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Advantages to Having Biostatisticians Based in a Central Department

  1. Better results, better science: Rapid evolution of basic, translational, and clinical research and its technology platforms requires rapid evolution of statistical design and analysis methods. With the collective expertise of 57 biostatisticians in the Department of Biostatistics (DB), there are methodologic workshops, continuing education, and multiple ways for statisticians to help each other with complex methodologic questions, including daily biostatistics clinics. Methods used by DB statisticians optimize efficiency and reliability; DB relies on a state-of-the-art reproducible research paradigm for its collaborations. Optimum experimental design and analysis plans developed by exceptionally trained and experienced statisticians increase the probability of NIH grant funding.
  2. Recruiting the best and keeping them: A well-documented problem at many academic medical centers is that the type of biostatisticians who are willing to work isolated from other statisticians is a level down from those recruited to a vibrant biostatistics group. The most talented isolated statisticians tend to leave because of stunted growth in methodologic expertise. The DB has a track record of recruiting at the very highest level, and training, mentoring, and retaining the recruits.
  3. Funding flexiblity: Frequently our collaborators do not need 100% of a statistician, or one of their grants ends, in which case DB is able to support the biostatisticians with other projects.
  4. Central infrastructure support: There are real costs of having a biostatistician appointed to another group. These include significant IT support, software, hardware, books, continuing education, professional meetings, and administrative costs. DB absorbs more than 1/2 of these real costs even when a biostatistician is 100% devoted to another department's research program.

The Department of Biostatistics strongly encourages colleagues in other departments to work with our MS and PhD statisticians in your research program.
  1. Staff biostatisticians hired in the DB are selected carefully by an MS Search Committee/Recruitment Team. Many people who call themselves biostatisticians have limited breadth and/or depth in their training, or have inadequate computing skills. Our department has the expertise to identify candidates who truly have the ability to provide professional support to university and medical school faculty in statistical aspects of study design and data analysis.
  2. The best biostatisticians, like all other professionals, seek an environment where they will have peers who can support and stimulate growth in their profession. The DB provides this environment which gives us a recruitment edge over faculty who seek a sole biostatistician to work in isolation. This team atmosphere permits the department to recruit faculty and staff who are bright and well-trained, with proven collaboration skills.
  3. Synergy among biostatisticians is enhanced by active discussion with peers. Involvement in daily biostatistics clinics held with investigators to discuss complex data analyses and experimental design enhance staff biostatisticians’ career development. The department has established best practices and staff are strongly encouraged to apply state-of-the-art statistical/programming techniques and to use reproducible methodology in order to produce high-quality scientific evidence and to ensure research integrity. In addition, Biostatisticians located in the central department are trained as expert consultants and team leaders. Biostatisticians are devoted to their collaborations while having access to expertise biostatisticians not on the collaborative team.
  4. Academic medical centers who have placed biostatisticians in various departments have had difficulties not only with retention but with salary and promotion equity. It is best to have highly experienced biostatisticians evaluating other biostatisticians, with strong input from collaborators.
  5. Using DB biostatisticians rather than individual hires aligns better with the institution's goals to...
    1. Make efficient use of staff
    2. Make efficient use of resources
    3. Reduce redundancies in staffing and support

  • Functions provided by collaborating biostatisticians
  • Benefits of biostatistics to science

See Welty LJ, Carter RE, Finkelstein DM, Harrell FE et al: Strategies for Developing Biostatistics Resources in an Academic Health Center. Academic Medicine 88: 454-460; 2013 for a more in-depth discussion of the advantages of a biostatistics central home.
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Topic revision: r4 - 22 Jul 2013, DalePlummer

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