Animal Biodiversity and Conservation. Volume 37.2 (2014) Pages: 141-143

Subjectivism as an unavoidable feature of ecological statistics

Martínez-Abrain, A., Conesa, D., Forte, A.



We approach here the handling of previous information when performing statistical inference in ecology, both when dealing with model specification and selection, and when dealing with parameter estimation. We compare the perspectives of this problem from the frequentist and Bayesian schools, including objective and subjective Bayesians. We show that the issue of making use of previous information and making a priori decisions is not only a reality for Bayesians but also for frequentists. However, the latter tend to overlook this because of the common difficulty of having previous information available on the magnitude of the effect that is thought to be biologically relevant. This prior information should be fed into a priori power tests when looking for the necessary sample sizes to couple statistical and biological significances. Ecologists should make a greater effort to make use of available prior information because this is their most legitimate contribution to the inferential process. Parameter estimation and model selection would benefit if this was done, allowing a more reliable accumulation of knowledge, and hence progress, in the biological sciences.


Ecology, Previous information, Frequentists, Bayesians, Parameter estimation, Hypothesis testing


Martínez-Abrain, A., Conesa, D., Forte, A., 2014. Subjectivism as an unavoidable feature of ecological statistics. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation, 37: 141-143, DOI:



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