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In review
  1. Roderick J McClure
  1. School of Rural Medicine, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Roderick J McClure, School of Rural Medicine, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia; rmcclure{at}

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The end of the year is a conventional time to take stock and assess ones performance over the preceding 12-month period. Comparisons are invariably the currency of these evaluations. Both the notion of evaluation, and the use of comparisons as a tool for undertaking it, are appropriate. The usefulness of the evaluation effort depends on the way the performance questions are framed, and the relevance of the comparisons being made.

As scientists, we are all aware of the importance of getting the research question right. First the question, and after that the rest. As scientists, comparisons are our tools of trade. Epidemiologists are people who compare rates. Importantly, it is ‘rates’ not ‘counts’. Discussion is endlessly had over which rate is the right comparison.

From comparisons, we clarify sets of correlations unencumbered by alternative explanations and draw inferences about causation. This process is simpler in controlled research environments than …

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