Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics



What services do the biostatisticians provide?

The biostatistics unit offers collaboration with researchers in the following areas:

  • Advice on study design, including:
    • sampling design
    • sample size estimation
    • questionnaire design
    • data collection and capture
  • Input and writing of the statistical methods section or statistical analysis plan of grant applications and protocols
  • Assistance with data cleaning and data management
  • Advice on statistical analysis and implementation of statistical analysis if appropriate
  • Assistance with interpretation of the results of the analysis
  • Collaborative write-up of statistical methods and results in manuscripts (co-authorship of the biostatistician may be required) or dissertations.
  • Troubleshooting following manuscript/thesis review.


At what stage of my research process should I make an appointment with a biostatistician?

  • Consultation and collaboration with biostatisticians should ideally take place as early as possible in the research process, when the study is still in its design phase.


How do I make an appointment to see a biostatistician?

  • For your first appointment, please visit the following link on the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics' website.
  • After completing the online form, the administrator will be in touch with you via email to arrange a time and date that is suitable for you.
  • At your first consultation, the biostatistician will give you a card with their email and telephone details. You should arrange subsequent follow up appointments directly with the biostatistician.


What is the waiting time to see a biostatistician?

  • It depends on the time of year, the availability of biostatisticians as well as your own schedule. The onus is on you not to leave it too late to make an appointment, so rather make it well in advance. Please allow two weeks just in case, although it will be on average a week waiting time.
  • We will try our best to accommodate urgent requests. Please let us know if it is urgent in the online form.


Where will the consultation take place?

  • Normally at the Biostatistics Unit within the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, 3rd floor of the Teaching Building, Tygerberg Campus.
  • If you are based outside Cape Town, please let us know and we can arrange a skype or telephonic consultation. 


How much will the consultation cost?

  • For research towards a higher degree at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, Stellenbosch University, there is no direct cost to the student. The costs of the Biostatistical consultations are covered by the Dean's fund.
  • For internal academics where the research is not towards a higher degree, external academics, or researchers from industry there are different hourly charges. Please contact our administrator for details.


What if I have an urgent query for a biostatistician and cannot wait for an appointment?

  • If your query relates to a study which you have already consulted a biostatistician about, please email or telephone the consultant biostatistician.
  • A biostatistics clinic is held once a month on the first Wednesday of the month. No appointments are needed for these sessions which are run on a first come first served basis.


Should my supervisor come with me to the appointment?

  • For undergraduate or masters level research, it is strongly recommended that the supervisor is present during the consultations, at least for the initial consultation.


What should I bring with me to an appointment?

Any of the below as applicable:

  • IRB or Ethics approval
  • The approved research protocol or proposal
  • The research questions and/or hypotheses should be clearly listed
  • The electronically captured data (see next FAQ for details)
  • Previously published similar studies


How should I capture my data to ensure that it is able to be analysed?

  • Data should be captured electronically in a standard package eg: excel/REDCap/Access
  • The format should allow for direct importation of data into a statistical package, ie:
    • Variables names in row 1 only
    • One column per variable
    • Variable names short and unique
    • Categorical data coded numerically, and data dictionary/key supplied
    • A variable should either be numeric or character- do not put both in the same column. For example, do not use “N/A", “Missing" or “<0.3" in a numeric field.
    • Limit text/character variables
    • Missing data left as blank cells
    • Delete all unnecessary rows/columns including notes and summary statistics
    • Any highlighting, colours and special fonts will be ignored
    • See this video on the basics of data capture in Excel
  • Data should be checked and cleaned by the researcher. Data capture errors cause delays with the analysis and can lead to invalid results if not detected.


Do I need to have a background knowledge of biostatistics?

  • To ensure that you gain the most out of your research journey you should have a general understanding of the following if applicable to your study:
    1. Hypothesis testing
    2. P-values
    3. Confidence intervals
    4. Some of the common statistical tests


Do I need to have the statistical analysis software on my computer and if so which one/s?

  • It is recommended that you obtain a copy of the statistical software package as discussed with the biostatistician to enable sharing of data and output files effectively.
  • The biostatistician will try to accommodate any preferences you may have for particular statistical packages.


Will the consultant do all my analysis and interpret the results for me?

  • It depends on the level of collaboration which you have negotiated with the biostatistician.
  • For student research we encourage students to do their own data analysis with the guidance of a biostatistician.
  • Where the biostatistician is a co-investigator in a study, his or her role might be the data management and analysis. In this case, the biostatistician will be responsible for data analysis and interpretation.


Will the consultant write up the results for me?

  • It depends on the level of collaboration which you have negotiated with the biostatistician.
  • For student research, no, you will be responsible for writing up your own results. The biostatistician may be requested to read and edit your write up as needed.
  • Where the biostatistician is a co-investigator in the study, and also a co-author in the publication, he or she will have a large role in writing up the results and will contribute to other sections of the manuscript as well.


Should the biostatistician who assisted me be acknowledged in my publication or a co-author?

  • Plans for publication of results should be discussed with the biostatistician.
  • If the biostatistician has met the criteria for co-authorship (ICMJE guidelines) then he or she should be offered co-authorship.
  • At the very least, acknowledgement of the biostatistics unit and the Dean's fund if applicable should be given in a standardised way. For example, to be discussed with your biostatistician: A consultant at the Biostatistics Unit within the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Stellenbosch University assisted with the (design and/or analysis) of this study [or experiment or project] through support from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences dean's fund.