Frequently Asked Questions

This document, which is forever destined to be a work in progress, is intended to address common questions about working with the DAHS OOR. It is based on related materials published by other institutions, but tailored to the unique context of the DAHS at UNC.

FAQs for Students

Q: How do I request methodological and other support for submitting a grant through DAHS

A: Submit a request through the GPS system (http://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/research/gps ), which will walk you through the necessary steps.   Please try to be as specific as possible when describing the nature of your project and needs.  This will expedite and facilitate processing your request.  Also, please note whether you have already spoken with an OOR methodologist about your request. 

Q: But ’m not submitting a grant.  How do I request a methodological consultation for a paper, ongoing project, presentation, … ?

A:  Use the “Request a Methodologist” link on the DAHS webpage (https://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/research/researcher-supports/forms-1/biostats-support-request-form), which will walk you through the necessary steps.     Again, please try to be as specific as possible when describing the nature of your problem, which will expedite and facilitate processing your request.  Also, please note whether you have already spoken with an OOR methodologist about your request.   

Q: I’ve heard that all qualitative and mixed consultation requests should go to Wanqing and all quantitative requests should go to Richard.   Is this how requests are assigned

A:  NO.  While Richard and Wanqing do have different (and complementary) backgrounds and specific types of methodological expertise, Wanqing is knowledgeable about quantitative design/analysis issues, and Richard understands the perspectives associated with qualitative research methods.  As the volume of consultation requests increase, both methodologists will work together in the areas of greatest demand to insure timely responses to consultation requests.    

Q: Am I obligated to use the DAHS OOR for methodology consultations or can I go elsewhere

A: The DAHS OOR is intended to be helpful in supporting the research of DAHS faculty, but if you find that your needs are better served by other consultation units on campus, there is no obligation to use the OOR.  Other methodology support units at UNC include:

Q: Do I need to pay for methodology consultations

A: We try will to accommodate all consultation requests by departmental faculty.  As with most of the methodology units on campus, with grant submissions, it is encouraged and expected that methodologist time will be budgeted in the proposal, if allowable by the funding agency.  For ongoing projects, if funds are available and consultations are anticipated to be an ongoing aspect of the project (eg. replacing a methodologist on a grant-funded project), coverage of a relevant fraction of methodologist effort should be considered and is highly encouraged. 

Other methodology consultation units on campus have their own policies on fees and services.  Please check their websites or contacts for more information.

Q: What should I prepare for methodologist input into a grant submission?

A: You should be prepared to share drafts of the body of the research grant proposal as they evolve.  Although specific aims are helpful for starting a discussion about the methods, by themselves, they are typically insufficient for writing an adequate methods or analysis section or for conducting power/sample size analyses.  Using “insert comments” or highlighting within a draft proposal are good means of directing methodologist attention to sections requiring input.  Methodologists can also serve as general readers of the proposal and can give helpful feedback on how the integration and presentation of ideas flow when read by a non-specialist, but methodologically sophisticated reviewer.

Q: Once I speak with a particular methodologist, does that commit me to only speaking with him or her about my current proposal/project, or future proposals/projects?  

A: Although we often try to maintain continuity for ongoing projects, if you think it would be helpful to obtain a fresh perspective, feel free to talk to the other methodologist.  Also, times may arise when the methodologist to whom you have been speaking is not available.  In this case, you may be referred to the other methodologist.   We a currently developing a system to track and document consultations, which is intended to facilitate continuity in the consultation process regardless of which methodologist is available. 

Q: Should I write a methodologist in to my grant proposal

A: We would strongly encourage you to do so.  Having a methodologist named in your grant proposal will give your proposal a degree of credibility in the eyes of reviewers that it would otherwise lack.  Especially if your data analysis plan requires advanced quantitative methods like longitudinal analyses, missing data analyses, instrument development, structural equation modeling, specific types of mixed methods study designs,  the one of the first things reviewers will examine is whether a methodologist with this particular expertise is included as a co-investigator. 

Q: How much time should I budget for a methodologist in my grant

A: This is individually determined and depends upon the amount of work required as well as what is allowable/feasible.  Since our methodologists are faculty, the costs are usually built in as percent effort (FTE).  A small percentage is better than none, but a good rule to remember is that .10 fte (10% time) is about 4 hours per week, inclusive of all time spent on the grant (including both face-to-face meeting time, as well as behind the scenes work necessary to supervise data management, develop analytic strategies, set up analyses, and write up results for publications, for example).  An unequal distribution of effort across years, with more towards the end of a grant period, may be desirable if your project is heavily end-weighted in terms of analyses, interpretation, and writing. We encourage a dialogue with the OOR team early in the process.

Q: So, if I’m putting a methodologist on my grant, does that mean they will take care of all of my data management and data analysis needs?

A: For grant-funded projects, as long as sufficient time is budgeted, any mutually-agreeable arrangement should be fine; however, this is an issue that needs to be discussed when negotiating project roles – preferably as early in the process as possible.  Often roles will include supervising data managers or research assistants/associates, developing analysis strategies, setting up challenging analyses, or participating as a member of a qualitative analysis team.  They should be working with you to guide analyses in ways that will optimally address your research Qs, and help you interpret the analytic results.   They are also usually well-positioned to write analysis or results sections in manuscripts and critically review other manuscript sections in light of the results. 

Q: If a methodologist developed my analysis plan, oversaw the analyses, assisted in interpreting results, and wrote the methods/results/other sections of a manuscript, does that mean they deserve authorship credit on a resulting publication?

A: Generally yes.  Most major allied health, behavioral, and medical journals define these activities as sufficient for authorship credit.  For example, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors criteria for authorship can be found at: http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html#two and the American Psychological Association’s criteria are available at:  http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx?item=11 . (Standard 8.12). 

Although focused on student contributions, Fine and Kurdek (1993) more broadly describe principles that can be applied for determining authorship credit for published work.  Recommendations from other major health, social science, and statistical professional organizations are generally consistent with the recommendations cited above.  Just as with any other co-authors, we recommend discussing this topic early in the process and revisiting it if roles change along the way. 

An additional benefit to fully integrating methodologists into your research and publication team is that it enhances your credibility as an independent investigator.  With it, you demonstrate that you have well-established relationships with a consistent, coherent research team in place, which is often valued by reviewers.  

Q: Can I just stop by for a quick methodology/research Q?  

A: Of course!  We welcome drive-by consultations whenever our office doors are open.  Starting in the Summer 2014, both methodologists will maintain weekly “drop-in” office hours.  Their hours are posted on the DAHS website and outside of their doors.  If it sounds like a question may be more elaborate than it initially appeared, or that more time may needed to more fully explain the answer, we may ask you to submit a consultation request so we can devote sufficient time and attention to your question.    

FAQs for Students

Q: I am a DAHS research associate or a post-doc.  Can I request methodological support for a grant proposal, project, or paper?

  A: Yes… definitely.  The section above is for general issues that pertain to all requests. 

Q: I’m not a faculty member, but I work with one on his or her research project.  Can I request methodological support too?  

A:  Yes, one of the DAHS OOR primary missions is to facilitate faculty research.  We work directly with faculty members; as well as the students, research associates, or post-docs who work with them.  If possible, we may ask to meet with both you and the faculty member for the first meeting or so, to insure that the support we provide is consistent with the research objectives of their project and analytic conventions of their disciplinary area.

Q: I am a doctoral student who is planning my dissertation or planning to submit a predoctoral fellowship or dissertation support grant.  Can I talk to one of the methodologists?  

A:  Of course.  If you think it is just a quick question, feel free to stop by our open office hours.  If the question is more elaborate or may require multiple meetings to flesh out an answer, please submit a methodology support request.  (https://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/research/researcher-supports/forms-1/biostats-support-request-form).  If your question is related to your dissertation, if possible, it would be helpful to have the initial discussions with both you and your committee chair in order to make sure we are all on the same analytic page.

Q: I am a masters or clinical doctorate student.  Can I request methodologist support for my capstone paper or project?  

A:  We generally recommend that masters or clinical doctorate students seek support for their capstone projects or papers from Odum Institute or the UNC Statistics Department/Operations Research Consultation service; although we will consider providing support for specific projects if they are subsumed under a faculty member’s research.  In these cases, individual projects or requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Can I ask a methodologist to join my doctoral committee?  

A:  Absolutely!  Our methodologists are full faculty members and, therefore, are available to serve on doctoral committees.  If you are planning to work with them to develop and implement specialized analysis plans or particularly sophisticated statistical or qualitative models, inviting them to join your committee is probably a good strategy for insuring that a relatively high fraction of their attention is focused on your particular research problem.  This decision should be undertaken in consultation with your doctoral committee chair.

Q: I have taken an introductory class and learned about a particular quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method analytic technique and would like to learn more about it?  One of our methodologists has expertise in this method.  Can I arrange to take a graduate independent study with him/her to learn more about it and explore how it can be applied to my specific data?

A:  Yes.  Our methodologists are available for graduate independent studies on the theory and applications of various analytic methods.  Be sure to the talk with the methodologist and your advisor about your needs, goals of the independent study, and the problem to which it will be applied well in advance of the anticipated independent study start date.

 

References

American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 57, 1060-1073.

Fine, M. A., & Kurdek, L. A. (1993). Reflections on determining authorship credit and authorship order on faculty-student collaborations. American Psychologist, 48, 1141-1147.    

updated on September 8, 2014