Good papers for a journal club (created 2009-03-07)

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I work as a biostatistician within a medical research area and I am planning on starting a stats/research methods journal club. This would be aimed at postgraduate students (from both science and medical degree background), early career academic researchers (again, they come from both science and medical backgrounds), and clinical researchers (medical doctors from areas such as critical care and gastroenterology). In conjunction with published work from their research areas I wish to use papers that present fairly fundamental statistical concepts in an easy to read manner. I imagine focusing more on theoretical/philosophical issues, rather than 'this is how you do an ANOVA' type treatises. Does anyone have any favourite such papers that they find useful for researchers?

Here are some examples of papers that I like:

LeLorier J, Gregoire G, Benhaddad A, Lapierre J, Derderian F. Discrepancies between Meta-Analyses and Subsequent Large Randomized, Controlled Trials. N Engl J Med. 1997;337(8):536-542. Available at: [Accessed March 7, 2009]. This article compared large randomized trials with earlier meta-analyses published on the same topic. The meta-analyses did not agree well with the large randomized trials, indicating that meta-analysis may not be as useful a tool as some people have suggested.

Stelfox HT, Chua G, O'Rourke K, Detsky AS. Conflict of Interest in the Debate over Calcium-Channel Antagonists. N Engl J Med. 1998;338(2):101-106. Available at: [Accessed March 7, 2009]. This article shows that the conclusions drawn in research involving a class of drugs is strongly associated with financial ties to drug companies manufacturing drugs in this class.

Concato J, Shah N, Horwitz RI. Randomized, Controlled Trials, Observational Studies, and the Hierarchy of Research Designs. N Engl J Med. 2000;342(25):1887-1892. Available at: [Accessed March 7, 2009]. This article produces research that suggests that a well conducted observational study produces results consistent with a randomized study.

Hrobjartsson A, Gotzsche PC. Is the Placebo Powerless?- An Analysis of Clinical Trials Comparing Placebo with No Treatment. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(21):1594-1602. Available at: [Accessed March 7, 2009]. This article finds that the placebo arm is often no different than a no treatment arm. Some people have misinterpreted this article as stating that there is no need for placebo controls in research, but what it is really saying is that research in mechanisms behind the placebo effect (intended to try to harness the power of the placebo) may be going down a blind alley (no pun intended).

All of these of these articles can lead to some valuable debates.