Without the right analytical methods, more data just gives a more precise estimate of the wrong thing
Now medicine is entering a new digital age, one of Big Data and high-tech personalised treatments that are tailored to an individual’s genetic make-up. But more data does not necessarily mean better data, so amid the increasing complexity it will be as important as ever to measure correctly which treatments work and which do not.
That the dry world of statistics is becoming a battleground of ideas and commercial interests, affecting the future of medical care and the lives of people around the world, may shock some. For Dr Ellenberg, who has spent her professional life emphasising the life-saving importance of accuracy, it is no surprise at all. “We’ve got all this data,” she says. “The answer isn’t to ignore it. The answer is to figure out how to limit the number of mistakes we make.”