Reviewing the evolutionary landscape of biostatistics
Michael J. Montalbano*
College students and adults consistently use inappropriate reasoning with statistical analyses. Evidence from comparative ethology studies showing mathematical learning across multiple species and generational gains on various measures of human intelligence indicate that mathematical skills may be environmentally modulated beyond innate constraints. New paradigms in mathematical biology, such as nonlinear dynamics (NLD), may also provide better cognitive congruence than the indiscrete and probabilistic numerosities of traditional biostatistics. To examine foundational influences on the propagation of traditional biostatistics, the publication output listed on the PubMed database by the progenitor institution of statistics, University College London (UCL), was used as an intervening variable for the rate of adopting newer paradigms. From the benchmark year 1977 until 2021, there were 216 publications by UCL using NLD compared to 99 200 UCL publications overall and 39 334 publications concerning NLD by all other sources. The difference in UCL publication rates between NLD and other topics was not significant (z = 0.014, p = 0.99), suggesting no institutional cognitive capture. However, there was a significant difference between NLD coverage by UCL and by competitors (z = 2.468, p = 0.014) that indicates a considerable shift within applied mathematics. Further investigations should examine whether continuance of theory-laden biostatistics can lead to promotion of a maladaptive generational Baldwin effect, and whether the paradigm of NLD can lead to consensus-forged new mathematical models in scientific communities.