Mr Reliable

Kevin Durant is Mr Reliable

Being reliable is an important and sought after trait in life. Kevin Durant has proven himself to be just that to the NBA. Would you agree (pun intended)? So, we have been talking about agreement lately and we have covered precision (see Repeat After Me) and accuracy (see Men in Tights). Today let’s talk a little about reliability.

As I mentioned last time, the concepts of accuracy and precision originated in the physical sciences because direct measurements are possible. Not to be outdone, the social sciences (and later in the Medical Sciences) decided to define their own terms of agreement – validity and reliability.
So the concept of reliability was developed to reflect the amount of error, both random and systematic, in any given measurement. For example if you were to want to assess the the measurement error in repeated measurements on the same subject under identical conditions or to measure the consistency of two readings obtained by two different readers on the same subject under identical conditions. 
The reliability coefficient is simply the ratio of variability between subjects to the total variability (sum of subject variability and measurement error). A coefficient of 0 indicates no reliability and 1 indicates perfect reliability with no measurement error.
Being Mr Reliable (see the trailer to this cool old movie from the sixties) is always desirable but keep in mind that when you consider reliability remember that:
1- A true score exists but is not directly measurable (philosophical…)
2- A measurement is always the sum of the true score and a random error.
3- Any two measurements for the same subject are parallel measurements in that they are assumed to have the same mean and variance.
With these assumptions in place, reliability can be also expressed as the correlation between any two measurements on the same subject – AKA the intraclass correlation coefficient or ICC (originally defined by Sir Francis Galton and later further developed by Pearson and Fisher). We will talk about the ICC in a later post.
Phew! That was a mouthful. All this talk of reliability is exhausting. Maybe Lean on me (or Bill Withers, actually) for a bit and we will talk about validity when we come back…

See you in the blogosphere,

Pascal Tyrrell

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