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Quality Issues and Standards
June 5, 2002

How Statistical Expertise Is Used in Medical Research

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Oxford (Dr Altman) and BMJ, London (Dr Schroter), England; and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md (Dr Goodman).

JAMA. 2002;287(21):2817-2820. doi:10.1001/jama.287.21.2817

Context Investigation of the nature and frequency of statistician involvement in medical research and its relation to the final editorial decision.

Methods Authors of original research articles who submitted to BMJ and Annals of Internal Medicine from May through August 2001 were sent a short questionnaire at the time of manuscript submission. Authors were asked if they received assistance from a person with statistical expertise, the nature of any such contribution, and reasons why, if no statistical input was received.

Results The response rate was 75% (704/943); methodological input was reported for 514 (73%) of these papers. In 435 papers (85%), such input was provided by biostatisticians or epidemiologists and, if deemed significant, was typically associated with authorship. A total of 33 of 122 methodologists (27%) whose main contribution started at the analysis stage received neither acknowledgment nor authorship. Research without methodological assistance was more likely to be rejected without review (71% vs 57%; χ2 = 10.6; P = .001) and possibly less likely to be accepted for publication (7% vs 11%; χ2 = 2.37; P = .12).

Conclusions Statistical input to medical research is widely recommended but inconsistently obtained. Individuals providing such expertise are often not involved until the analysis of data and many go unrecognized by either authorship or acknowledgment.