Types of advising
OCBE offers three types of advising. The classification into three types is not rigid or final, and the distinctions between the categories are not always clear-cut.
The purpose of the classification is to inform users about the different levels of support that is available, and it assists OCBE in organizing the advising.
These are research projects that run over many years and involve one or more research groups on the medical side. Usually there is one OCBE researcher involved in the advising, sometimes with his/her students. Often he/she becomes a member of the medical research group or centre, and is involved in many projects within the collaboration. The lead OCBE staff is often co-supervisor of PhD students in the group and they obtain external funding together.
The OCBE staffs are co-author of several papers, but also answers the smaller statistical and epidemiological questions that arise. Sometimes the full data analysis is made by OCBE staff, in particular when first or last authorship is involved.
It happens often that the project motivates the development of new statistical or epidemiological methodology,. New projects of this type are often discussed by the OCBE leadership, in order to make the best assignment of an OCBE collaborator, especially if no preference is mentioned in the request for advise.
These projects typically last for about one year and are centred on a single paper, which is sometimes co-authored by the OCBE staff. Usually, only one OCBE researcher follows the project, possibly with her/his students. The OCBE person can also be a senior PhD student or postdoc, with guidance from a more senior staff. (The project’s own life can be longer than the OCBE advising.)
These research projects are often PhD or postdoc projects (or sometimes master). Participation of the main supervisor of the PhD student in the advising is necessary to define (and restrict) the scope of the advising and to discuss the distribution of responsibilities between student, supervisors and OCBE researcher. Very rarely the full data analysis is made by OCBE, depending on competence of the student. There can be some waiting time for the assignment of an OCBE researcher.
These are requests for basic statistical and epidemiological advice, which are typically performed in a short meeting (usually one hour) or over skype/email/phone. A “biostatistical policlinic” service is organised for this purpose with rotating OCBE staff as advisors. Sometimes this first rapid meeting needs further follow-up, for up to some hours, occasionally also more, and they may evolve into one of the other two types of advising.
Typical requests include aspects of study protocols, basic statistical methods, grant applications, paper revisions, statistical software, and indication for further reading or available courses. We often discuss the scientific question, not just technical issues. Often sub-optimal but acceptable and feasible solutions will be suggested, though more complex methods could bring stronger results. We often need this simplification to allow the students to perform the analysis themselves.
We will be clear on the sub-optimality and the pros/cons of the suggested solutions. The advisory service is concluded after the meeting(s), and there is no guarantee that the same OCBE researcher will continue to follow the project, should further help be needed (though we will try to do so). Acknowledgement of OCBE staff support in publications that may arise in conjunction with the advising is not necessary. Co-authorships arise rarely from these projects. There is usually very short waiting time for the first meeting.
OCBE will try to assign the most competent scientist to each advising project of the first two types, though taking into account existing contacts and time availability. The policlinic support is given by a senior OCBE scientist or an experienced postdoc. Sometimes experienced PhD students will also be in charge. The OCBE advisor will rapidly advise on the project, indicate further steps to be done, invite to self-help, or help by others, including OUS data management groups and, in the future, to the new Clinical Trial Unit at OUS.
The OCBE scientist will not be able to prepare a policlinic meeting in advance, but the information on the project given through the application form will be used to assign a time slot with a competent advisor. As we have two locations for policlinic advising, we try to group competence and needs. Policlinic support to researchers from regional hospitals will in most cases be carried out over skype, by email or over the phone. On-site policlinic service at regional hospitals can occur in conjunction with type 1 and type 2 project meetings, information tours, or courses/seminars arranged by OCBE.