Getting started in biostatistical consultancy

8 Jul 2019 2:58 PM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

The SSA Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section co-hosted their ‘Getting started in biostatistical consultancy’ workshop with the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne on Thursday 4th July. This long-awaited event attracted a great amount of interest, reaching capacity shortly after the early-bird registration date; perhaps not surprising given the fantastic speakers we managed to attract to speak at this event! Sadly, the morning fog in Sydney caused some issues for our interstate participants planning to attend, although some valiantly made their way on later flights to catch up on the proceedings.

Associate Professor Susan Donath, Senior Biostatistician and Deputy Director of the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at MCRI, kicked off the morning session with an overview of statistical consultancy from start to finish. Susan stressed the importance of being curious and asking many, many questions with “what is your research question?” being the most critical and often taking the longest to answer! Susan also highlighted the importance of having a network of biostatisticians to discuss problems with.

Next up was Dr Emily Karahalios, Senior Research Fellow at both Monash and Melbourne University, who discussed how to plan, organise and monitor projects. Emily stressed the importance of having face-to-face meetings at the beginning of consultancy projects to avoid confusion that can occur from emails. Emily also provided some fantastic resources for helping project planning and monitoring, noting the need to take time to plan your work and to be realistic with yourself (and others) about what can be achieved within a given timeframe.

After lunch, Professor Julie Simpson, Head of the Biostatistics Unit at Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and leader of the Biostatistics node of the Melbourne Clinical and Translational Science platform at Melbourne University, delivered a presentation on how to reach clients. As well as discussing finance models and modes of operation, Julie talked about how to build a team and work effectively with one another. She led a lively interactive session in which participants talked about the characteristics they bring to a team and what their strengths are.

Our final presenter of the day was Dr Emi Tanaka from the University of Sydney who discussed interacting with different (and difficult!) clients. Emi discussed the emotional impact that difficult clients can have on us and our work as biostatistical consultants and how we can overcome that. She noted that it is important to keep a communication trail so that all have a record of any agreements that were made.

The workshop ended with a lively panel discussion with many questions from our very engaged audience. We thought the workshop was a great success and hope the participants enjoyed it too!

Karen Lamb, Jaimi Greenslade and Sabine Braat on behalf of the Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Section

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