What to Expect from a Consultant

“The degree of satisfaction that both parties will provide from the counseling service is directly proportional to the level of communication based on mutual understanding about the responsibilities of the client and the counselor.”

“A study that cannot provide data to answer research questions is poorly designed research. There is no magic statistical method to arrive at valid statistical findings using data from a poorly designed study.”


What To Look For in a Statistical Consultant

If you can choose your statistical consultant, you should select one who:

  • Has a good general knowledge of statistics, and keeps up-to-date with the current literature;

  • Is a good problem solver with a sincere desire to solve real problems;

  • Has excellent written and oral communication skills;

  • Is a good listener who asks probing, relevant questions;

  • Is able to meet deadlines while producing high-quality work;

  • Is comfortable to work with;

  • Is flexible with respect to schedules and changing needs,

  • Is patient with clients who have little statistical knowledge;

  • Has experience relevant to your subject area or is sympathetic to your scientific issues;

  • Understands the resource constraints; and

  • Shows respect for statistical and research ethics.

  • Statisticians have different areas of statistical expertise, so try to find one whose skills match your technical problems. For example, a statistician who has worked primarily on experimental studies is unlikely to be versed in best methods for analyzing survey data.

  • It is reasonable and appropriate to ask the statistician to describe her formal training, continuing education, and previous consulting experience, such as might be presented in a curriculum vitae.

  • You can also ask for the names of previous clients whom you can contact.


What do you expect from the statistician?

You may begin the initial session with a clear idea of what you want the statistician to do for you. Alternatively, you may be completely open to suggestions about how to proceed. Usually a researcher is between these two extremes.

Even if you begin by thinking you know exactly what the statistician should do, be prepared to consider alternatives. Based on her professional judgment and your goals, a statistical consultant will likely present you with choices among valid alternative statistical approaches that may vary in scope, cost, or precision. She should also explain the ramifications of not taking her advice.

Sometimes client and statistician can define their mutual expectations completely at the initial session, other times it may take several discussions, with time between to study and to think more about the problem.

At the end of each meeting, you should ask the statistician to state what she understands about the project and you should state your expectations, to assure your mutual understanding.

During the discussion of expectations, the deliverables for the project should be specified. Deliverables may include a report of the analysis and results, the datasets created during the analysis, programming code developed to do the analysis, or attendance at meetings.


Note:The text in this page is taken fromASA(2003) What to Expect When You Consult a Statistician, Statistical Consulting Section Brochure


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