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Allen Wilcox Delivers 2020 Wacholder Lecture

, by DCEG Staff

In October, Allen Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., scientist emeritus in the Epidemiology Branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences delivered the annual Sholom Wacholder Distinguished Lecture.

In his talk, “The Cost of False-Positive Results: A Personal History,” Dr. Wilcox highlighted a well-cited paper by Dr. Wacholder and colleagues (Wacholder et al, J Natl Cancer Inst, 2004) which discussed the factors that influence the probability that a positive finding is false (middling p-value, low prior probability of the hypothesis, and low statistical power to reject the null hypothesis). Citing examples from throughout his career, Dr. Wilcox illustrated the toll of false-positive results, not only in terms of wasted resources and time, but also on the psyche of the scientists and the damage to their credibility and that of the field of epidemiology.

As the third speaker to deliver the annual Wacholder lecture, Dr. Wilcox concluded his talk with fond memories of Dr. Wacholder, “for those fortunate enough to have collaborated with Sholom directly, he was a model of creative and rigorous thinking, always aiming to provide useful answers to important questions. If there is anything that could be said to have exceeded his passion for his work, it is the generosity of spirit that infused it. We celebrate that generosity, and we sorely miss his unique voice.”

The lecture was widely attended virtually through Webex by investigators, staff, and fellows from DCEG and across the NCI.

The Wacholder Lecture is named in memory of Sholom Wacholder, Ph.D., senior investigator in the Biostatistics Branch who passed away in 2015. He was a brilliant, multidisciplinary and critical thinker who worked at the intersection of quantitative reasoning and science.

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