StATS: What does a statistician do all day? (September 17, 2007)

I have to write up a job description for a statistician. This includes essential functions and important functions. Here are two examples.

The first is how my own job was described back in November 2004 by my former boss.

1. Describe Essential Function: To provide consultation regarding protocol design and data analysis for clinical, basic, and behavioral research projects. How work is completed: Collaborate on development of grant proposals, manuscripts and data analysis plans, provide verbal and written recommendations. Percent of Time: 35%

2. Describe Essential Function: Serve as consultant and, at times, serve as co-investigator on grant proposals for statistical consultation during development and prior to submission. The incumbent will be expected to consult on or be co-investigator on approximately 30 protocols annually. How work is completed: By submission of report, grant proposal or publication of results. Percent of Time: 25%

3. Describe Essential Function: Conduct data analysis on affiliated projects. Consultation and/or referral for best approach on other CMH projects. How work is completed: Provide assistance with experimental design and selection of appropriate statistical techniques and consultation in the application of more sophisticated data analysis. Percent of Time: 5%

4. Describe Essential Function: Advise on selection of best software and database structure, including oversight of maintenance. How work is completed: Assessment of research projects and the identification of the data variables and most effective statistical techniques and software for the research. Percent of Time: 5%

5. Describe Essential Function: Enhance knowledge of the statistical products and services that are available to improve research. How work is completed: Attends at least on educational offering for professional growth yearly and reviews professional statistical literature on a regular basis. Identifies community, regional, and national statistical resources. Percent of Time: 5%

6. Describe Essential Function: Establish, coordinate, and teach classes in research design and basic statistical concepts and techniques to faculty, fellows, and residents. How work is completed: Maintains, schedules, and teaches course curriculum during each academic year. Maintains instructional materials on statistics on research web site. Percent of Time: 25

Interestingly, there were no functions that were not essential. My position required a PhD, and the justification for this was

Doctoral level professional necessary to provide breadth and depth of expertise necessary to provide statistical consultation for investigators, provide level of instruction required, and provide statistical support for NIH (and other competitive) grants.

When asked to describe additional knowledge, skills, abilities or work experience, if any, necessary to complete the essential functions, my former boss wrote

Experience collaborating with and teaching biomedical researchers, teaching and curriculum development experience. Ability to interact with and assist professional staff and faculty at all levels of statistical sophistication. Proficiency with statistical software.

A revised version sent to me has the following essential functions.

1. Describe Essential Function: Conduct data analysis on clinical, basic, and behavioral research projects. How work is completed: Provide analysis on data sets brought by researchers. For those researchers interested in and capable of performing their own data analyses, advise on the appropriate data analysis methods for their data sets. Percent of Time: 40%

2. Describe Essential Function: Assist in the preparation of research posters, presentations, and publications. How work is completed: Produce appropriate tables, graphs, and charts that summarize the results of data analysis. Assist in the description of the statistical methods used and provide appropriate bibliographic citations for novel methods. Percent of Time: 20%

3. Describe Essential Function: Assist in the preparation of research protocols. How work is completed: Work with researchers to produce an objective and testable research hypothesis that is practical given available time, money, and other resources. Select a research design and a data analysis plan that is consistent with the research hypothesis. Select a sample size with adequate power and precision. Percent of Time: 10%

4. Describe Essential Function: Assist in the preparation of research grants. How work is completed: Work with researchers to produce a specific aims and research hypotheses that are consistent with the goals of the researchers with the mission of the funding agency. Justify the choice of sample size, research design, and data analysis plan. Percent of Time: 10%

5. Describe Essential Function: Provide advice and support on the management of data on complex research projects. How work is completed: Select appropriate tools for data collection, including data collection from automated devices so as to insure data integrity and quality. Percent of Time: 10%

6. Describe Essential Function: Enhance the knowledge of researchers on important issues relating to research design, data analysis, and basic statistical concepts. How work is completed: Attend at least on educational offering for professional growth yearly and reviews professional statistical literature on a regular basis. In concert with other experts in research methodology, prepare seminars, training classes and/or handouts that cover basic issues and recent developments in these areas. Percent of Time: 10%

The justification for the Masters degree is

The applicant must have detailed understanding of the foundations of statistis across the broad range of analyses needed in a highly heterogenous research environment. This level of knowledge requires extensive coursework and training beyond the level of a bachelor's degree.

The additional knowledge, skills, abilities, and work experience are

Strong oral and written communication skills. Experience collaborating with and teaching biomedical researchers. Ability to interact with and assist professional staff and faculty at all levels of statistical sophistication. Proficiency with statistical and database software.

I have drafted a job opening announcement

and will start publicizing this opening aggressively when I get a formal commitment from above.

This page was written by Steve Simon while working at Children's Mercy Hospital. Although I do not hold the copyright for this material, I am reproducing it here as a service, as it is no longer available on the Children's Mercy Hospital website. Need more information? I have a page with general help resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Category: Human side of statistics.