The use of statistics

Mark Twain (1924) probably had politicians in mind when he reiterated Disraeli’s famous remark (”There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”). Scientists, we hope, would never use data in such a selective manner to suit their own ends. But, alas, the analysis of data is often the source of some exasperation even in an academic context. On hearing comments like ‘the result of this experiment was inconclusive, so we had to use statistics’, we are frequently left wondering as to what strange tricks have been played on the data.