(Compiled by Bill Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org)
In 1997, I compiled a list of articles, books, and book chapters that questioned the widespread use of null hypothesis significance tests (a.k.a. null hypothesis tests, significance tests) in scientific research. My goal was to provide those unfamiliar with this debate with a list of citations that pointed out the myriad of problems associated with the indiscriminate use of null hypothesis tests. For parity, I also compiled a list of references that supported, at least to a limited extent, the use of null hypothesis tests.
Ironically, null hypothesis testing as it is currently practiced is a hybridization of R. A. Fisher’s significance test and J. Neyman and E. Pearson’s null hypothesis test (hence the label “null hypothesis significance test”). These two approaches were fundamentally different and were the source of heated debate between these two camps for many years (see Goodman 1993a for an excellent review of this historical debate). I sincerely doubt that the melding of these two approaches would have been acceptable to either Fisher or Neyman and Pearson.
Both the original list of 326 citations and the current one of 402 citations are strong evidence that null hypothesis testing has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of debate within a number of disciplines, especially the Social Sciences (see special features with pro/con articles on this topic in Morrison and Henkel 1970; Journal of Experimental Education 1993 [volume 61, no. 4]; Psychological Science 1997 [volume 8, no. 1]; Harlow et al. 1997; Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1998 [volume 21, no. 2]; and Research in the Schools [volume 5, no. 2]). Although in 1997 I noted a general lack of awareness of this debate within my own discipline of wildlife biology/ecology, there have recently been some rumblings here as well (e.g., see Cherry 1998, Johnson 1999, and Anderson et al. 2000). I was fortunate to be involved with co-chairing, with Dr. Chris Ribic, a symposium on the use/misuse of null hypothesis testing in wildlife science during the Fifth Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society in Buffalo, NY on 26 September, 1998. This brought this important topic to the attention of many wildlife biologists for the first time, and ultimately lead to Dr. Doug Johnson’s 1999 invited paper, which won the Outstanding Article award from The Wildlife Society. Particularly noteworthy are the comments by the new editor of the Journal of Wildlife Management, Dr. Leonard Brennan, in the January 2001 issue (p. 172), in which he recommended that prospective authors “Focus on establishing a meaningful effect size” and “Avoid excessive use of P-values”. Drs. David Anderson, Ken Burnham, and Doug Johnson have been (and continue to be) important drivers for these changes within the field of wildlife biology.
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