If you could look into the future and see that your next study would come up empty, what would you do? You might rethink the study’s design or perhaps throw it out and start over with a different idea.
The Research Computing Support (RCS) team assists faculty, staff, and students with research study planning, data acquisition, analysis, and reporting. In as little as an hour, the RCS team, a unit of the Office of Information Technology, can review the design and calculate the probability of its success, making the future of the overall study less ambiguous.
“By utilizing the services our team provides at the beginning of the study design, a researcher can greatly increase their odds of success,” said Bob Muenchen, RCS manager.
Muenchen cites a case from a few years back in which a professor from the UT Medical Center proposed a simple design that would compare the effectiveness of two drugs that treat hypertension. The professor planned to use a blood pressure level of 140 to diagnose hypertension, so the study would result in a simple drug-by-diagnosis table of counts.
Utilizing a few quick calculations, Muenchen was able to show the study would require 500 subjects. The department could only afford 40 subjects, so if the study had gone forward with such a small sample it would have had little chance of finding a drug difference.
Through further discussion, Muenchen helped the researcher come up with a new design that required only 20 subjects to ensure a high probability of success.
Muenchen said the small investment of time to pre-plan paid off for the researcher.
“That’s not bad for an hour’s work,” he said.
To make an appointment with a Research Support consultant, call the OIT Help Desk at 974-9900. For more information, visit oit.utk.edu/research.