Collaboration between statisticians and researchers
In the last few days I was thinking about how researchers could collaborate efficiently with their experts in statistics. With the increasing complexity in science, interchanging information can be crucial to get the best results. But what happens when a researcher doesn’t give all the information a statistician needs?
When someone asks for help in this field -as a clinician, I need it often-, many biostatisticians ensure that some basic points are met in a research study -prior to the actual analysis-, and I think they should ask for them as soon as possible:
- Is the research question sensible, and supported by the literature in any way? A good research idea should be accompanied by a short review with pros, cons and all the important references, which could guide you to the most appropriate or most used statistical methods in whatever field. Ask for it, read it. If the study has a flaw at this point, it’s easier to correct them now than later.
- Is the research question defined and detailed at the end of the review? Does it have a main objective? Do they plan further analyses depending on the results? Do researchers give enough information for sample size calculation? With these points you can avoid getting stuck in the middle of a study for a long time. The scientific method is always a good guide if things go wrong.
- Data? Ok, they have planned something taking into account their available knowledge. But how about the resources? Can they collect all the data they need? If not, how can the design be adapted? Often, they have to change something in the research question, and start again. But in the worst case it takes much less time than not doing things right from the beginning.
Have they -researchers, clinicians, whoever-, met all three tips above? Then, your chances of helping them to answer the question will increase, and even the time to the answer can decrease substantially.
I hope this has been useful!
You can find my blog “Tales of R…messing around with free code” here.