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UNC Statistical Consulting Center

The Department of Statistics and Operations Research offers free statistical consulting services, in the context of a course on statistical consulting, STOR 765 (formerly Stat 190).  This graduate level course aims to both serve the university community, and to instruct students in the art of consulting.

Course particulars - The instructor for the consulting course is Professor J.S. Marron. Credits are 1.5 course hours per semester for two semesters.

For students - Students typically work on two projects per year, either alone, or as part of multidisciplinary teams when appropriate. Students are expected to attend client presentations, to contribute to projects, to document their results and findings, and to give occasional project status updates to the entire class.

For prospective clients - We welcome inquiries from potential users on or off campus, though preference is given to those on campus. Professors, research staff, and postdocs are welcome to contact us directly; graduate students working on PhD projects are also welcome, but should first obtain the approval of their advisers.

Our normal method of operation is to invite, after a preliminary interview, our "client" to give a presentation at one of our Thursday afternoon sessions. This can be very informal, and we encourage open discussion among the class, but it should give the background of the research problem in enough detail for us to discuss where the quantitative problems arise. Sometimes the consultation can be concluded in a single session, but more often than not, consultation includes further work done by one of the students. This is then carried out under Professor Marron's supervision, possibly in collaboration with one or more colleagues. A written report is an expected outcome of the consultation.

At present, fees are not charged for the use of this service. We view its function as primarily educational, to both the client and the student doing the work. On the other hand, we do not guarantee our results in any way.

All projects must be finished by the end of classes. For example, on occasion the consulting service has led to a student being employed by another department. If you need some statistical consulting but are not sure whether it falls within the bounds of the consulting service, please contact Professor Marron who will be happy to discuss the problem with you.

Constraints and policies - There are some constraints on the kinds of problems we consider. First, the project cannot be too large. We prefer projects that can be completed by a small team in 1 to 2 months. Although we will do statistical computing when appropriate, we do not encourage projects requiring large data-crunching efforts.

Our policy is not to compete with other established groups on campus that offer statistical consulting. Primarily, this means the Odum Institute and the Biostatistics Department. Odum Institute personnel have a wide range of expertise in social sciences, and also in the use of packages such as SAS and SPSS. ATN also offers a service to help with statistical packages. In general, we do not offer assistance in the use of packages: our expertise is in the formulation of research problems in statistical terms, or in problems that cannot be addressed by a standard software package. As far as Biostatistics is concerned, they are the established department on campus to provide statistical assistance to the Medical School and the School of Public Health. However, it has been agreed with the Biostatistics Department that we may accept work from these schools provided it does not create any conflict with them.

Contact information - To contact the consulting service: recommended approach is to send an email message to Professor Marron, at marron@email.unc.edu. Phone messages may be left at 962-2188, although these are checked less frequently.

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