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Remember the null hypothesis?
  1. Christopher Randolph
  1. Neurology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL 60153, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christopher Randolph, Neurology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL 60153, USA; crandol{at}

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Few principles are as essential to the education of developing scientists as the role of the null hypothesis in inferential statistics and research in general. This is often taught as directly analogous to the principle of being considered innocent in a court of law until proven guilty. In at least some cases, the consequences of ignoring this scientific principle and embracing an alternate hypothesis without sufficient proof can be substantial, and equivalent to a premature assumption of guilt. Consider, for example, the hypothesis that vaccinations cause autism, or that cooking with aluminium pans causes Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These are both alternative hypotheses that eventuated (and in the former example, continue to eventuate) in widespread public alarm. In both cases, …

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  • Contributors CR is the sole author of this commentary.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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