Review your standards

Monday, January 06th, 2014 by hinrich


I have seen this numerous times: a new technology comes up and we judge its quality by comparing it to what we know. Microarray technology measures tens of thousands of transcripts in a sample simultaneously. The manufacturers had to show the value of the technology by comparing the results to the data obtained by RTqPCR (the at-the-time established technology). Rarely do we question at that moment whether the approach we are used to is "right". Rather, we assume it is correct and would like to see that the new technology provides us with the same information as we frequently lack a gold standard.

I was reminded about this when reading Mikkel's blog post "Centaurs, the Game of Chess, and 'Smarter Than You Think' by Clive Thompson". He rightly mentions:

For example, I have always thought it curious that people get very upset when "kids today" have trouble reading a traditional clock face, as they have digital clocks all around them. We don't get similarly upset when they don't know how to read a sundial.

In other words, it is worthwhile to question yourself when evaluating some new development, how sure you are about the accuracy of your reference points when coming up with a judgement...

Reference: Centaurs, the Game of Chess, and 'Smarter Than You Think' by Clive Thompson

Posted in Society