Developing a Collaborative Research Project

When starting a new collaborative research project with a researcher, follow these steps in order to be consistent with the scientific method.

  1. Have the researcher explain what they are studying and define their research questions. As statisticians, we can help by asking questions that help them refine their hypotheses.
  2. Ask the researcher to tell you a little background information. If the study is already being implemented, have them explain the details of the study design, so you can identify statistical issues that may come up.
  3. At your meeting, the researcher may have some ideas about what type of statistical analysis would be appropriate. Discuss the pros and cons of their ideas and consider whether the suggested analysis is appropriate for their study and whether it answers their research question.
  4. After the meeting, think about the problem and develop an analysis plan. Write the proposed analysis in a document to present to your collaborators, explaining the statistical concepts involved.
  5. Meet with the researcher to discuss the plan. Later, you can edit the plan as needed until you and the PIs come to an agreement. Explain the importance of having and following a formal analysis plan, and explain that secondary analyses will be reported as post hoc.
  6. Carry out the analysis specified in the plan.
  7. Write a report with the results and interpretations, and present them to the PI.
  8. The researcher will probably have more ideas. Let them know that you will need to develop a secondary analysis plan for their new questions. This will help them resist the urge to come up with an infinite number of new analyses to run, and help them to think more about the problem and prioritize questions.
See ASA's Ethical Guidelines for Statistical Practice.
Topic revision: r4 - 15 Nov 2011, MarioDavidson

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