Statistical bias in isotope ratios

Christopher D Coath, Robert C J Steele, W. Fred Lunnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the mathematics of the systematic bias in the expected value of the ratio of two noise-corrected Poisson-distributed variables, such as ion counting measurements. Such bias can lead to the reporting of incorrect ratios and, in some cases, systematic correlations with other measurements which can impact the scientific interpretation. We describe a novel method of treating such measurements which results in a negligible, exponentially small bias. We also re-examine the conventional approach deriving an exact expression for the bias including the noise correction explicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-58
JournalJournal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • isotope ratio
  • statistical bias
  • poisson distribution

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