Assessing Reproducibility of Data Obtained With Instruments Based on Continuous Measurements
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Data obtained with any research tool must be reproducible, a concept referred to as reliability. Three techniques are often used to evaluate reliability of tools using continuous data in aging research: intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), Pearson correlations, and paired t tests. These are often construed as equivalent when applied to reliability. This is not correct, and may lead researchers to select instruments based on statistics that may not reflect actual reliability. The purpose of this paper is to compare the reliability estimates produced by these three techniques and determine the preferable technique. A hypothetical dataset was produced to evaluate the reliability estimates obtained with ICC, Pearson correlations, and paired t tests in three different situations. For each situation two sets of 20 observations were created to simulate an intrarater or inter-rater paradigm, based on 20 participants with two observations per participant. Situations were designed to demonstrate good agreement, systematic bias, or substantial random measurement error. In the situation demonstrating good agreement, all three techniques supported the conclusion that the data were reliable. In the situation demonstrating systematic bias, the ICC and t test suggested the data were not reliable, whereas the Pearson correlation suggested high reliability despite the systematic discrepancy. In the situation representing substantial random measurement error where low reliability was expected, the ICC and Pearson coefficient accurately illustrated this. The t test suggested the data were reliable. The ICC is the preferred technique to measure reliability. Although there are some limitations associated with the use of this technique, they can be overcome.
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