Statistical analysis conducted by the Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE)’s Statistical Consulting Group aided UCLA School of Dentistry faculty member Dr. R. Christian Solem’s latest study that was published on the cover of the August 2016 issue of the American Journal of Orthodontics.
IDRE statistical consultant Dr. Joni Ricks-Oddie was a co-author of the study titled “Congenital and acquired mandibular asymmetry: Mapping growth and remodeling in 3 dimensions,” which involved a novel method of measurement that called for a more unconventional form of statistical analysis.
“[This method] hasn’t been done before,” Solem said. “We measured the growth by modeling the shape of the jaw at the spherical harmonic function, and so we had highly dimensional data and many different variables. It wasn’t easily approachable by a conventional statistical analysis. This was a unique use of the linear mixed model technique in orthodontics.”
Ricks-Oddie designed a statistical approach that would best fit the available data. Using the linear mixed model, which is capable of analyzing data with multiple entries per subject, Ricks-Oddie was able to analyze small differences in growth despite the relatively small sample size.
“The Statistical Consulting Group was very helpful in understanding my problem and identifying the appropriate statistical tool to test our hypothesis,” Solem said. “I felt like they were well-versed in taking a problem from medicine or dentistry and translating it into testable, quantifiable hypothesis.”
IDRE’s Statistical Consulting Group has been an integral part of the campus for decades, although its role has shifted over time. The group began as a component of the Office of Academic Computing before the office was rebranded as Academic Technology Services, and now it operates as part of IDRE’s Research Technology Groups (RTG).
The consulting group’s services have broadened over the years to meet a variety of client needs. The group currently offers walk-in consulting, email consulting, fee-for-service, a library, and an internationally-known website resource.
“One part of our services is to train UCLA researchers to become independent researchers, and this involves our walk-in and email consulting service,” said Stats Consulting Group director Dr. Andy Lin. “We try to train clients in whatever statistical software they are using so they can do the analysis themselves.”
However, certain studies require more in-depth knowledge of statistics in order to conduct complex or unusual forms of statistical analysis. The Stats Consulting Group recently began offering fee-for-service to meet this need, allowing for researchers to hire a consultant to design and conduct the statistical analysis portion of their study.
“Sometimes there are researchers who don’t feel comfortable doing the analysis or don’t have the training or time to do it,” Ricks-Oddie said. “We’ll meet with them to understand what is their research, what is the question, what is their data and how it’s set up. Then they’ll send us all the necessary materials [to do the analysis].”
The Stats Consulting Group is also continually adding content to their highly-regarded website that began as an internal encyclopedia for the group and has evolved into a publicly available statistical resource used around the world. The website has more than one million views per year.
Within the campus, the group will also be expanding their paid and training services through creating a workshop series on specific statistical software programs.
“Most graduate students do not get any training [in statistics], and they have to pick it up themselves,” Lin said. “So we’ll have at least one of our four full-time consultants leading each of these workshops.”
Though the majority of their clients are graduate students, the Stats Consulting Group is looking to increase their work with faculty and create more mutually beneficial relationships between faculty researchers and its consultants.
“We have a good relationship with faculty, which allows us to audit classes so we know current statistical practices,” said statistical consultant Christine Wells, who has been part of the group since 2000 and has co-authored five publications over the past two years. “We try to reach out to faculty as much as possible.”
Individuals interested in utilizing any of the IDRE Statistical Consulting Group’s services can visit during walk-in consulting hours, Monday-Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. in Math Sciences 4919; email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the website for more information and resources.