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Stephen Senn, Special Invited Speaker presentation abstract

Understanding Randomisation

Stephen Senn, Consultant Statistician, Edinburgh

100 years ago, in 1919, Fisher arrived at Rothamsted Agricultural Research Station and began his programme of revolutionising statistics. He realised that it was not enough for the subject of statistics to concern itself with the analysis of data but that it also had to deal with the process of collecting and planning to collect data. Thus, statistics became, under his leadership, a subject not just about analysis of experiments but also about their design.

One of the innovations in design he introduced was randomisation. However, although this has proved to be a practical success in many fields it has become a critical failure amongst many methodologists, in particular, philosophers of science. In my opinion much of the mistrust can be traced to a misunderstanding as to how statistical analysis of randomised experiments proceeds. In this talk I attempt to clear up the misunderstanding and show that many of the criticisms of randomisation turn out to be irrelevant.

Related blogs and articles


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Drug Stores

CVS:  Next to hotel; 600 University City Blvd Blacksburg (540-951-4911); website.


Farmers Market

Downtown Blacksburg:Wednesdays: Noon-6pm & Saturdays: 9am-2pm (map); (website).


Grocery Stores:

Kroger’s (near your hotel): 24 hours; (540) 951-3045; 903 University City Blvd, Blacksburg, VA 24060; website.

Kroger’s (South Main Street): 24 hours; (540) 953-7004;1322 S Main St., Blacksburg, VA 24060; website.

Oasis World Market: 1411 S Main St, Blacksburg, VA 24060; (540) 953-3950Website

Quaint shops:

Downtown Blacksburg (see here), and recommended by your hotel (here).



First & Main (Blacksburg Mall & Cinema): (423) 246-0009; 1490 S Main Street Blacksburg, VA 24060; website.

New River Valley Mall (Christiansburg Mall & Cinema): website

University Mall (near your hotel):801 University City Blvd, Blacksburg, VA 24060; (540) 552-0882 


Big Box Stores (Christiansburg):

Barnes & Noble: Spradlin Farms, 110 Conston Avenue, Christiansburg, VA 24073; 540-381-4923 website.

Bed Bath & Beyond: New River Valley Mall 135 Shoppers Way Northwest, Christiansburg, VA 24073; Phone(540) 381-7626; website.

Best Buy: 105 Shoppers Way, Christiansburg, VA 24073; (540) 382-9517; website.

Hobby Lobby: 100 Laurel St NE, Christiansburg, VA 24073;(540) 381-6393;  (website)

Lowes: 350 Peppers Ferry Rd NE, Christiansburg, VA 24073; (540) 381-1000website.

Walmart Supercenter: 2400 N Franklin St, Christiansburg, VA 24073; (540) 381-3705; website.

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American Phil Assoc Blog: The Stat Crisis of Science: Where are the Philosophers?

Ship StatInfasST

The Statistical Crisis of Science: Where are the Philosophers?

This was published today on the American Philosophical Association blog

“[C]onfusion about the foundations of the subject is responsible, in my opinion, for much of the misuse of the statistics that one meets in fields of application such as medicine, psychology, sociology, economics, and so forth.” (George Barnard 1985, p. 2)

“Relevant clarifications of the nature and roles of statistical evidence in scientific research may well be achieved by bringing to bear in systematic concert the scholarly methods of statisticians, philosophers and historians of science, and substantive scientists…” (Allan Birnbaum 1972, p. 861).

“In the training program for PhD students, the relevant basic principles of philosophy of science, methodology, ethics and statistics that enable the responsible practice of science must be covered.” (p. 57, Committee Investigating fraudulent research practices of social psychologist Diederik Stapel)

I was the lone philosophical observer at a special meeting convened by the American Statistical Association (ASA) in 2015 to construct a non-technical document to guide users of statistical significance tests–one of the most common methods used to distinguish genuine effects from chance variability across a landscape of social, physical and biological sciences.

It was, by the ASA Director’s own description, “historical”, but it was also highly philosophical, and its ramifications are only now being discussed and debated. Today, introspection on statistical methods is rather common due to the “statistical crisis in science”. What is it? In a nutshell: high powered computer methods make it easy to arrive at impressive-looking ‘findings’ that too often disappear when others try to replicate them when hypotheses and data analysis protocols are required to be fixed in advance.

Continue reading “American Phil Assoc Blog: The Stat Crisis of Science: Where are the Philosophers?”

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Local Maps & Transportation

Nearest Airport: Roanoke (ROA):

  • SmartWay Bus:$4, (exact change) but does not go to Marriott, stops at Squires Student Center (~1 mile walk uphill). Schedule. Note, doesn’t run Sundays, but can get an “airport transfer” that shuttle below will accept, which leaves at 2:30 and 6:30 pm. Must check in with their desk first. (Info here.)
  • Car Rentals (Budget, Hertz, Alamo, Enterprise)
  • Roanoke Airport Transportation Service: (Direct to & from the Marriott Residence Inn)
    $66/1 person/1 way
    $33/each for 2  people/1 way
    $30/each for 3 or more people/1 way
    Reservations/Contact: Toll Free Number: 1-800-288-1958
  • Taxi Ride (in general): ~$70/one-way

Other Airports within driving distance:

  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT): Charlotte NC, 178 miles from Blacksburg, 3 hour drive using I-77
  • Dulles International Airport (IAD): Washington DC, 255 miles via I-81, a little over 4 hours driving.

Local Maps:

VT main campus map

Blacksburg VA street map


Blacksburg Transit (City & Campus Bus):

Home page; (including live bus map)
Fare: 50 cents


Bike Rental: Bike Barn (540) 443-9960; (website), (rentals info)

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Blacksburg Cafes & Restaurants

Restaurants next to your hotel:

The Marriott Residence Inn provides a list of restaurants next to the hotel at this link.


(Review of 5 of the coffee shops below)

Bollo’s Café & Bakery (206 Draper Rd NW, Blacksburg, VA 24060)

Cafe At Champs (111 N Main St, Blacksburg, VA 24060)

Caffe Bella (915 Hethwood Blvd, Blacksburg, VA 24060)

Idego Coffee (119 N. Main St., Blacksburg, VA 24060)

Continue reading “Blacksburg Cafes & Restaurants”