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Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31828578ed
Perspectives

Strategies for Developing Biostatistics Resources in an Academic Health Center

Welty, Leah J. PhD; Carter, Rickey E. PhD; Finkelstein, Dianne M. PhD; Harrell, Frank E. Jr PhD; Lindsell, Christopher J. PhD; Macaluso, Maurizio MD, DrPH; Mazumdar, Madhu PhD; Nietert, Paul J. PhD; Oster, Robert A. PhD; Pollock, Brad H. PhD, MPH; Roberson, Paula K. PhD; Ware, James H. PhD; on behalf of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design Key Function Committee of the Clinical and Translational Science Award Consortium

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Abstract

Biostatistics—the application of statistics to understanding health and biology—provides powerful tools for developing research questions, designing studies, refining measurements, analyzing data, and interpreting findings. Biostatistics plays an important role in health-related research, yet biostatistics resources are often fragmented, ad hoc, or oversubscribed within academic health centers (AHCs). Given the increasing complexity and quantity of health-related data, the emphasis on accelerating clinical and translational science, and the importance of conducting reproducible research, the need for the thoughtful development of biostatistics resources within AHCs is growing.

In this article, the authors identify strategies for developing biostatistics resources in three areas: (1) recruiting and retaining biostatisticians, (2) efficiently using biostatistics resources, and (3) improving biostatistical contributions to science. AHCs should consider these three domains in building strong biostatistics resources, which they can leverage to support a broad spectrum of research. For each of the three domains, the authors describe the advantages and disadvantages of AHCs creating centralized biostatistics units rather than dispersing such resources across clinical departments or other research units. They also address the challenges that biostatisticians face in contributing to research without sacrificing their individual professional growth or the trajectory of their research teams. The authors ultimately recommend that AHCs create centralized biostatistics units because this approach offers distinct advantages both to investigators who collaborate with biostatisticians as well as to the biostatisticians themselves, and it is better suited to accomplish the research and education missions of AHCs.

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges

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