Breaking Free of Sample Size Dogma to Perform Innovative Translational Research

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.
Science translational medicine (Impact Factor: 15.84). 06/2011; 3(87):87ps24. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001628
Source: PubMed


Innovative clinical and translational research is often delayed or prevented by reviewers' expectations that any study performed in humans must be shown in advance to have high statistical power. This supposed requirement is not justifiable and is contradicted by the reality that increasing sample size produces diminishing marginal returns. Studies of new ideas often must start small (sometimes even with an n of 1) because of cost and feasibility concerns, and recent statistical work shows that small sample sizes for such research can produce more projected scientific value per dollar spent than larger sample sizes. Renouncing false dogma about sample size would remove a serious barrier to innovation and translation.

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