FAQs

What's the role of a research consultant?
When should I involve a research consultant?
Can a research consultant still help if I've already collected data?
What should I expect at my first consultation meeting?
What should I bring to the initial consultation?
What can I expect from the initial consultation?
What are the responsibilities of a research consultant?
What are my responsibilities as a client?
What are the ethics involved in statistical consulting?

What's the role of a research consultant?
The role a research consultant plays in a research study depends on the needs and resources related to the project. They can serve as a full collaborator or partner in research. The particular work and responsibilities of the research consultant are agreed upon on a per project basis. These may vary from involvement in all project-related activities to serving as a technical adviser who fields questions. Regardless of the scope of work, there will be certain activities and responsibilities a research consultant takes on as standard practice. For example, our research consultants have expertise to effectively evaluate projects and may identify issues not obvious to the researcher.

We specialize in the following research activities:

  • Articulating research objectives
  • Cleaning data
  • Co-authoring manuscripts
  • Conducting descriptive analysis
  • Defining population and sample
  • Designing databases
  • Determining sample size
  • Developing data instruments
  • Planning measurements
  • Refining proposals/protocols
  • Reporting results
  • Selecting research design
  • Understanding IRB proposals/protocols

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When should I involve a research consultant?
It's important and, typically, most effective to involve a research consultant at the beginning of a project. The research consultant can verify the research design is adequate to meet the specific aims of the project. He or she can provide assistance in relation to sample size, randomization, blinding procedures, intervention strategies, timing of procedures and visits, as well as other study design issues related to data collection, sampling, repeated measurements, etc. A research consultant also can look for issues that may compromise the validity of the project. Involving the research consultant from the beginning of a project can save time, effort, and headaches at later stages of the project.

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Can a research consultant still help if I've already collected data?
Although it's preferred to have us involved early, we can consult on a project after data has been collected. We can assist in the selection and implementation of appropriate data analysis methods that are most effective for the type of data produced by your study. At this stage, we may re-analyze the data using methods considered more appropriate. We will examine your data for threats to validity, ranging from missing data to questionable outliers to confounders.

Even though a statistical procedure is automated, it does not necessarily guarantee correctness or appropriateness. It is also necessary to understand the theory, data, and methods used in each statistical study. This goal is served best when a competent statistical practitioner [research consultant] is included early in the research design, preferably in the planning stage.

It may be concluded that the statistical design and data collection were flawed and the research consultant may not be able to salvage the study. In this case, the research consultant may be able to suggest what information can be extracted from your data.

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What should I expect at my first consultation meeting?
During the first consultation meeting, the scope of the project and needs are established. This initial meeting provides an opportunity for us to learn about your needs and for you to learn about us. Typically, there is no charge. To set up an initial consultation, please contact us by completing our online Research Consulting Form, by calling (316) 293-3810 or by email at kuwichitaresearch@kumc.edu.

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What should I bring to the initial consultation?
Every issue may not be resolved in the initial meeting, but the principal investigator should strive to briefly address and discuss all the issues. Information should be provided to clearly define the needs and the basis for estimating an appropriate level of statistical support. We will most likely ask a variety of questions to ensure we fully understand your research and statistical needs. Some of these questions may not seem directly relevant to our role on the project. However, they are often important in uncovering issues that have statistical implications for the project.

Most research consultants appreciate some written form of summary material in advance of the initial meeting. The following are suggestions of what to provide:

  • briefly stated background information about the problem, description of the project, procedures to be evaluated, etc.
  • protocol, proposal, or scope of the project
  • publications closely related to the project
  • information about any existing database or dataset to be used

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What can I expect from the initial consultation?
Typically, principal investigators either have a clear idea of what they need from us and their role in the project or they are seeking help and suggestions on how to proceed. Even if you believe you know what you need from us, you are encouraged to keep an open mind. Based on our expertise, you may be presented with other recommendations related to the best statistical approach. We'll most likely present you with the possible impact of not taking our expert advice. Sometimes, mutual expectations can be completely addressed at the initial meeting. Other times, it takes a series of discussions to completely clarify the needs. During the discussion of expectations, the deliverables and constraints for the project should be specified, such as written report of the analysis and results, creation of databases or datasets, programming, timelines, funding, etc.

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What are the responsibilities of a research consultant?
A research consultant's level of involvement in a project should be discussed and agreed upon at the start of the collaboration or consulting relationship. The consultant should explain, in a way that is understandable to the investigator, that statistical concepts and methods and their implication for the project. The research consultant also should provide practical guidance on implementing these concepts and methods. If the consultant is responsible for the analyzes, he or she should be willing to provide details of analysis or database definition, such as data dictionaries for defining variables and the method for selecting subjects to be included in an analysis. For reporting study results, the consultant should assist and guide you on what can be claimed and concluded based on the available data. The research consultant also should explain assumptions related to the methods used and limitations of the findings. Please remember that the consultant will work hard on the project, but there are limits to what can be learned from any given study.

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What are my responsibilities as the client?
The research consultant can serve you best when there is good communication. It is the principal investigator's responsibility to ensure that the research consultant has a clear understanding of the objectives of the project by providing relevant information. Feel free to ask for feedback to determine whether the consultant understands the scope of the project, etc. Remember, the research consultant may have a learning curve when it comes to terminology and key components related to your area of research.

The principal investigator also is responsible for providing a complete and accurate description of how the data was acquired and any problems in data collection, protocol deviations, etc. Missing data and protocol deviations should be disclosed as they may impact the conclusions of the study. Many times, the research consultant can suggest a valid approach for proceeding with analysis despite these issues.

Finally, any publications or reports produced as a result of the project should acknowledge the participation of the research consultant, consistent with the value of involvement. The research consultant will expect to be a co-author on articles for which he or she puts forth significant effort. However, you should not associate the research consultant's name with the project without his/her consent.

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What are the ethics involved in statistical consulting?
The American Statistical Association and the International Statistical Institute have published ethical guidelines for professional statistical consultants.

Last modified: Aug 12, 2015
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