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Participation Policy for Clinics, Seminars, and Journal Clubs

This policy outlines the expectations for graduate student participation in clinics, seminars, and journal clubs in the Biostatistics graduate program.

Clinics: Weekdays at noon, the Department offers a free walk-in biostatistics clinic for the greater Vanderbilt community. Clinic biostatisticians (typically Biostatistics faculty and staff) consult with Vanderbilt researchers where they discuss methodological and experimental methods, study design, data collection, data analysis, and grant and manuscript preparation. Clinics are an opportunity to observe and improve the critical communication skills that are essential to the successful practice of Biostatistics in real-world settings. The clinics offer an opportunity to evaluate approaches to collaborative interactions that are successful and not successful.

Students in the MS program are expected to attend and participate in at least two (2) clinics a month. Students in the PhD program are expected to attend and participate in at least two (2) clinics a month until they become PhD candidates, at which point attendance is voluntary (but still strongly encouraged). For PhD candidates, the frequency of clinic attendance should be complementary to their Research Assistantship (RA) environment and duties; PhD candidates who regularly engage in a highly collaborative RA might attend less frequently than PhD candidates whose RA environment is methodologically focused.

Seminars and after-seminar discussions: Seminars are an opportunity to enhance and sharpen your critical thinking skills, to apply and synthesize your classroom knowledge in real-world settings, to learn how statisticians communicate and exchange ideas outside the classroom, to assess different communication styles, and to stay informed on interesting research in the field. Seminars provide exposure to trendy topics and innovative solutions to interesting problems. They are the statistical practitioner’s essential tool for maintaining professional growth after graduation. And, of course, giving a good seminar is an important step in securing a job offer, just as evaluating the quality of a seminar is essential to making good hiring decisions.

Students are expected to attend the department’s weekly statistical seminars and the subsequent after-seminar discussions. Attendance at IT workshops offered during seminar slots is voluntary. Students may occasionally miss a seminar for personal or professional reasons. However, it is expected that the average attendance will be at least 80% of the student body. This means students are expected to attend at least 80% of seminars in a given year (with approximately 30 seminars a year, the 80% benchmark is 24 seminars per year).

Journal Club: Journal club is intended to broaden student’s statistical horizons, keep students abreast of new developments in the field (or simply bring them up to date), foster informal discussions and interactions with colleagues, practice communication and presentation skills, sharpen analytical and synthesis skills, and practice leading a discussion/meeting. Reading the statistical literature is another essential tool for learning from and communicating with statisticians after graduation. The graduate curriculum only provides the bare minimum of discipline knowledge that you will need in your career. Moreover, our curriculum is devised to teach you how to learn and think critically about statistical methods; it is not designed to impart the sole body of knowledge that you’ll need during your entire career. Professionally successful statisticians read the literature and continue to grow after graduation. But this is a learned skill, so now is the time to build a habit of engaging with the statistical literature.

Journal club is organized and run by the senior students (i.e., 3rd-year and greater). Each senior student takes responsibility for leading two (2) meetings a year. Leading a meeting involves choosing a paper, recruiting at least one faculty member to participate in the discussion, securing a location and time for the meeting, sending a notification and reminder email about the meeting to the department, and leading the discussion of the paper (slides are not necessary, but presenting an applied example, if relevant, is encouraged). The meetings are organized by the senior students as a group; the only requirement is that every senior student lead two meetings per year. This means, for example, that journal clubs could run September through May (with a summer break) as long as every senior student leads two meetings.

First- and second-year students are encouraged to attend journal club, but are not required to do so. Senior students should attend and support their peers when not leading a meeting. It is recognized that students will occasionally miss a journal club for personal or professional reasons. However, it is expected that senior students will attend at least 75% of journal clubs.

Version: April 2016