Scientific Program > Topic 3 > Session 3H >
Presentation 3H2. Teaching Consultancy through Direct Experience in Research Projects:
The Approach of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Shrikant I. Bangdiwala (USA)
M. Lourdes Amarillo (the Philippines)
Chulaluk Komoltri (Thailand)
Sergio R. Munoz (Chile)
M. Nelcy Rodriguez (Colombia)
Julio M. Singer (Brasil)
Suresh Ughade (India)


Presentation Abstract


Teaching statistical consultancy involves statistical methodological training as well as learning interpersonal and negotiation skills. There are several textbooks recently available on the issues involved for successful consultants. However, an important element is the direct, or 'hands-on' experience that the future consultant receives. Often this is not part of classroom course content except perhaps with role playing, and consulting statisticians get 'initiated by fire' on real consultation and may not be adequately prepared to face them.

The approach of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is to provide a dual training that includes classroom work, but also involves a 'real' practicum. This is required of all students. The objective of this paper is to present various modalities of the UNC experience in training future consultants. These are evaluated by former students of the Department of Biostatistics that are currently involved in consultation and in training in their respective countries.


Students are required to enroll in a 1-credit course on the principles of statistical consulting that emphasizes the non-technical aspects of consultation. After completion of the course, students must enroll in a 2-credit course on practice in statistical consulting. Under the supervision of a faculty member, the student interacts with research workers in the health sciences, learning to abstract the statistical aspects of substantive problems, to provide appropriate technical assistance, and to communicate effectively statistical results. This practice is real in the sense that the problems and timelines are real.

The practice can take many forms, from participating in the Biometric Consulting Laboratory of the Department, working directly one-on-one with an investigator, working as part of a center providing biostatistical consultation services to various investigators, working as a graduate research assistant on a funded research project, or other variations. The type of experience and success of the training is explored by descriptions of the actual experiences by former students.


These are to be completed by the co-authors and will be forthcoming. They will be discussing their actual training in consulting received while at UNC, the research project and their experience in participating in it, and then their application of their consulting skills in either training others or actual consultations in their countries since their training.


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