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Veni grant for Rianne de Heide's research into new mathematical theory

4 August 2023
In recent years, much attention has been paid to the replication crisis in scientific research. Experiments in fields such as psychology or medicine are repeated, but lead to a different outcome. Mathematician Rianne de Heide has been awarded a Veni grant for her research into new mathematical theory for multiple testing. This makes it possible to conduct scientific research in a more reliable and efficient manner.

One of the causes of the replication crisis is the use of statistics in a way it is not suited for. In common statistics, the p-value is used to determine whether an outcome is statistically significant. A researcher who works with the p-value is not allowed to add test subjects to an experiment if the research looks promising. Many researchers do this anyway, which can lead to false positives: it seems that you have found a result, for example that a drug works better than a placebo, but that is not the case.

New statistics

In recent years, work has been underway in a number of places around the world on a new theory for this type of statistics, based on the so-called "e-value". This new theory is much more flexible: as a researcher, for example, you can look at your results and then decide whether to add more test subjects to your experiment. However, the chance of false positives remains the same. De Heide is one of the pioneers in this field.

Multiple testing

In certain fields, such as genetics and brain scan analysis, not one, but hundreds of thousands of hypothesis tests are performed simultaneously. On a brain scan, the brain is divided into hundreds of thousands of voxels (3D pixels). It is tested for each voxel: is there brain activity here or not? This leads to a high probability of false positives. In her Veni research, Rianne will develop mathematical theory for multiple hypothesis testing with e-values. The flexibility offered by this new statistical theory can be used when many hypothesis tests are performed at the same time.

Efficient and reliable research

With the development of new mathematical theory, scientific research in all fields where multiple testing takes place can become more efficient and reliable. Fewer test subjects, time and money are needed, and fewer false positives are found.


The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded Rianne de Heide a Veni grant. This will enable her to further develop her own research into new mathematical theory for multiple hypothesis testing over the next three years.

The NWO Talent Program gives researchers the freedom to conduct their own research based on creativity and passion. They receive a maximum of 280,000 euros. The program stimulates innovation and curiosity. Free research contributes to and prepares us for the society of tomorrow. That is why NWO focuses on a diversity of scientists, domains and backgrounds. Veni is part of the Talent Program together with the Vidi and Vici grants.

NWO selects researchers based on the scientific quality and innovative character of the research proposal, the scientific and/or social impact of the proposed project and the quality of the researcher.