Statistical Genetics Quotations

Dr. Robert Elston, in his 1996 Allan Award Address, referring to a figure full of mathematics describing the Elston-Stewart algorithm and the Haseman-Elston method:

"There must be many persons in the audience for whom this is Greek; and I suspect there are even some who would find it more comprehensible if it were Greek. My friend and one-time colleague Mary K. Pelias calls it, perhaps appropriately, 'chicken scratches'."

Reference: Am J Hum Genet 60:255, 1997

There is almost no competition in this arcane field:

"We disagree with this approach for three reasons. It is intellectually wrong.... It is historically inconsistent.... It is technically antediluvian...."

Reference: Lander and Kruglyak (1997) Nature Genetics 12:358.

And there is little hubris too:

"I am the best geneticist of all musicians and the best musician of all geneticists"

Daniel Cohen, as quoted in Science.

Reference: Re-quoted in Nature Genetics (March 1997) 15:230.

Three quotes from a talk on "Statistical Literacy and Statistical Competence in the 21st Century" given by Dr. David S. Moore at the University of Pittsburgh 3rd Feb 1998:

"Students are no longer as patient as they once were."

"It is still true that you can never be too rich or too thin or know too much mathematics."

"We should all be humble and remember that R.A. Fisher was a geneticist."

A quote from a lecture on "Translating advances in human genetics into public action: CDC strategic plan" given by Dr. Muin Khoury at the University of Pittsburgh 6th Feb 1998:

On being an obsessive advocate of genetic epidemiology:

"The reason I get away with it is that when I talk to geneticists, I talk like an epidemiologist. When I talk to epidemiologists, I talk like a geneticist."

Aaron Levenstein, as quoted in Nature Genetics:

"Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital."

Reference: Nature Genetics 24:11, January 2000.

Dr. Julia Bailey, grant-writer extraordinaire:

"I think I'm one of the few people who enjoy writing grants. Science fiction at its finest. (I've actually told people I was a science fiction writer. Works great for not having to go into long details of what I do!)"

Dan Masys, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCSD:

"Researchers often want Bioinformaticians to be Biomagicians, people who can make significant results out of non-significant data, or Biomorticians, people who can bury data that disagree with the researcher's prior hypothesis."

Stephen Senn, Department of Statistical Science, University College London:

"The Difference between Mathematical and Applied Statistics:
Mathematical statistics is full of lemmas whereas applied statistics is full of dilemmas."

"Statisticians are always tossing coins but don't own many."

"If you ask a statistician many questions, expect smaller answers."

"Many people use statistics as a dog uses a lamp post; beware of p-values."

"Frequentists think that it is the thought that counts whereas Bayesians count the thoughts."

"With four parameters you can model an elephant and with five you can make it wave its trunk but Walt Disney can make it fly."

Bobby L. Jones, Department of Human Genetics, University of Pittsburgh:

"You can't fix by analysis what was screwed up by design!"

(Adaptation of "You can't fix by analysis what you bungled by design" from Light RJ, Singer JD, Willett JB (1990): By Design: Planning Research on Higher Education. Harvard University Press. Cambridge).

Rosalind Harding, University of Oxford:

On getting a poor answer faster:

"In population genetics there is usually little reason for confidence that an estimate is correct even to within an order of magnitude, but reaching it faster is definitely progress."

Reference: J R Statist Soc B (2000) Vol 62, Part 4, page 638.

Eleanor Feingold, Department of Human Genetics, University of Pittsburgh:

On the changing definition of simple versus complex traits:

"Simple vs. Complex Traits: the real definition

Simple: things we have deluded ourselves into thinking we understand.

Complex: things we're pretty sure we don't understand."

R.A. Fisher, Indian Statistical Congress, Sankhya, ca 1938:

"To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking him to perform a postmortem examination: he may be able to say what the experiment died of."

Winston Churchill:

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

Xiao-Li Meng, ENAR 2004 Spring Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA:

"If you have not seen all the data, how can you estimate how much you haven't seen? But, as statisticians, we can do anything!"

Peter A. Holmans, ENAR 2004 Spring Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA:

"I say 'locus-locus' instead of 'gene-gene' because if you work in human genetics long enough, you realize that you may never have a gene. But you learn not to let that put you off."

Perez-Enciso M. In silico study of transcriptome genetic variation in outbred populations. Genetics. 2004 Jan;166(1):547-54.

"Significant (P < 10e-12) improvements to this work resulted from the reviewers' comments."

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