A Standard Error: Distinguishing Standard Deviation From Standard Error

  1. Rickey E. Carter
  1. Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  1. Corresponding author: Rickey E. Carter, carter.rickey{at}

A recent Perspective in Nature issued a call for more transparency in the reporting of preclinical research (1). Although this article focused primarily on experimental design, it emphasized the need for improved reporting in the scientific literature. Within the context of preclinical studies, there have been discussions regarding the appropriate reporting of standard error (SE) and standard deviation (SD) (25); however, despite the recommendations, opportunities remain to improve upon the reporting of these statistics in the literature.

To first set the stage for the distinction between SD and SE, we start with the similarities. Both SD and SE measure variability or, informally, “spread.” As such, both statistics give a numerical summary of variability. Given this, how does one distinguish SE from SD?

The distinction is that one summarizes the variability of data and the other describes the variability of …

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