October 1, 2018: Dr. Greg Simon Uses a Pie Eating Contest Analogy to Explain the Intraclass Correlation Coefficient

In a new video, Dr. Greg Simon explains the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) with an analogy to a pie eating contest. The ICC is a descriptive statistic that measures the correlations among members of a group, and it is an important tool for cluster-randomized pragmatic trials because this calculation helps determine the sample size needed to detect an effect.

Greg Simon from NIH Collaboratory on Vimeo.

“When we randomize treatments by doctors, clinics, or even whole health systems, we need to think about how things cluster, and the intraclass correlation coefficient is the measure of that clustering. When we think about sample sizes in pragmatic clinical trials, it’s important to understand what an intraclass correlation coefficient actually is.”

For most pragmatic trials, the ICC will be between 0 and 1. If the outcomes in a group are completely correlated (ICC=1), then all participants within the group are likely to have the same outcome. When ICC=1, sampling one participant from the cluster is as informative as sampling the whole cluster, and many clusters will be needed to detect an effect. If there is no correlation among members of the groups (ICC=0), then the available sample size for the study is essentially the number of participants.

For more on the ICC, see the Intraclass Correlation section in the Living Textbook or this working document from the Collaboratory’s Biostatistics and Study Design Core.