Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis

Frequently Asked Questions

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General

Submit the on-line request form. Please describe your overall research goals and specific questions on the form so that we may serve you better. You should receive an immediate e-mail receipt of your request and a notification in 2-3 days of the statistical collaborators assigned to your project.

The earlier you do so the better.  Few things are more frustrating than learning after the fact that your data are inadequate for valid statistical inference and cannot answer your main research questions.  We recommend that you meet with us during the pre-proposal phase of your research.

Since Walk-In Consulting is intended for short questions requiring less than 30 minutes, it would be better for you to fill out the Request for Collaboration and schedule an appointment.  This will allow you more time to fully explain the background of your project, your experimental design, and your intended method for analyzing your data.

If you seek our advice on experimental design or planning a survey before gathering your data--and we recommend that you do--bring a clear idea of the purpose of your research: your overall goals, the research questions you would like to answer, and the hypotheses you want to test.  Copies or links to articles and earlier work on similar topics in your discipline would also be helpful. If you are seeking our advice on data analysis or report writing after collecting data, in addition to the above bring a copy of the data gathering protocol, a file containing the cleaned data, and the results of any analyses already performed--including any plots or graphs.  LISA strongly encourages everyone to plot their data!.

Part of the 4th floor of Hutcheson Hall is currently under renovation so most meetings are being held in 312 Sandy Hall. Meetings can also be held in the Old Security Building or at the client's office. A map of campus can be found here. Clients meeting with the LISA Director usually meet in his office, 212 Hutcheson Hall and the LISA Assistant Director generally has meetings in his office, 213A Hutcheson Hall.

The LISA collaborators are faculty and students in the Department of Statistics. LISA has a director and assistant director who meet with faculty clients and oversee a team of graduate and undergraduate student collaborators. Current collaborators have profiles on our website so you can put a face to the name before your first meeting. In addition, the entire statistics faculty may be available for collaboration on a case-by-case basis.

We expect clients to come to the meetings prepared, and we expect the statistical collaborators to give good advice and explain it in a way the client understands.  Please review our policies here.

If a statistical collaborator has made a substantial and specific intellectual contribution to your research, co-authorship on papers is appropriate. This may include designing an experiment or analyzing data for the paper. Written acknowledgment of LISA in your papers or dissertations is appropriate and encouraged if we have helped you think through your research questions/conclusions or suggested an appropriate statistical analysis that you performed. View LISA student co-authorships here.

LISA is funded jointly by the College of Science, the Provost Office, the Office of Research, the Graduate School, and six additional colleges (Agriculture & Life Sciences, Architecture & Urban Studies, Liberal Arts & Human Sciences, Natural Resources & Environment, Business, and Engineering).  The Department of Statistics also provides funding for many of the LISA statistical collaborators and provides other support for LISA's activities. The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) also provides funding for LISA.

At the conclusion of each project, the client will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire evaluating the quality of service he or she experienced. In addition, we are always happy to receive your comments. Please contact the LISA Director (ervance@vt.edu) to discuss any issues that arise. Quality feedback including constructive criticism is very important for LISA! Here are some letters of support for LISA from clients.

StatCom is a wholly student-run organization supported by LISA and the Department of Statistics that gives pro-bono statistical advice to local non-profits and governmental organizations.  StatCom was started at Purdue in 2001.  Students at Virginia Tech started their own chapter in 2008 and are looking for more clients.

Registering for a website account is required for clients who wish to use the LISA collaboration services. For website users who would like to comment on blog posts, it allows you to post without having to wait for approval. This allows us to greatly reduce the number of spam posts that our website users have to see.

Signing up for a website account is really simple.

Clicking any "request collaboration"or "request form" link will prompt you to sign in or sign up for the website. This link will also take you to the sign up page.

This page presents you with 3 choices:

1. Already Registered? Log in here.
2. I have a Virginia Tech PID, but am not registered. Register here.
3. I do NOT have a Virginia Tech PID and need to register. Register here.

Select the option most appropriate to you.

You will then be asked to complete some personal information about yourself (name, address, college, department, etc). Once this information is completed, complete the math captcha to show that you are really a person and not an automated spammer.

After you have saved your personal information you will be directed to a form to complete for a statistical collaboration project. Please complete this form throughly as it will allow us to match you with an appropriate statistical collaboration team.

If you are signing up to the website to add comments to blog posts, you can skip this page. There is no need to complete the collaboration request, simply navigate back to the blog page and leave your comment.

If you have any trouble registering for a website account, please contact us.

LISA's Services

LISA can be used by all Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students participating in academic research projects.

Yes. LISA does provide statistical consulting and collaboration services for non-Virginia Tech clients in return for a donation to LISA to support statistical collaboration activities. Our suggested rates depend upon the type of work requested and who the statistical collaborator is. We typically suggest between $75 and $90 per hour for graduate student statisticians and between $150 and $250 per hour for LISA faculty members. Interested parties should email or call the LISA director to discuss arrangements.

Students in the Department of Statistics also provide pro-bono statistical consultation and collaboration for local community non-profits and governmental organizations through the organization StatCom.

Yes, we offer the LISA Walk-in Consulting Service. When classes are in session, a statistical consultant is available every day to answer your quick questions or to help you with your project. Click here for the current schedule. If more than 30 minutes of assistance is required, you may be referred to meet with a team of statistical collaborators. LISA does not assist with class projects or homework.

Yes. LISA can offer Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students up to 10 hours per semester of statistical advice and assistance for free. If additional assistance is needed, alternative options can be arranged. Users of LISA who engage in sponsored research are encouraged to include statistical consulting in research proposals. This can take the form of a direct-cost line item, a full or partial graduate research assistantship, or partial funding of a faculty member’s salary.

Before the initial meeting, LISA statistical collaborators review the client's collaboration request form and any additional information they have sent them. We have found that the most successful collaborations occur if the client sees LISA before they start collecting data. If the client already has collected data, the LISA collaborators often find it useful to quickly review the data to get an idea of what will be discussed during the first meeting. So we encourage clients to send a copy of their data to the LISA collaborators before the initial meeting.

LISA collaboration meetings typically begin with the collaborators asking the client what they would like to accomplish during the time available for the meeting. This sets the agenda for the meeting. The collaborators will also ask about your overall research goals to get a better sense of how to help you answer your specific research questions. They want to know what the big picture is: why are you completing this research and what will the results be used for. After looking at the big picture, the collaborators will ask about your specific project. They will want to know exactly how your experiment was designed and executed, what your variables and data are, and what you are most interested in finding out from that data. Having a detailed understanding of the why and how of your project allows the collaborators to decide what is the most appropriate statistical method to use to answer your research questions.

At the end of the meeting, the collaborators will summarize what happened during the meeting including any decisions that were made.

The next steps for the project will be discussed. Sometimes, follow-up meetings are scheduled.

Below are a few tips for making the most of your time with LISA:

1. Know your project and have thought about ways to explain it to individuals outside of your major field of study.

2. Send informative project information to your collaborators before the first meeting.

a. When sending technical papers, please consider whether or not people outside of your field will be able to understand them.

3. If you already have data, try to have this data cleaned before coming to the first meeting.

a. Verify that all data is inputted correctly.

b. Visually scan the data for things that appear out of place – are certain values really outliers or was the value entered incorrectly?

c. Consider what missing values mean and be prepared to explain this to your collaborators.

i. Does a 0 mean that there was no measured value? Or does it really mean no data were collected?

1. If no data were collected, is there a specific reason for this? Is the lack of data somehow informative?

4. Be prepared and on time for your meeting.

a. If your scheduled meeting is from 1:00-2:00pm and you arrive at 1:15, you should still expect your meeting to end at 2:00pm.

b. Be sure you bring relevant information and data to your meetings.

c. If you have preformed any preliminary data analysis, bring it to the first meeting.

d. It can often be extremely beneficial to simply plot your data before performing any statistical analysis. This allows you to visually see any trends and catch any outliers.

e. Be prepared to explain your project, especially your overall research goals, specific scientific questions, experimental design, and what your data are.

5. If at any point during a meeting you do not understand something the collaborator has explained or asked, ask them to clarify.

6. At the end of a meeting, there will be a discussion about what the next steps in the project are.

a. If it is agreed that you will send additional information or update your data, please do so as soon as you can. This will ensure that both you and the collaborators are prepared for your next meeting.

LISA provides 10 hours total of statistical assistance per project per semester. These hours are calculated based on time spent by each statistical collaborator in meetings as well as time outside of meetings performing research or analysis.

For example, let’s consider a client who requests collaboration and sets up a meeting time with her collaborators. They meet for one hour and agree that the client will clean her data and the collaborators will do some research about a particular method the team agreed would be appropriate for the analysis. They arrange a second meeting. The lead collaborator spends 30 minutes researching the topic and the associate also spends 60 minutes on the topic. Thus far 3.5 hours of the time have been used: 2 hours for the initial meeting and 1.5 hours outside the meeting.

For most projects two collaborators will be assigned to work with the client. It is considered discourteous to ask that a collaborator be removed from a project with the goal of receiving additional meeting or analysis time.

Generally most projects are completed before the 10 hour limit; however, if you find yourself nearing the limit, there are a few options. You can tie up loose ends and close the project for the semester. If you need to go over the limit and a collaborator will be putting a large amount of time into your project, it may be appropriate to consider co-authorships. LISA believes that co-authorships are appropriate if a collaborator has made a significant intellectual contribution to your project. If co-authorship is not an option, LISA can provide additional services for a fee. Additional information about our rates can be found here. For tips on how to make the most of your time with LISA, please see this FAQ. If you have specific questions about co-authorships or paying for LISA services, please contact the LISA Director.

Users of LISA who engage in sponsored research are encouraged to include statistical consulting in research proposals or pay for LISA services from existing grants. This can take the form of a direct-cost line item, a full or partial graduate research assistantship, or partial funding of a faculty member's salary.

We prefer being paid a flat fee for our work rather than charge on an hourly basis. Our hourly rates depend upon the type of work requested and who the statistical collaborator is. We typically propose between $75 and $90 per hour for graduate student statisticians and between $150 and $250 per hour for LISA faculty members. Interested parties should email or call the LISA director to discuss arrangements.

No. Assistance from the collaboration and consulting laboratory is for academic research. We cannot assist with class projects or homework.

Telephones?  No.  Skype (VOIP), Yes!  If you are outside the Blacksburg area, we can arrange a videoconference meeting with you over Skype.  Submit a request for a meeting via Skype.  Skype is free to use and download, and is very convenient, especially if your computer has video capabilities.