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JoniRicksIf you’re a campus researcher who hasn’t yet taken advantage of UCI’s statistical consulting services, you’re missing out on a valuable resource. UCI’s Center for Statistical Consulting (CSC), which works in collaboration with the more medical- and clinical-focused Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) unit within the Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS), can help address any of your data analysis needs. With services such as grant proposal development, sample size calculation, data interpretation, biostatistical education and research database design, CSC/BERD is your one-stop shop for everything from study design to final presentation.

CSC/BERD offers free walk-in appointments for general questions, or consultants can provide more in-depth fee-based services through hourly rates or a subscription model. Hourly projects are assigned on a more ad hoc basis to currently available statisticians, while the subscription model dedicates a set percentage of a statistician’s (or statisticians’) time to a department or center on campus.

More and more researchers are using one of these three options, realizing they can take advantage of this campus gem during downtime caused by the COVID-19 lockdown. “There has been a significant increase in the amount of projects we’ve had,” says Dr. Joni Ricks-Oddie, director of CSC/BERD. “With many unable to get into their labs, they’ve been dusting off old manuscripts [and] finally getting to that grant they’ve been meaning to write.”

Even before the global pandemic hit, there was an increase in projects. CSC staff worked an additional 29 hours per month in 2019 compared to 2018, and the number of BERD grants jumped from 12 to 38, with 79% of those being for the School of Medicine. CSC/BERD also started new internal collaborations with UCI’s Conte Center and Down Syndrome Program, both of which use the subscription model. “The advantage of this model, which is only open to campus entities, is that you receive dedicated and consistent support from a single statistician or a set group of statisticians,” says Ricks-Oddie. “Our staff becomes long-term collaborators, garnering a more in-depth understanding of the statistical methods, research methodology and science surrounding the projects they are involved with.”

Additionally, CSC/BERD has launched external collaborations with Chapman University and Rubicon Technologies — bringing the total number of external clients to 10 — and has hired two programmer analysts to expand its offerings. “One of the things that we’ve realized is that, beyond just the physical support, a lot of researchers need help with data visualization, data management of large databases, things like that,” says Ricks-Oddie, “so we now provide that type of support.”

CSC/BERD also leverages faculty support. Because CSC is housed in the Statistics Department of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), if the statisticians don’t have the answer to your needs, they can create it. “If someone comes to us with a project that requires the development of a new statistical methodology that might be beyond the skill set of one of our statisticians, we can work with Professor of Statistics Babak Shahbaba, and he can put us in touch with a faculty member for collaboration on the project,” say Ricks-Oddie. “That’s been really successful.”

Another priority has been training. “We also want to make researchers feel better equipped in their own right,” she says. “Information has to be disseminated to them so that they can make sure that high quality research is going on all over campus.” Since she first took over as director back in 2018, she has brought on staff to develop and organize new workshops, including a free Stata training series. Check the website for upcoming events.

So whether you have a basic question about your scientific research or need in-depth statistical assistance, be sure to get in touch with CSC/BERD.

— Shani Murray