence hierarchies is to promote is a form of evidence relativism, where everyone is entitled to his or her own views about what constitutes good evidence in his or her own local or individualized context.

Ideology vs. evidence. "By resisting the notion that some evidence is more valid than others, they are defining evidence down. Such relativism would risk a return to the past, where change has too often been driven by fads, ideology, and politics, and where entrenched interests have often preserved the status quo." Other highlights: "...supporting a broad definition of evidence is not the same thing as saying that all evidence is equally valid." And "...randomized evaluations are not the only rigorous way to examine systems-level change. Researchers can often use quasi-experimental evaluations to examine policy changes...."

2. Can innovation be systematic?
Everyone wants innovation nowadays, but how do you make it happen? @HighVizAbility reviews a method called Systematic Inventive Thinking, an approach to creativity, innovation, and problem solving. The idea is to execute as a process, rather than relying on random ideas. Advocates say SIT doesn't replace unbridled creativity, but instead complements it.

3. Remembering decision analysis pioneer Howard Raiffa.
Howard Raiffa, co-founder of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and decision analysis pioneer, passed away recently. He was also a Bayesian decision theorist and well-known author on negotiation strategies. Raiffa considered negotiation analysis an opportunity for both sides to get value, describing it as The Science and Art of Collaborative Decision Making.

4. Journal impact factor redux?
In the wake of news that Thomson Reuters sold its formula, Stat says changes may finally be coming to the "hated" journal impact factor. Ivan Oransky (@ivanoransky) and Adam Marcus (@armarcus) explain that some evidence suggests science articles don't receive the high number of citations supposedly predicted by the IF. The American Society of Microbiologists has announced that it will abandon the metric completely. Meanwhile, top editors from Nature — which in the past has taken pride in its IF — have coauthored a paper widely seen as critical of the factor.

Photo credit: Poke of Gold by Mike Beauregard

Tuesday, 05 July 2016

Brain training isn't smart, physician peer pressure, and #AskforEvidence.

Brain-Training

1. Spending $ on brain training isn't so smart.
It seems impossible to listen to NPR without hearing from their sponsor, Lumosity, the brain-training company. The target demo is spot on: NPR will be the first to tell you its listeners are the "nation's best and brightest". And bright people don't want to slow down. Alas, spending hard-earned money on brain training isn't looking like a smart investment. New evidence seems to confirm suspicions that this $1 billion industry is built on hope, sampling bias, and placebo effect. Arstechnica says researchers have concluded that earlier, mildly positive "findings suggest that recruitment methods used in past studies created a self-selected groups of participants who believed the training would improve cognition and thus were susceptible to the placebo effect." The study, Placebo Effects in Cognitive Training, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It's not a new theme: In 2014, 70 cognitive scientists signed a statement saying "The strong consensus of this group is that the scientific literature does not support claims that the use of software-based 'brain games' alters neural functioning in ways that improve general cognitive performance in everyday life, or prevent cognitive slowing and brain disease."


Journal.pmed.1002049.t001

2. Ioannidis speaks out on usefulness of research.
After famously claiming that most published research findings are false, John Ioannidis now tells us Why Most Clinical Research Is Not Useful (PLOS Medicine). So, what are the key features of 'useful' research? The problem needs to be important enough to fix. Prior evidence must be evaluated to place the problem into context. Plus, we should expect pragmatism, patient-centeredness, monetary value, and transparency.


Antibiotic_use

3. To nudge physicians, compare them to peers.
Doctors are overwhelmed with alerts and guidance. So how do you intervene when a physician prescribes antibiotics for a virus, despite boatloads of evidence showing they're ineffective? Comparing a doc's records to peers is one promising strategy. Laura Landro recaps research by Jeffrey Linder (Brigham and Women's, Harvard): "Peer comparison helped reduce prescriptions that weren’t warranted from 20% to 4% as doctors got monthly individual feedback about their own prescribing habits for 18 months.

"Doctors with the lower rates were told they were top performers, while the rest were pointedly told they weren’t, in an email that included the number and proportion of antibiotic prescriptions they wrote compared with the top performers." Linder says “You can imagine a bunch of doctors at Harvard being told ‘You aren’t a top performer.’ We expected and got a lot of pushback, but it was the most effective intervention.” Perhaps this same approach would work outside the medical field.

4. Sports analytics taxonomy.
INFORMS is a professional society focused on Operations Research and Management Science. The June issue of their ORMS Today magazine presents v1.0 of a sports analytics taxonomy (page 40). This work, by Gary Cokins et al., demonstrates how classification techniques can be applied to better understand sports analytics. Naturally this includes analytics for players and managers in the major leagues. But it also includes individual sports, amateur sports, franchise management, and venue management.

5. Who writes the Internet, anyway? #AskforEvidence
Ask for Evidence is a public campaign that helps people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims, and policies. Sponsored by @senseaboutsci, the campaign has new animations on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Definitely worth a like or a retweet.

Calendar:
September 13-14; Palo Alto, California. Nonprofit Management Institute: The Power of Network Leadership to Drive Social Change, hosted by Stanford Social Innovation Review.

September 19-23; Melbourne, Australia. International School on Research Impact Assessment. Founded in 2013 by the Agency of Health Quality and Assessment (AQuAS), RAND Europe, and Alberta Innovates.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Open innovation, the value of pharmaceuticals, and liberal-vs-conservative stalemates.

Evidence_from_openinnovation

1. Open Innovation can up your game.
Open Innovation → Better Evidence. Scientists with an agricultural company tell a fascinating story about open innovation success. Improving Analytics Capabilities Through Crowdsourcing (Sloan Review) describes a years-long effort to tap into expertise outside the organization. Over eight years, Syngenta used open-innovation platforms to develop a dozen data-analytics tools, which ultimately revolutionized the way it breeds soybean plants. "By replacing guesswork with science, we are able to grow more with less."

Many open innovation platforms run contests between individuals (think Kaggle), and some facilitate teams. One of these platforms, InnoCentive, hosts mathematicians, physicists, and computer scientists eager to put their problem-solving skills to the test. There was a learning curve, to be sure (example: divide big problems into smaller pieces). Articulating the research question was challenging to say the least.

Several of the associated projects could be tackled by people without subject matter expertise; other steps required knowledge of the biological science, complicating the task of finding team members. But eventually Syngenta "harnessed outside talent to come up with a tool that manages the genetic component of the breeding process — figuring out which soybean varieties to cross with one another and which breeding technique will most likely lead to success." The company reports substantial results from this collaboration: The average rate of improvement of its portfolio grew from 0.8 to 2.5 bushels per acre per year.

 

Value frameworks context matters

 

2. How do you tie drug prices to value?
Systematic Analysis → Better Value for Patients. It's the age-old question: How do you put a dollar value on intangibles - particularly human health and wellbeing? As sophisticated pharmaceuticals succeed in curing more diseases, their prices are climbing. Healthcare groups have developed 'value frameworks' to guide decision-making about these molecules. It's still a touchy subject to weigh the cost of a prescription against potential benefits to a human life.

These frameworks address classic problems, and are useful examples for anyone formalizing the steps of complex decision-making - inside or outside of healthcare. For example, one cancer treatment may be likely to extend a patient's life by 30 to 45 days compared to another, but at much higher cost, or with unacceptable side effects. Value frameworks help people consider these factors.

@ContextMatters studies processes for drug evaluation and regulatory approval. In Creating a Global Context for Value, they compare the different methods of determining whether patients are getting high value. Their Value Framework Comparison Table highlights key evaluation elements from three value frameworks (ASCO, NCCN, ICER) and three health technology assessments (CADTH, G-BA, NICE).

 

Evidencebased-povertyprograms

3. Evidence overcomes the liberal-vs-conservative stalemate.
Evidence-based Programs → Lower Poverty. Veterans of the Bloomberg mayoral administration describe a data-driven strategy to reduce poverty in New York. Results for America Senior Fellows Robert Doar and Linda Gibbs share an insider's perspective in "New York City's Turnaround on Poverty: Why poverty in New York – unlike in other major cities – is dropping."

Experimentation was combined with careful attention to which programs succeeded (Paycheck Plus) and which didn't (Family Rewards). A key factor, common to any successful decision analysis effort: When a program didn't produce the intended results, advocates weren't cast aside as failures. Instead, that evidence was blended with the rest to continuously improve. The authors found that "Solid evidence can trump the liberal-versus-conservative stalemate when the welfare of the country’s most vulnerable people is at stake."

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Free beer! and the "Science of X".

Chanteuse_flickr_Christian_Hornick

1. Free beer for a year for anyone who can work perfume, velvety voice, and 'Q1 revenue goals were met' into an appropriate C-Suite presentation.
Prezi is a very nice tool enabling you to structure a visual story, without forcing a linear, slide-by-slide presentation format. The best part is you can center an entire talk around one graphic or model, and then dive into details depending on audience response. (Learn more in our writeup on How to Present Like a Boss.)

Now there's a new marketing campaign, the Science of Presentations. Prezi made a darn nice web page. And the ebook offers several useful insights into how to craft and deliver a memorable presentation (e.g., enough with the bullet points already).

But in their pursuit of click-throughs, they've gone too far. It's tempting to claim you're following the "Science of X". To some extent, Prezi provides citations to support its recommendations: The ebook links to a few studies on audience response and so forth. But that's not a "science" - they don't always connect between what they're citing and what they're suggesting to business professionals. Example: "Numerous studies have found that metaphors and descriptive words or phrases — things like 'perfume' and 'she had a velvety voice' - trigger the sensory cortext.... On the other hand, when presented with nondescriptive information — for example, 'The marketing team reached all of its revenue goals in Q1' — the only parts of our brain that are activated are the ones responsible for understanding language. Instead of experiencing the content with which we are being presented, we are simply processing it."

Perhaps in this case "simply processing" the good news is enough experience for a busy executive. But our free beer offer still stands.

2. How should medical guidelines be communicated to patients?

And now for the 'Science of Explaining Guidelines'. It's hard enough to get healthcare professionals to agree on a medical guideline - and then follow it. But it's also hard to decide whether/how those recommendations should be communicated to patients. Many of the specifics are intended for providers' consumption, to improve their practice of medicine. Although it's essential that patients understand relevant evidence, translating a set of recommendations into lay terms is quite problematic.

Groups publish medical guidelines to capture evidence-based recommendations for addressing a particular disease. Sometimes these are widely accepted - and other times not. The poster-child example of breast cancer screening illustrates why patients, and not just providers, must be able to understand guidelines. Implementation Science recently published the first systematic review of methods for disseminating guidelines to patients.

Not surprisingly, the study found weak evidence of methods that are consistently feasible. "Key factors of success were a dissemination plan, written at the start of the recommendation development process, involvement of patients in this development process, and the use of a combination of traditional and innovative dissemination tools." (Schipper et al.)

3. Telling a story with data.
In the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), @JakePorway explains three things great data storytellers do differently [possible paywall]. Jake is with @DataKind, "harnessing the power of data science in service of humanity".

 

Photo credit: Christian Hornick on Flickr.