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Staci Wendt on Starting a Statistics [Book] Club

My name is Staci Wendt and I am a Research Associate at RMC Research in Portland, Oregon. Last year, I completed my Ph.D. in Applied Psychology at Portland State University. After finishing my degree, I was concerned about how to stay current with statistical literature and how to practice techniques that I learned in school, but wasn’t currently using in my work.

Hot Tip – One day, a friend was talking with me about her fiction book club and I had an “Aha!” moment—a book club where we discussed statistics!

Who: We have a small group of people with varying knowledge and experience related to statistics and research methods. Our group is comprised of 6 members, which eases scheduling and allows each of us the opportunity to meaningfully contribute.

When: While our regular meetings are held monthly, we are also available to each other via email throughout the month. The email discussions allow for quick feedback on questions or issues that might arise within our day-to-day work.

What: At our first meeting, we discussed our goals and expectations for the group, brainstormed a list of topics we wanted to discuss, and decided on the format for our group. After this discussion the group decided that in order to make the group both useful and doable we would meet monthly but vary the meeting type. On odd-numbered months, we have formal meetings, where we discuss a pre-determined topic (such as Structural Equation Modeling). We take turns facilitating these formal meetings. The facilitator is responsible for selecting pertinent sub-topics of the theme (e.g., model fit, assumptions of the statistical test, how-to) and assigning them to each member. Each member is then responsible for creating a small “cheat-sheet” on that topic and presenting the information at our meeting. Our presentations are mostly casual in order to encourage a good environment for discussion. We also try to bring pertinent “real-world” examples, either from the literature, or from our own work. On the even-numbered months, we have informal meetings. At these meetings, we bring any specific question or topic that we want to discuss, or review information from the previous meeting. The main difference between the formal and informal meetings is that we don’t have any preparation work for the informal meetings.

Where: We rotate meeting at different group members’ homes for the formal meetings. This allows one person to take notes (which are later distributed to the group) and we have room for reference books. For the informal meetings, we try to meet at restaurants, to add to the relaxed nature of the meeting.

The most important thing is to set group goals, make adjustments as you try it out, and HAVE FUN!

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