Collaboration Protected Time and Cost-Sharing Model


  • Integrate Biostatistics into research fabric of VU School of Medicine
  • Develop long-term collaborative relationships; develop statistical scientists instead of statistical consultants
  • Provide continuity that will allow biostatisticians to learn enough about biomedical research areas to be effective co-investigators
  • Increase NIH grant funding by maintaining grant development capabilities
  • Help organize research teams that plan in advance and submit better grant proposals that have a higher likelihood of funding
  • Always have someone with available FTE who can be listed on a grant application
  • Be able to respond to RFPs and RFAs with short lead times, and to training grant opportunities
  • Hire new faculty and staff in proportion to anticipated grant funding
  • Foster research in clinical departments, in ways other than just grant development
    • participate in meetings
    • work with fellows and residents
    • improve research methodology skills of faculty
    • help develop new clinical investigators

The Problem

  • It is necessary to fund biostatisticians to work in research development because
    • The research project is more often than not in an area that is unfamiliar to a randomly chosen biostatistician; the biostatistician must invest real time to learn enough about the science to be able to choose the best statistical design and analysis
    • Moderately large grant proposals require more than 40 hours of combined MS + PhD statistician time
    • Any small percent efforts that the Department of Biostatistics would be able to fund to provide grant development support would be quickly overrun by the large number of investigators in need of such support
  • Easy to fund biostatisticians on grant proposals
  • Difficult to hire ahead of funding
  • Difficult to maintain enough unallocated percent efforts to collaborate on new ideas
  • Many PIs see grant proposals as needing only last-minute statistical consulting and may get a different consultant every time
    • Biostatisticians do not have time to do their best work, especially with regard to study design
  • There are ways other than grant proposals that biostatisticians can help foster research in clinical departments
  • VICTR CTSA provides 1.5 FTE biostatistician time for all School of Medicine faculty combined
    • This does not cover basic and animal research and only allows the VICTR Design Biostatistics and Research Ethics core to help with small requests

The Plan

  • Replace consultation (other than for very small projects) with collaboration
  • Support other departments through new long-term collaboration model
  • Department of Biostatistics operating funds provide 1:4 cost matching to other Divisions and Departments for PhD faculty biostatistician time
  • Masters-level biostatistician time is funded by the department/division needed support by a straight % effort payment
  • There is an overhead charge of $8000 per combined PhD+MS FTE per year to pay for IT support, continuing education, travel to scientific meetings, statistical software, hardware, use of ACCRE parallel computing facility, books, and journals
  • Example: Suppose that a Division with 7 active researchers not supported by a biostatistics core facility such as the Cancer Biostatistics Division or the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center needs 1/4 PhD and 1/2 MS biostatistician. That Division would pay
    • 1/2 of salary + fringe for the MS biostatistician
    • 4/5 of 1/4 = 1/5 of the PhD biostatistician's salary + fringe but will have 1/4 of the faculty member's time dedicated to them
    • 3/4 * $8000 = $6000 per year for IT/professional expenses/software/hardware
  • This would provide
    • priority work on grant proposals from this group
    • data analysis for existing non-grant-funded projects
    • study and experimental design for non-grant-funded projects
    • assistance with non-grant-funded manuscripts
    • assistance with journal clubs (methodologic review)
    • assistance with research conference (e.g., data analysis and pre-conference critique of fellows' presentations)
    • teaching short courses in experimental design and analysis methodology for the Division
    • K award mentoring
  • Understandings:
    • The collaboration plan does not cover work funded by grants other than K awards which do not support biostatistician salaries. Biostatistician support should be built into grant budgets during submission.
    • As grant proposals arising from this arrangement are funded, grant funds will supplement rather than replace the collaborative funding arrangement
    • As grants are funded, either new personnel will be hired or identified by the Department of Biostatistics to work on the new projects, or personnel supported by the collaboration arrangement will move to the new projects and new personnel will assume positions funded by the cost-sharing arrangement
    • For groups not requiring full-time collaborators, existing personnel may assume both roles
    • Division or Department head or vice-chair for research will prioritize usage of the resource by her or his faculty
    • Division or Department investigators will provide yearly input to Department of Biostatistics for faculty and staff reviews, regarding quality of collaborations and research by biostatisticians
    • The plan will be used to support abstract preparation on a first-come first-serve basis for fellows, other trainees, and junior faculty as part of their first research project. The intention of the abstract must be to later produce a manuscript for peer review. Normally advance notice of at least one month is required.
  • Option for Divisions/Departments Not in Collaboration Plan
    • VICTR CTSA for small requests for human subjects research; requesting division/department likely to get a different consultant each time without background knowledge of your area
    • Cancer Biostatistics core for cancer research as part of grant proposals
    • Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Statistics & Methodology Core for Kennedy Center investigators
    • Consulting charged by the hour through the Biostatistics Collaboration Center, for both PhD and MS biostatistician time
    • All of these require adequate lead time

How to Take Part in the Program

Tell Frank Harrell about your future needs, which will guide our recruiting of faculty and staff biostatisticians.

Topic revision: r14 - 09 Feb 2015, FrankHarrell
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