Friday, April 13, 2012

Schelling Points And Bioinformatics

A lot of what think about when I do bioinformatics is how to set parameters non-arbitrarily. Basically I am looking for Schelling points: round, clear numbers that are easy to justify. The classic case is setting a p-value threshold to 0.05, which has been around for over eighty years and is still going strong, despite the haters. Other examples are setting e-value thresholds to 0.01 and setting Bayes factor thresholds of 10 as the first to indicate "strong" evidence. Like any threshold, these are arbitrary, but following the paradigm of statistics as rhetoric, their staying power make sense insofar as scientists need to be able to resort to standard procedures to settle debates. Anyway, I have no profound point here, I just think it's cool that a seemingly esoteric topic affects what I actually do on a day-to-day basis.