As a first ever for Switzerland, a competition was run for statisticians in the CTU Network environment in 2018. The statisticians populating this network were challenged to show their prowess – competing for a grant to develop code or programs that will ultimately help improve clinical research and bring fresh solutions to persisting difficulties.
The Statistics and Methodology Platform of the SCTO received six applications from both the French and German parts of the country. Precisely half of the applicants proposed tackling the tricky, pertinent matter of calculating sample size of participants for clinical trials: How many participants does it take for a trial to draw meaningful and conclusive results? Those who design studies need to work closely with statisticians on this question, which can be the make or break of a study. The SCTO established its network of platforms for this very purpose – so platform members can not only provide leadership and share resources, but also inspire one another, revitalise their fields, and keep apace with trends and best practices.
A number of statisticians met for a day to put their heads together. The teams, each one based at a CTU, pitched their presentations. Then altogether, they debated and rated the proposals according to their applicability to clinical research. Double winners emerged – two teams. Each was awarded CHF 12,000 to develop, test, refine, and share their code: the team of Dr Andreas Limacher, CTU Bern, for “Precision-based sample size calculation” and that led by Dr Thomas Fabbro, CTU Basel, for a tool to represent visually assumptions about underlying sample size calculation, so doctors can assess these assumptions more easily. Each winner is obliged to collaborate with another CTU to crosscheck and user-test their code.
Dr Brigitta Gahl, Platform Coordinator, commented: “Once these winning teams have finalised their product, it will go public, in the interests of research worldwide. They will post the open-access code on online forums visited by a lively community of professionals who can immediately put it to practice internationally. Statistics is an extremely vibrant field. Statistics has developed tremendously in recent years, with established methods being scrutinised and refined and new ones gaining ground. It’s all about community. We statisticians need to keep sharing and networking, so we can get the most out of this dynamic time and really shape it.”