The Biostatistics team with members of the University Executive at the launch event.
Back row (from left): Elise Velenski, Andrew Gray, Dr Claire Cameron, Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton, Dr Ella Iosua, Vicky He, future Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch.
Front row (from left): Dr Ari Samaranayaka, Dr Jill Haszard, Associate Professor Robin Turner, Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson.
The Biostatistics Centre was officially launched last week, four years after it was established, with a celebration at the Staff Club.
The delay in the launch was not because the Centre has been resting on its laurels. In fact it's quite the opposite – the team of six has already collaborated with researchers in the Division of Health Sciences on projects totalling more than $14 million of research funding across a broad range of research.
It has also built the capability of biostatistics methodology, through collaborations, seminars and establishing a highly-sought-after short course programme.
Centre Director Associate Professor Robin Turner says along with the busy start for the Centre, COVID‑19 also contributed to the delay in an official launch.
“Though, perhaps it is fitting to our profession that we haven't officially launched the Centre until we have some good evidence and a really good success story in place!”
She and her team – Mr Andrew Gray, Dr Ari Samaranayaka, Dr Claire Cameron, Dr Ella Iosua, Ms Elise Velenski, Dr Jill Haszard and Miss Vicky He – enjoy working across a broad range of research projects.
Kaitohutohu Māori Hata Temo, from the Office of Māori Development, spoke at the launch of the Biostatistics Centre.
Biostatistics Centre Director Associate Professor Robin Turner is proud of the team's hard work and sees a growing demand for skilled biostatisticians.
Associate Professor Turner is proud of the team's hard work, and sees a growing demand for skilled biostatisticians.
“We have a really talented team here, we love to hear research ideas, and to collaborate. I want to encourage health science researchers to talk to us early and talk to us often about their project. Our value isn't realised by coming to us at the end of a project when data is already collected. We understand how the design of the study, including setting the right research question, ensuring data collection and the analysis all fit together to tell the right story from the data.”
The Centre is also focussed on building capability in biostatistics in the wider health research community. The Centre offers short courses through the year that are unique in New Zealand and in high demand.
Associate Professor Turner says the short courses are a “fun, gentle introduction to biostatistics.” Participants come from Otago, and other academic institutions and include supervisors seeking to learn a common language with students, as well as researchers improving their own methodology. The team is also getting international enrolment requests and considering online provision to meet the demand.
Emeritus Professor Peter Herbison spoke of the long history of biostatistics in the Health Sciences Division and how studies have shown that papers with a biostatistician as an author are better quality than those without.
Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Paul Brunton says biostatistics is an integral part of health research at the University.
Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton says biostatistics is an integral part of health research at the University.
”We are really fortunate to have this team of skilled and committed academic biostatisticians in our Division. Forming a Centre has helped us to focus on and elevate this important aspect of research. It has been fantastic to see the Centre go from strength-to-strength and contribute to excellence in research, helping improve the quality of research, health knowledge and health outcomes.”
Despite restricted numbers due to COVID‑19, the Biostatistics Centre launch event in the staff club had a great atmosphere, including live music from the Oxo Cubans.