Rationale for ViCBiostat

Biostatistics is widely recognised as a discipline of critical importance to modern health research. It encompasses the design of experiments and other studies, and the collection, summarisation, and analysis of data from such studies, including inferences and interpretation arising from them. In the modern era health research is data-intensive and statistical expertise is critical to understanding the growing volume of data being collected. However, the discipline of biostatistics has struggled to grow in Australia, in part because it has few major centres of sufficient critical mass to enable the development of methodological research programs and career paths for young statisticians. ViCBiostat was funded by the NHMRC for 5 years from 2012 in order to address this problem of insufficient capacity in academic biostatistics. Its core objective is to establish a critical mass of advanced trainees in biostatistics, working across a wide range of projects and collaborations.

ViCBiostat research program

Our research is guided by the concept of a “methodological and translational pipeline”. This proposes that applied biostatistical research is required at multiple levels in order to enable the fruitful application of new statistical methods in health and medical research studies: (i) new methodology needs to be developed with appropriate mathematical understanding and a capacity to tailor general ideas to suit practical application; (ii) methods need to be assessed analytically or by numerical simulation in realistic practical scenarios; (iii) methods need to be translated into more accessible language and software to enable broad use by the practising applied biostatistician or data analyst working in government, industry or university departments; and (iv) awareness of the value (and limitations) of new methodology needs to be promulgated widely to the broader research community in order to enable its acceptance and application in health/medical research studies that will inform health policy or practice.

VicBiostat training program and translation activities

Beyond our core research program, we develop training programs in biostatistical methods, including specialist PhD training as well as workshops and courses for epidemiologists and other health researchers. The Centre aims to play an active role in the dissemination of sound statistical methods throughout the health research sector. Its translation activities include a wide range of substantive collaborations in which the biostatistical contribution is critical, and extend beyond that to direct contributions to health policy and health services decision-making.