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A few more notes on that vaccine study

Figures from the which-arm-for-the-second-shot study I wrote about yesterday reminded me of the delightfully titled “An illusion of predictability in scientific results: Even experts confuse inferential uncertainty and outcome variability” published in PNAS. Dean Eckles To be clear, this is not the error study authors made, but see for yourself the chart that got them a USA Today head nod:

Spike-specific CD8 T-cells from Ziegler et al. eBioMedicine 2023.

Plot of spike-directed CD69-positive, interferon-gamma-positive T cells in ipsilateral versus contralateral group

So much variability! And even with 143 samples, still so much uncertainty. But increasing the sample size would help the variability much, as noted in PNAS:

Inferential uncertainty vs. outcome variability from Zhang et al. PNAS 2023.

Uncertainty variability

You can squish the error bars, but you can’t squish your study population. Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

But now that we have that figure from the vaccine article up, let’s note two more things:

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