Can RealRisk be used with any research paper?
RealRisk can be used with any study which investigates the link between a risk factor and an outcome of interest and reports a
(OR) or a
. If none of these statistical figures are reported, the paper is not suitable for RealRisk.
Here are some examples of papers that would be suitable for RealRisk:
- Type and timing of menopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer risk: individual participant meta-analysis of the worldwide epidemiological evidence.
- Consumption of sugar‐sweetened and artificially sweetened soft drinks and risk of cancers not related to obesity.
- Association between Excessive Use of Mobile Phone and Insomnia and Depression among Japanese Adolescents.
What if I don't know all the inputs?
Only the inputs ‘paper title’ and ‘DOI’ are optional. The essential inputs for the calculation are baseline risk and change in relative risk (RR, HR, OR). The rest of the inputs requested are labels explaining what those numbers mean, but they are crucial for producing a meaningful result, that is why they do not appear as optional. All of these inputs should be in the paper, but sometimes, particularly the baseline risks are not reported. Guidance is provided in the next question.
What if the baseline risk is not in the paper?
Check the paper carefully: introduction, methods and results are the most common sections to include the baseline risk used in the study. If it is not in the paper, here are some alternatives:
- Calculate the percentage yourself.
Sometimes the raw numbers are reported and you could calculate the percentage yourself (eg. ‘In the group receiving placebo 6 out of 134 people developed antibiotic resistance’, then, the baseline risk would be 4%).
- Request it from the corresponding author
Contact the corresponding author and request it. Remember, if their study reports an RR, OR or HR they are explicitly comparing outcomes between two groups. You are just asking for the risk (or probability) of the outcome in one of those groups - the control or baseline. (You could even ask them to fill out RealRisk themselves!)
Researchers may point out that these numbers sometimes come out of statistical models, and don’t emerge straightforwardly from the raw numbers. That is true, but don’t be fobbed off - they can still calculate the baseline risk!
- Find a relevant figure from a trustworthy authority.
If the corresponding author is unhelpful, you may have to look elsewhere for a relevant statistic. Charities like
etc. may be able to help, and their websites often include the relevant facts and figures. Other useful organisations include the
for US stats, and the
for the UK.
If you are a journalist looking report a piece of research, note that you don’t have to use exactly the same baseline risk as the one used in the paper
For example, if a piece of research reports a 70% increased risk (an RR of 1.7) of depression amongst under 18s year olds who vape, you could quote a trusted authority on the percentage of under 18s who suffer from depression – and then apply the 70% increase to that. It may not be the exact baseline figure used in the study, but if it’s a trustworthy number with direct relevance to your audience, it’s a correct and effective way to report the research.
What if the paper includes multiples risk results? How do I know what numbers to use?
It is common that papers report multiple results because, for example, they could have tested the effect of multiple doses, or different foods or different treatments. RealRisk can only analyse results one at a time. So, select one result to input, probably the one with the biggest effect in the study, and you could do the same with as many results as you want. Any time you input a different result you may have to change other inputs.
Who designed the website?
At the Winton Centre we believe that everyone has a right to balanced evidence on issues important to them; evidence presented in a transparent way, to inform but not persuade.
We aim to seek out the evidence about issues important to people’s lives, and ensure that it is presented to them in such a way as to make the potential for both risk and benefit as clear as possible. We want to encourage global adoption of the best-known methods of communicating quantitative evidence clearly and without bias.
If you want to get in touch about RealRisk - to share feedback or if you need some help - email firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can I find more information on how to report risk and statistics?
A podcast presented by David Spiegelhater that explores how risk should be communicated in areas like health, environment and politics.
by the Science Media Centre
by Sense About Science, 2010