Home » Columns, Featured, Master's Notebook

Effective Collaboration Between Statisticians and Principal Investigators

1 October 2017 482 views No Comment
This column is written for statisticians with master’s degrees and highlights areas of employment that will benefit statisticians at the master’s level. Comments and suggestions should be sent to Megan Murphy, Amstat News managing editor.

Rachel S. Rogers

Rachel S. Rogers

Rachel S. Rogers is a biostatistician at Westat, where she consults on behalf of the Biostatistics and Data Management Core for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She holds a master’s degree in mathematics from Drexel University and a master’s in biostatistics from the University of Pennsylvania.

    I have spent the past 20 years functioning in different situations where “results” were measured by the actions of several individuals interacting toward a common goal. As captain of my rugby team, I constantly worked with my coach, my co-captain, the team’s executive board, and my teammates to guide us toward winning games and championships. As a middle-school math teacher—on top of researching and creating dynamic lesson plans—it was collaborating with my learning team of fellow teachers that truly set our students up for success. And finally, as a biostatistician, I work with principal investigators (PIs) every day to help them find solutions to their clinical research questions. In each of these scenarios, the “results” are different, but the core of how to get the best outcome always depends on effective teamwork and collaboration.

    Collaboration is defined as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” Further, effective collaboration is one of the main influences that adds to the success of any business. A website I recently stumbled upon includes an article called “Six Fundamentals of Effective Collaboration.” I would like to elaborate on each by means of my experience as a master’s-level biostatistician.

    Engagement. They say that listening is one of the most important rudiments of communication. This is also the essential piece of engagement. When speaking with a PI for the first time, I know they have spent hours, days, months, thinking about this topic. Most of the time, I have no idea what their research is about. But when we talk, I am genuinely interested and I actively listen to everything they would like to tell me about their work. My first step is to listen, to participate, because active listening and engagement is necessary to establish rapport and trust.

    Keeping It Real (Being Authentic). It may seem natural to expect authenticity across collaborative efforts. But, we can sometimes get caught up in trying too hard to find something “significant,” and in doing that, we can lose legitimacy. I used to think it was tough to tell a PI there were no statistically significant findings with their data. But as time went on, I realized it was my job on the collaborative team to keep it real with those around me.

    A Bias for Learning and Discovery. I think my background in teaching gives me a strong need to learn and discover. When meeting with PIs, I ask a ton of questions until I am clear about how I can help. Like the author who introduced these six fundamentals, I ask “why” pretty often, and I seek to resolve ambiguity. There really are no stupid questions when collaborating, and in the end, the outcome is much clearer.

    Respect for Community Members. I am grateful to be working with a team of biostatisticians of every academic level. To me, not only is effective collaboration with PIs super imperative, but positive and constant interaction with my fellow biostatisticians is equally necessary. Being a master’s-level biostatistician, I like to speak through settings and analyses with colleagues who are like me to compare how we would approach situations. I also like to seek out those with greater knowledge than my own, because this is how I learn and grow.

    Driving a Positive Vibe. I am naturally a positive person, always thinking on the bright side. You don’t have to be like me, but let’s face it, we all want an upbeat work dynamic. Smiling is contagious and goes a long way when working with others toward a common goal. I have worked on several projects in which friendships and incentive for future collaborations were the only positive outcomes.

    Focus on Results. Because this is the point, right? Data have been collected for months—or even years—forms have been cleaned, variables have been created and re-created, and now it’s time to see the results of all this hard work. In the collaborative process, I try to make sure my piece of the puzzle is on track. Data have the power to lead us in many directions, but my job is to see that the statistical directions are focused and unblemished.

    Overall, effective collaboration takes a lot of effort, where our thoughts are not only on answering the important questions, but also how well we are doing when it comes to engagement, keeping it real, learning, community, positivity, and focus. Over time, these things tend to become natural, and in the end, the journey to discover the final outcome can be more rewarding.

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

    Leave your response!

    Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

    Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

    You can use these tags:
    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

    This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.