Harvard Catalyst: 2017 Year-End Update

This has been an extremely busy year for the Harvard Catalyst Biostatistics Program as we are in the last year of funding on the current grant. In May, we submitted the competing renewal of the CTSA grant and were very pleased to learn that the grant received a score categorized as “exceptional”. Consequently, we fully expect to continue offering consultations and continuing education events for another five years.

The Biostatistics Program had a very productive year under the directorship of Professor Rebecca Betensky and management of Dr. Jai Vartikar. Our 29 Harvard Catalyst statisticians and epidemiologists provided over 930 consultations to investigators at 28 Harvard-affiliated institutions. Our consultants were instrumental in helping the investigators receive over 20 grants and publish over 80 papers in peer reviewed journals.

We continued to offer our seminar series (with about 50 attendees each session) on topics of interest to Harvard Catalyst statisticians and other quantitative researchers. We started the year with a three-part series in January and February titled the “Placebo Effect in Clinical Trials.” Dr. Kathryn T. Hall of BWH and Harvard Medical School, Professor Maurizio Fava of MGH and Harvard Medical School, Professor Ted J. Kaptchuk of BIDMC and Harvard Medical School, and Professor Roger B. Davis of BIDMC and Harvard Department of Biostatistics spoke about the pharmacogenetics and challenges of the placebo response and about the placebo effects in medicine and clinical trial design. We held four additional seminars throughout the year. Professor Rochelle E. Tractenberg of Georgetown University Medical Center presented a seminar on “Patient Reported Outcomes and Clinical and Translational Research” in which she explored the relationships between patient-reported outcomes and the types of outcomes used in more basic science along the translational continuum. Professor Vincent J. Carey of BWH and Harvard Medical School presented a seminar on “Reproducible Research in Biostatistics” in which he reviewed some concepts and tools to implement reproducible research principles for projects in cancer genomics, vaccine evaluation, and statistical software design.

Professor David A. Schoenfeld of MGH, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Department of Biostatistics gave a talk entitled “Single Institution Studies: Specific Aims, Study Design and Sample Size” in which he focused on pilot studies and other studies that are feasible for a single investigator. We ended the year with a seminar on “Statistical Learning of Dynamic Systems,” in which Dr. Itai Dattner of the University of Haifa discussed a direct approach for estimating the parameters of systems of ordinary differential equations and its applications, especially in infectious diseases and biology.

Each year, the Harvard Catalyst Biostatistics Program organizes an annual symposium around a disease area or a topic of statistical interest. This year, we chose the topic of P-values, Hypothesis Testing and Reproducibility. Our keynote speaker, Professor Andrew Gelman of Columbia University and six other prominent statisticians addressed current controversies and thinking about significance testing in science, with focused presentations on relevance to the FDA, publication in the clinical literature, health services research, neuro-imaging analysis, statistical genetics and scientific replication. Our symposium was particularly well received this year with about 200 attendees.

The monthly journal clubs are going strong with about 30 attendees per session. We try to make these meetings as accessible as possible by having them in-person with web and teleconference interfaces. The leader selects an article on a topic of interest to Harvard Catalyst statisticians and leads a discussion of the article. This series also includes “work-in-progress” sessions, in which a statistician will present preliminary research or investigations on a technical topic of interest. The “work-in-progress” sessions are intended to be highly participatory with an active exchange of ideas. This year, we had three work-in-progress sessions to discuss “Estimation for a Composite Endpoint Analysis,” “Control of False Positives in Randomized Phase III Clinical Trials,” and “Composite Outcomes in Critical Care Research.”