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After 600 years without executions of heretics, several were burned in France in 1022. Persecutions, erratic across western Europe, remained rare in Orthodox lands. Debate continues over whether large medieval heretical movements existed or were inflated by authorities seeking an excuse to assert their authority. Hunts for heretics turned into witchcraft trials by the late 1300s. Soon a stereotype of the witch insisted that she rejected Christianity and committed evil acts at the devil’s command. Witch hunts then occurred in various lands, especially along the Rhine in 1580–90 and 1620–30. Such persecutions, also erratic, never took place in many areas. The relatively few Russian cases rarely mentioned alliance with Satan. Both strains of persecution arose in western Europe by the eleventh century as fear worsened of enemies within Christendom. The church strengthened its influence, making heresy identifiable. In Catholic and Protestant regions witch hunts arose when villagers accused their neighbours of foul deeds and the local elite seized on the witch stereotype. But authorities often rejected that image, while central officials in Sweden, for instance, halted trials. Thus, it is doubtful that the hunts had the intention or effect of terrorising women, instilling social discipline among peasants or strengthening the state. They ended as objections grew that evidence for witchcraft was weak or conjectural.
It is increasingly essential for medical researchers to be literate in statistics, but the requisite degree of literacy is not the same for every statistical competency in translational research. Statistical competency can range from ‘fundamental’ (necessary for all) to ‘specialized’ (necessary for only some). In this study, we determine the degree to which each competency is fundamental or specialized.
We surveyed members of 4 professional organizations, targeting doctorally trained biostatisticians and epidemiologists who taught statistics to medical research learners in the past 5 years. Respondents rated 24 educational competencies on a 5-point Likert scale anchored by ‘fundamental’ and ‘specialized.’
There were 112 responses. Nineteen of 24 competencies were fundamental. The competencies considered most fundamental were assessing sources of bias and variation (95%), recognizing one’s own limits with regard to statistics (93%), identifying the strengths, and limitations of study designs (93%). The least endorsed items were meta-analysis (34%) and stopping rules (18%).
We have identified the statistical competencies needed by all medical researchers. These competencies should be considered when designing statistical curricula for medical researchers and should inform which topics are taught in graduate programs and evidence-based medicine courses where learners need to read and understand the medical research literature.