Title: Migratory Birds, the H5N1 Influenza Virus and the Scientific Method
Citation: VIROLOGY JOURNAL vol. 5 p. 57-1; 57-3
Publication Year: 2008
JRC N°: JRC43926
ISSN: 1743-422X
URI: http://www.virologyj.com/content/pdf/1743-422X-5-57.pdf; http://www.virologyj.com/content/5/1/57
DOI: 10.1186/1743-422X-5-57
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Background: The role of migratory birds and of poultry trade in the dispersal of highly pathogenic H5N1 is still the topic of intense and controversial debate. In a recent contribution to this journal, Flint argues that the strict application of the scientific method can help to resolve this issue. Discussion: We argue that Flint¿s identification of the scientific method with null hypothesis testing is misleading and counterproductive. There is far more to science than the testing of hypotheses; not only the justification, bur also the discovery of hypotheses belong to science. We also show why null hypothesis testing is weak and that Bayesian methods are a preferable approach to statistical inference. Furthermore, we criticize the analogy put forward by Flint between involuntary transport of poultry and long-distance migration. Summary: To expect ultimate answers and unequivocal policy guidance from null hypothesis testing puts unrealistic expectations on a flawed approach to statistical inference and on science in general.
JRC Directorate:Space, Security and Migration

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