Joanna in 't Hout explains
"Medical researchers are continually gathering data in order to answer their research questions. Which treatment is best? Can we predict how well patients will respond to therapy? Which gene lies at the root of a hereditary disease? Statistics is essential to answer such questions. Not only does it allow researchers to draw reliable conclusions from clinical studies and biological experiments, it also makes clear how certain we can be about these conclusions."
Q1 What is the aim of the Biostatistics group?
Better methods, better science.
"The Biostatistics group strives to improve the quality of statistical methods that are used by researchers throughout Radboudumc and elsewhere. We give advice to researchers on the most efficient design of studies, on the most effective methods for analysis, and on the correct interpretation of the results. Moreover, we are very active in the development of novel statistical methods, in order to have an impact on healthcare research internationally."
Q2 Why is statistics important?
"The importance of statistics in medical research is growing. Medical practice is more and more evidence-based, which often means that more quantitative studies need to be done to assess the effectiveness of therapies. Modern technology allows more and more complex measurements to be gathered for patients, for example using DNA sequencing or fMRI. Research questions scientists ask, for example in the area of personalized medicine, are increasingly sophisticated. Scientific journals and regulators also set progressively higher standards for the quality of data analysis. All these developments together make sure that statisticians have a role to play in almost every branch of medical research."
Q3 Can you tell us a bit about your methods?
"In our statistical research we develop novel methods to solve data analysis problems we encounter or foresee. Such methods are always motivated by practical needs of researchers, but also of sufficient theoretical generality to be valuable for other, related application area. The methods we have developed are frequently applied in many fields within medicine and elsewhere. The research of the Biostatistics group is concentrated on methods for (multiple) hypothesis testing, prognostic modelling, missing data, random effects models and meta-analysis."
Q4 Who do you cooperate with?
"Close cooperation with other researchers is key to the success of our efforts, which always take place in a strongly multidisciplinary environment, and we collaborate with investigators from all over Radboudumc. On the one hand our mathematical and statistical expertise is essential to solve problems in medical research. On the other hand, our own methodological research benefits greatly from our efforts in applying statistics in medicine, because it keeps us focused on solving statistical problems applied researchers face in practice.
Q5 What is statistics about?
"Statistics is about quantifying exactly how uncertain we are. It is about drawing the line between what we can confidently conclude from an experiment, and what we have to remain unsure about. As such, it forms the core of the scientific method for many disciplines. Improving the quality of statistical methods means improving the quality of science."