Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Personal Views Personal views

The reification of numbers: statistics and the distance between self, work, and others

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7392.771 (Published 05 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:771

Rapid Response:

Numerical supremacy syndrome

Several correspondents make useful observations on our personal view
[The reification of numbers: statistics and the distance between self,
work, and others]. We have not felt that we are a reified body of
traditions, and deny that April 1st was anything other than a coincidence.

Increased concentration on numbers may suggest many interpretations,
and we would do well to remember that modern society, including
contemporary medicine, could not exist without mathematics and statistics.
Numerical supremacy syndrome may or may not be becoming more prevalent
(lawyers notwithstanding, according to Byatt, one of our rapid
respondents), but it seems from our own experience and the commentaries,
that it may be particularly acute in medicine. But is a better balance
between words and numbers - or, if you prefer, data and narratives -
required? We suggest so.

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

11 April 2003
Jeffrey Braithwaite
Associate Professor
Rick Iedema, Ros Sorensen
Centre for Clinical Governance Research in Health, University of NSW, Australia