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 biostatisticians who are willing to work isolated from other statisticians are usually less skilled than those recruited to a vibrant collaborative biostatistics group. Academic medical centers who have placed biostatisticians in various departments experience difficulties not only with retention but with salary and promotion equity. The most talented but isolated statisticians tend to leave to avoid stunted growth in their methodologic expertise. It is best to have highly experienced biostatisticians evaluating other biostatisticians, with strong input from collaborators. The DB has a track record of recruiting at the very highest level, and training, mentoring, and retaining our recruits.
  3. Funding flexibility: Frequently our collaborators do not need 100% of a statistician's time, or one of their grants is not renewed. A flexible 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, 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 their research programs.
  1. An MS Search Committee/Recruitment Team selectively recruits staff biostatisticians hired in the DB. Many candidates have limited breadth and/or depth in their training, or have inadequate computing skills. Our department only recruits staff who bring a high level of expertise to 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, giving us a recruitment edge over departments that recruit an isolated biostatistician. This team atmosphere permits the DB to recruit bright and well-trained faculty and staff with proven collaboration skills.
  3. Active discussion with peers promotes synergy among biostatisticians. Involvement in daily biostatistics clinics for investigators to discuss complex data analyses and experimental design sharpens the skills of staff biostatisticians. 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 with the added value of access to the expertise of other biostatisticians not on their collaborative team.
  4. 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.
Topic revision: r6 - 23 Jul 2013, FrankHarrell

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