Challenges And Opportunities Working As A Consulting Statistician With A Food Science Research Group

When an established research group has been functioning for many years without a statistician as an integral part of the team, welcoming one into the group can present challenges as well as opportunities for all involved.
Challenges for the research group include, for example, involving the statistician at the beginning of the study instead of once the experiments have been completed and the data collected; acquiring or increasing knowledge of experimental design principles; understanding the limitations of some statistical analyses, expanding the range of methods they feel familiar with, and learning when/how to apply each one; and improving the presentation of results in this era where poor presentation is perpetuated by the general lack of sound statistical methods in the literature of the research area.
Challenges for the statistician include, for example, overcoming his/her lack of general knowledge of the underlying scientific area and its specific vocabulary; determining what experimental designs would work from a practical point of view; developing understanding of their scientific questions, data management practices, and types of data collected; navigating the various software they use and checking their adequacies and limitations; and, above all, communicating with patience and perseverance.
Correspondingly, all challenges present opportunities for improvement and collaboration between scientists and statisticians. Working as a team supports a decision making process that is relevant to industry and that is based on good statistical practices. Additionally, it helps scientists become more statistically aware and empowered.
A bit more than a year ago I started working as a consulting statistician with a food science research group. In this presentation I will share some of the challenges and the opportunities to incorporate good statistical practice I have identified, as well as some of the improvements we have made so far working together in this partnership.