ASA’s Statement on p-Values: Context, Process, and Purpose

Last modified: May 23, 2017

Can we rely on p-values? Everyone who has ever participated in a debate on the validity of science, knows that it never takes long before somebody will bring up the topic of p-values. Tom Siegfried, a journalist at ScienceNews, even calls it ‘science’s dirtiest secret’, arguing that ‘the “scientific method” of testing hypotheses by statistical analysis stands on a flimsy foundation’. What then is going on?

Although the p-value is still the most widely used index to assess statistical significance, questions have been raised about its validity. Numerable papers have pointed out the flaws of this research tool for testing hypotheses and have hackled the strange conclusions it might lead to. But what if the problem is not the p-value itself –which can be a useful statistical measure- but the fact that ‘it is commonly misused and misinterpreted’?

This American Statistical Association (ASA) Statement aims to clarify some of the underlying principles of the p-value and gives a clear description of how this index is to be used. Moreover it pays special attention to the importance of contextual factors and the way researchers should take these into account. This report was written for a general scientific audience and it is a real recommendation for all who want to learn more about p-values but have always been afraid to ask.


Title:The ASA’s Statement on p-Values: Context, Process, and Purpose
Authors: Wasserstein RL, Lazar NA.
DOI: 10.1080/00031305 (2016)

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