Frequently Asked Questions - Services

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

Yes. We provide statistical consulting and collaboration services for non-Virginia Tech clients in return for a donation 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 $125 per hour for graduate student statisticians and between $200 and $350 per hour for faculty members. Interested parties should email or call the 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 Walk-in Consulting Service. When classes are in session, a statistical consultant is available 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. We do not assist with class projects or homework.

Yes. We 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 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, the 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 a statistical collaborator before they start collecting data. If the client already has collected data, the 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 collaborators before the initial meeting.

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 our statistical collaborators:

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.

Our collaborators 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. Co-authorships are appropriate if a collaborator has made a significant intellectual contribution to your project. If co-authorship is not an option, our collabortors 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 your statistical collaborators, please see this FAQ. If you have specific questions about co-authorships or paying for services, please contact the director.

Clients who engage in sponsored research are encouraged to include statistical consulting in research proposals or pay for 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 $200 and $350 per hour for faculty members. Interested parties should email or call the 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.