TitleStatistical Consulting Center Request Date2012-11-29
DepartmentMathematical Sciences
RequestorMegan Higgs Phone994-5350
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts The proposal supports any faculty member, student, or staff member with a potential need for statistical consulting services. It would provide MSU-wide service.
Proposed Dates Start: January, 2014 End:  
Statistical consulting is an essential service for researchers at a top tier research university. MSU currently lags far behind its peers and other research universities in providing the necessary infrastructure to support the statistical needs of researchers. The demand for statistical consulting far exceeds the limited services the small statistics faculty can provide. Therefore, we propose the creation and continued funding of a formal Statistical Consulting Center (SCC) to support researchers (faculty, students, and staff) across the university. This service is integral to MSU's research, teaching, and service missions.
The creation of a Statistical Consulting Center addresses the strategic objectives of Learning, Integration, and Discovery.

The Statistical Consulting Center directly addresses the learning objective for all students involved in quantitative research by facilitating timely and successful completion of degrees (Objective L.2 Increase graduation rates). The center would help students from departments across campus with study design and statistical analysis, increasing the efficiency of their research and providing them with a one-on-one learning experience related to their research project. Importantly, we expect this to help increase the number of graduating doctoral students, by helping to finish degrees in a timely manner.

It will also provide a laboratory for learning for statistics graduate and undergraduate students by giving them hands-on experience with real problems and real collaboration, leading to enhanced student learning of critical knowledge and skills, increased job placement, and increased rates of further education (Objective L.1 Assess and improve where needed, student learning of critical knowledge and skills and Objective L.3 Increase job placement and further education rates). Additionally, the center would help build partnerships across disciplinary boundaries and naturally combines research and teaching, furthering the Integration objective.

A Statistical Consulting Center primarily addresses the strategic objective Discovery, with a clear role in raising MSUís national and international prominence in research, creativity, innovation, and scholarly achievement, and fortifying the university's standing as one of the nation's leading public research universities. In fact, the current lack of such a service is counter to this strategic objective, because such a service is already present at peer institutions. The Strategic Plan specifically states "Sustaining this prominence requires ... developing and maintaining the appropriate infrastructure." A Statistical Consulting Center is clearly such "appropriate infrastructure." Specifically, the creation of this center most closely aligns with Objective D.2 (Enhance infrastructure in support of research, discovery, and creative activities), but also is expected to serve Objective D.1 (Elevate the research excellence and recognition of MSU faculty) and Objective D.3 (Expand the scale, breadth, and quality of doctoral education) as the center will provide free services to all MSU doctoral students regarding study design, statistical analysis, and interpretation of results, facilitating rigorous and timely research projects.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries       170040.00     
Benefits       42030.78       
Materials & Supplies         10000.00     
Travel       4000.00       
Contracted Services              
Other Operations         3000.00     
TOTAL 216070.78  13000   
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

Base funding:

  Salaries and Benefits:

NOTE: See details below for when costs start. The starting date for the assistant could be contingent on workload for the director.  The human resources requested are consistent with those used at Oregon State University and Colorado State University to provide similar services.

  • A full-time (12 month contract, 1 FTE) non-tenure track faculty member with Ph.D. in Statistics (or M.S. in Statistics with multiple years experience in consulting):  $75,000plus benefits ((75,000 x 0.3269)= 24,517.50) for a total of $99,517.50Starts Fall 2013.
  • One full-time (12 month contract, 1 FTE) employee with M.S. in Statistics: $50,000 plus benefits (50,000 x .3269 = 16345), for total of $66,345.00.  Starts Spring or Fall 2014 (contingent on workload for director).
  • Two graduate student assistants: (0.5 FTE x 2 = 1 FTE) at $16,000 salary plus benefits (16,000 x 0.0063 = 100.80) for $16,100.80 per student per academic year, and a total of (16,100.80 x 2) =  $32,201.60Starts Spring 2014.
  • Two graduate students for summer: 220 hours each at $16.00 per hour = $3520 salary + (3520*.10 = 352) benefits is $3,872.00 per student, for a total of $3,872 x 2 = $7,744.00Starts Summer 2014.
  • One undergraduate student employee: (10 hrs per week at $12.00 per hour): $3,600 per academic year + (3600*.0063 = 22.68) in benefits for a total of $3,622.68.   Starts Fall 2014.
  • One undergraduate employee for summer: 200 hours at $12.00 per hour = $2,400 + (2400*.1 = 240) in benefits for a total of $2,640.00Starts Summer 2014.


  Travel: $4,000/yr for professional development and travel for the director, employee, and/or graduate students to workshops and/or conferences related to applied statistics and statistical consulting.


One-Time Only Funding:

  Materials & Supplies:

  • Four computers for consultants:  4 x $1500 = $6,000
  • Printer: $500
  • Computer software:  $1,000
  • Office furniture: $1,000
  • Other office supplies and unforeseen start up costs: $1,500


  Other Operations:

  • Search for director of the center:  $3000.00
Describe the Proposal

Statistical consulting services for researchers are inadequate compared to other peer and top tier research universities.  The MSU Strategic Plan specifically promises to commit resources to “developing and maintaining the appropriate infrastructure” required to sustain our Carnegie Foundation’s classification of “Very High Research Activity.”  Formal statistical consulting infrastructure is currently missing from MSU.  We propose the creation of a Statistical Consulting Center with dedicated staff to address the statistical needs of the MSU research community in a timely and professional manner.

Access to statistical consulting is increasingly important for publication and securing grants as the sophistication of statistical methods required and expected often exceeds the background of many researchers.  The magnitude of requests for statistical consulting far exceeds what the current Statistics faculty can handle amidst their other teaching, research, and service expectations.  MSU researchers are often denied the statistical help they are seeking.  This leaves researchers looking outside of MSU for help or worse, not involving a statistician.  Young researchers and graduate students without external funding are the most seriously affected by this because they lack the resources to pay for statistical consulting.  This has clear potential impacts on graduate student success and retention and promotion of faculty. 

Statistical consulting provides assistance with study design, selection of appropriate methods for statistical inference, and interpretation of results from data analysis.  Consulting with a statistician “early and often” can prevent researchers from wasting time and money on a study that ultimately does not satisfy the original objectives.  Research at all levels suffers from the deficiency of resources to enhance and expedite the statistical components of the research, and methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated beyond most researchers’ formal training. Statistical consulting services must be readily accessible and available in timely manner.

We propose the creation of a Statistical Consulting Center run by a full-time non-tenure track faculty member under a 12 month contract.  The director will have a Ph.D. in Statistics or an M.S. in Statistics with years of consulting experience worthy of the director position. After initial establishment, the director would hire and manage one full time 12-month employee with at least an M.S. in Statistics who would help with more routine consultations, note-taking, scheduling, analyzing data, and writing of reports.  The center would also support two Statistics graduate students to assist with data analysis, less complex consulting problems, note-taking, and surveying of clients.  This will provide valuable experience for the graduate students as they start their careers, as well as enable the consulting center to serve more clients.  One undergraduate Statistics student will also be employed to handle easier tasks and to gain experience in statistical consulting, thereby increasing her/his marketability with future job opportunities or possibly increase interest in the pursuit of graduate study of statistics.

It is expected that after an initial period of establishment, the center will be able to partially fund itself in the form of hiring additional staff and/or supporting additional graduate students. The degree of self-sustainability of the center will depend on the success of researchers in securing grants and their willingness to include money in their budgets to support growth of the center.  While a degree of self-funding is attractive, we highlight the importance of base funding, particularly to support newer researchers and graduate students who do not yet have access to research money to pay for consulting.  We firmly believe this service should not be limited only to those who are already established and/or successful in procuring grants. The services provided by the center should also assist researchers launching and improving their research programs at any point in their careers.

Basic consulting services would be free to all researchers (faculty, students, or staff) affiliated with MSU.  More detailed and time consuming consultation and data analysis could be charged a fee at the discretion of the director, taking into account the client’s ability to pay for such services.  While MSU researchers will be given priority, it is possible clients from the community who are not affiliated with MSU could use the services for a negotiated fee.  Researchers will be encouraged to compensate the center in some fashion, whether in the form of public acknowledgement, publication credit, financial remuneration, or inclusion in future grant proposals.

The Statistical Consulting Center will also serve to direct researchers requesting consulting related to applied mathematics to faculty members in the Department of Mathematical Sciences with the appropriate expertise.  It is possible applied mathematics consulting could be incorporated into the center in the future if there is a demonstrated need and interest.

The Department of Mathematical Sciences will initially provide office space for the director, assistant, and graduate students, a room for meetings with clients, and access to the computer server. However, the newly renovated Romney gymnasium could provide a centrally located center with increased visibility to the campus community.  It would require space for five people to work at computers and a small meeting room for consultations with clients. The Statistics faculty will also serve as colleagues to the director to provide further expertise for more challenging problems.

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

A Statistical Consulting Center (SCC) would provide crucial and long-needed services to university researchers.  It is crucial to the Discovery objective of the Strategic Plan, representing “appropriate infrastructure” to sustain and solidify MSU’s reputation as a research force, and also strengthens the Learning and Integration objectives.

 Expected impacts and benefits of the center

  • Statistical consulting would improve the efficiency of the research process, providing support in study design through interpretation of results.  It would allow for stronger grant submissions, speed up the research process, and improve chances for publication of research.   Researchers would not be forced to seek help from outside the university, which is often a drain on resources and time, or struggle alone.
  • Graduate students in other disciplines would benefit by having more timely access to consulting, accelerating the preparation time for defenses, and improving the quality of  dissertations and manuscripts based on the research. This should ultimately help speed up graduation rates and allow more graduate students to graduate from MSU. Utilization of the consulting services before collecting data often improves a study design, the eventual data analysis, and the resulting inferences. It will also strengthen student foundations in research methods and statistical inference, thereby aiding their future careers.
  • The existence of institutional support for statistical consulting, like most other research universities, may be important in recruiting and retaining faculty.  Candidates could meet with the consulting center director as part of their campus visits to have direct contacts with the center from the moment they take a position at MSU.
  • Many businesses and non-profit organizations in the community also have statistical needs and could be served for a fee when resources are available.
  • Statistics graduate students would benefit by enhanced education through participation in multiple consulting projects and through direct collaborations with researchers on appropriate projects chosen by the director.  This will facilitate our current Statistical Consulting Seminar that is designed to train our graduate students in statistical consulting. The director will be involved in teaching or co-teaching this seminar.
  • Undergraduate statistics students would benefit from experiencing the practical implementation of the methods learned in courses and the exposure to a wide range of research areas.  This could help undergraduates in the selection of future avenues of study and employment.
  • Undergraduate students in other departments would benefit from access to consulting for their research projects. These students typically require more on-demand consulting for their projects because of imposed time constraints.  The access to consulting services will improve their completed research projects and also better prepare them for interactive graduate-level research with statisticians.


  Demonstration of widespread support

A Statistical Consulting Center would provide a service for the entire university, simply spearheaded by the Statistics faculty.  Therefore, it is important to demonstrate widespread support among researchers for formal statistical consulting infrastructure. Two weeks ago, we sent an email to researchers we had interacted with previously regarding statistical consulting, asking for those who would be willing to endorse the idea and identify themselves as future users of such a service.  The email briefly described the idea for the center, the number of employees, and our intent to submit a Strategic Investment Proposal, but did not provide all details of this proposal.  The following individuals and groups (in no particular order) responded with their support for the center and are identified as future users.  This quickly compiled list illustrates the broad appeal and need for such a center.  Following the names are some of the comments we received in the emails (with author identification removed), further demonstrating enthusiasm for this idea.

  • Elizabeth Burroughs (Math Education group – Dept. of Mathematical Sciences)
  • Clain Jones (Land Resources and Environmental Sciences)
  • Colin Shaw (Earth Sciences)  (interested in applied math as well statistics)
  • Bethany Letiecq (Health and Human Development)
  • Steven Kalinowski (Ecology)
  • C. Graham Austin (College of Business – Marketing)
  • Scott Creel (Ecology)
  • Institute on Ecosystems
  • Cathy Whitlock (MSU Director, Institute on Ecosystems)
  • Thomas Bass (Extension)
  • Robert Garrott (Ecology)
  • Nicholas Ward (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering)
  • Tracy Dougher (Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology)
  • Andrea Litt (Ecology)
  • Tracy Sterling (Dept. head, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences)
  • Christine Foreman (Associate Dean for Student Success, College of Engineering)
  • Perry Miller (Land Resources and Environmental Sciences)
  • Alan Dyer (Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology)
  • Carl Fox (The Graduate School)
  • Thomas McMahon (Ecology)
  • The Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit (Al Zale, Chris Guy, Robert Bramblett)
  • Jay Rotella (Ecology)
  • Jessi Smith (Psychology)
  • Shannon Moreaux (Animal and Range Sciences)
  • Fabian Menalled (Land Resources and Environmental Sciences)
  • Allen Harmsen (Immunology and Infectious Diseases and Director of INBRE)
  • Bok Sowell (Animal and Range Sciences)
  • Erik Lehnhoff (Land Resources and Environmental Sciences)
  • Clemente Izurieta (Computer Science)
  • Colleen Moore (Chair - Psychology)
  • Glenn Duff (Head – Animal and Range Sciences) – on behalf of dept.
  • Frank Marchak (Psychology)
  • Wes Lynch (Psychology)
  • Mary Burrows (Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology)
  • Fenqjen Luo (Department of Education)
  • Rachel Frost (Animal and Range Sciences)
  • Shannon Arnold (Agricultural Education Division in College of Agriculture)
  • Sara Waller (Philosophy and Director of CLS Seminar Program)
  • Deborah Haynes (Health and Human Development, Consumer Economics)
  • Cathy Zabinski (Land Resources and Environmental Sciences)
  • Jennifer Sofie (College of Nursing)
  • Marsha Small (Native American Studies)
  • Linda Torma (College of Nursing)
  • Sue Monahan (Sociology and Anthropology, Associate Dean for Program and Curricular Development, College of Letters & Science)
  • Suzanne Christopher (Center for Native Health Partnerships)
  • Laura Burkle (Ecology)
  • Bruce Maxwell (Land Resources and Environmental Science)
  • Christina Sieloff (College of Nursing)
  • Shannon Willoughby (Physics)
  • Bruna Irene Grimberg (Science and Math Resource Center)
  • Mary Cloud Ammons (Chemistry and Biochemistry)
  • Prasanta Bandyopadhyay (History and Philosophy)
  • Alice Running (College of Nursing)
  • Karen Zulkowski (College of Nursing)
  • Scott Powell (Land Resources and Environmental Science)
  • Ralph Barnes (Psychology)
  • Rick Engel (Land Resources and Environmental Science)
  • Chris Guy (Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit)
  • Charlene Winters (College of Nursing)
  • Teresa Seright (College of Nursing)
  • Carmen Byker (Health and Human Development)
  • Laura Stanley (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering)
  • Robert Peterson (Land Resources and Environmental Sciences)
  • Bill Freese (Education Assessment Coordinator, Department of Education, Health and Human Development)
  • Cliff Montagne (Land Resources and Environmental Science)
  • William Ruff (College of Education, Health and Human Development)
  • Erin Lonergan (Graduate student, Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology)
  • Dale Mayer (College of Nursing)
  • Jim Oakley (College of Business – Marketing)


Specific Quotes:

  • We need it, would use it, and would be willing to pay for such consultation.  Thank you for leading this important request.
  • I am thrilled that this proposal will be coming forward. I believe that the existence of a Statistical Consulting Center is consistent with the MSU Strategic Plan and also if MSU wishes to maintain its Carnegie ranking.
  • My research group has and would in the future love to take advantage of such a center, please include my name on the list.
  • I would like to add my name to the list of people who would definitely use this service if available and affordable.
  • Yes, please. Please add my name. I support it enthusiastically.
  • This sounds like an excellent idea.
  • As an active researcher, I want to lend my enthusiastic support for the creation of a Statistical Consulting Center at MSU.
  • I give a big “thumbs up” to the creation of a statistical consulting service.   I am in great need of this service as I regularly run into difficulties analyzing data sets.     At one time the Montana Agriculture Station employed a statistician (i.e. Dr. Dick Lund) to assist research faculty in the Ag Experiment Station.  The statistical services Dr. Lund provided were widely used by faculty with appointments (full or partial) in the Agricultural Experimentation Station.  I greatly missed having this service at MSU, and would most certainly use the services provided by this Center.
  • Great idea and good luck.
  • thank you for reaching out regarding statistical support. This topic comes up in our CON discussions on our strategic plan.
  • I support this wholeheartedly.
  • I think a statistical consulting center is a great idea.
  • I wholeheartedly support this endeavor and I believe it will pay huge dividends in productivity for all of MSU.
  • You have my full support.
  • Thanks very much for helping to speardhead this effort.  It is sorely needed and I strong endorse the effort.  Both I and my graduate students would benefit from access to the expertize that would be provided by the statistics consulting services envisioned thru the center. 
  • I definitely could use the help of this service. 
  • As a researcher and department head for a research department, I fully support the development of a Stat Consulting Center.  Not sure how we have gotten along without one for so long.
  • I think a formal consulting center is sorely needed to support both graduate, and increasingly, undergraduate education.
  • You can put my name down as supporting this endeavor.  I am not certain about its design but I am generally shocked we don’t already have some such program set up.
  • I strongly support your proposed Statistical Consulting Center.
  • I am happy to be listed as a supporter and user of such a Center.
  • I am writing to state that I am in favor of MSU having a Statistical Consulting Center and am willing to be named in the list of supporters and future users of such a service.
  • I definitely agree that this would be a valuable resource at MSU.  I would surely support it.
  • I am happy to support this request. I think it is a great idea and just the kind of thing we need.
  • Please let me know what I can do to help facilitate your proposal.
  • I would benefit greatly from this service along with several of my research colleagues. Let me know what kind of statement of support you would need in addition to this email.
  • We fully support this need for a center that provides accessible experts for statistical design and analysis questions.
  • I would be interested in supporting and using the services of a statistical consulting center on campus.
  • I definitely support this.  We have had to go across the country to find statistical support because you folks are too overbooked. 
  • I am in need of a Statistical Consulting Service right now, so sooner, the better.
  • I strongly support the need for a statistical support/consulting service run through you department and would use it.
  • It's a real tragedy for our students that we don't have statistical consulting available to them (and a subsequent tragedy for the quality of our work and subsequent grant funds).
  • I would support the creation of a Statistical Consulting Service.  I would use such a service for statistical analysis and consultation for my ongoing research.
  • Yes this is needed desperately
  • I am a new-ish faculty member at MSU…and could REALLY use a resource like this. This resource was available at my former university and I feel that stats work would be so much smoother with a consultant. 
  • I fully support this proposal!
  • I would cry tears of sweet relief if you were able to get this up and running!  In other words, please put my response down as as, "Yes, I wholeheartedly support this initiative."
  • Please list me as a supporter and future user of the consulting center.  This is a HUGE need at MSU.
  • I would be happy to support your efforts develop a Statistical Consultation Center at MSU.  Such a center would enhance the research efforts of junior faculty and doctoral students.
  • I am writing to offer my overwhelming support for a statistical consulting service to support research at Montana State University…I know a statistical consulting center at MSU would be very helpful to me as a faculty member, especially as design studies and plan the analysis of data in advance of grant applications.    Such a center would also inform my work with graduate students working on thesis and projects...
  • I would be more than willing to be listed as a supporter and future user of such a service.
  • I fully support this proposal.  I would personally use these services for my own research and would also advise my graduate students to do the same.  Thank you for taking the lead on this project.
Implementation Plan


Spring 2013 :   Search for director who will start in August 2013.

Fall 2013: The director will use this semester to organize the center and hire assistants for Spring 2014.  The director will advertise and inform the campus community about the upcoming services while building relationships with researchers around campus.  Even if the director does provide some consulting this semester, the assessment and evaluation of the center will not begin until Spring 2014. 

Spring 2014: The Statistical Consulting Center will be officially up and running with two graduate student assistants, and possibly a full time assistant, working under the director’s leadership.  Depending on need, it is possible the full-time assistant could start in Fall 2014 instead of Spring 2014, deferring an additional 6 months of cost of that person’s salary.

Summer 2014: An undergraduate student will be employed by the center.

June 2014: The first review of the Statistical Consulting Center and director will be performed, and subsequent reviews will be performed annually.

Assessment Plan

The objective of the Statistical Consulting Center is to provide satisfactory statistical consulting to researchers across campus.  Use of the consulting services by diverse researchers, combined with measurable outcomes of productive research (related publications and grants) will be the main measures of success of the center.  We will gauge initial success by an increase in usage over the first three years to the extent the director and staff are working to their full capacity.


The Statistical Consulting Center (SCC) success will be measured by several methods.

       I. An online survey will be administered to all clients following use of services.  This will serve as a tool for gauging client satisfaction and areas for improvement.  It will also help in the evaluation and training of all consultants (i.e., for both dedicated employees and students).  Responses from clients will be saved for evaluation purposes.

      II.  Usage statistics:

                (1)   Number of clients per semester;

                (2)   Number of hours per client per semester;

                (3)   Number of grants submitted after using SCC services for proposals;

                (4)   Number of grants funded after using SCC services for proposals;

                (5)   Number of publications submitted for work that used SCC services;

                (6)   Number of publications accepted for work that used SCC services;

                (7)   Number of departments or research groups using the center per semester.


     III.  In addition, the Statistical Consulting Center Director will go through an annual review process in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

If, after three years, there is not an adequate use of the service by researchers (as measured by full time work for the director and staff and the usage statistics described above), funding will be discontinued after the fourth year.  However, we do not anticipate any problems meeting the objectives given the identified interest on campus (see list of people and groups supporting this proposal) and the resources we are requesting.

Department Head: Ken Bowers (
Dean/Director: Paula Lutz (
Executive/VP: Tom Mccoy (