Dr Jane Hall is a biomedical data scientist and freelance biostatistician, specializing in health research and clinical informatics. She holds a PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of California, San Francisco. With over 12 years of experience in life science and health services, she supports and guides several research projects that require interdisciplinary expertise spanning data science, clinical decision support, study design, machine learning, and more.
I had the chance to interview Jane for the Kolabtree blog. Here, she speaks about her experience as a freelancer, her collaborative projects, and the benefits of being an independent research consultant.
RS: Could you outline your experience and research interests?
JH: As a biostatistical and scientific writing consultant, I support academic life sciences and health services research by guiding study design, data management, statistical analyses, data reporting, and visualization. In addition, I have authored 11 articles in highly regarded peer-reviewed journals spanning basic science, clinical science, and policy-level analyses, with an H-index of 7 and 146 citations. These include articles published in Blood, Development, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Academic Emergency Medicine, and Prehospital Emergency Care.
RS: Has consulting opened up more opportunities for you than a traditional academic job?
JH: Being a freelance research consultant has been an incredible opportunity to freely examine a variety of topics that critically impact the health and safety of our society. For example, I have been fortunate in the past to contribute to our current understanding of the medical system by researching the cost of cancer care, overcrowding in emergency departments, and effectiveness of new medical diagnostic tools. In addition to always being able to engage in intellectually stimulating and rewarding work, I am able to collaborate with and draw upon groundbreaking ideas from some of the most brilliant minds across the country, with academic faculty clients from institutions such as the University of California at San Francisco, the University of British Columbia, Yale School of Medicine, and the University of Washington.
RS: Your grant writing proposals have seen a high rate of success, winning over $2.1 million awards from the NIH, NSF and more. Is grant writing something that was naturally part of your academic studies or did you make an extra effort to pick up the skill?
JH: Grant writing is more than just a necessary part of academic research — it is an opportunity to really see and take part in the creative process of original, experimental design. I would encourage anyone in the midst of their academic studies to take part in it as much as possible. Trainees can do this in multiple ways: generating their own research proposals, mentoring or brainstorming with other trainees, and importantly, reading and helping with proposals being generated by successful senior faculty. There is so much to take away from a high quality grant proposal: the impact and significance (and selection of) of the research question, preparation of resources including equipment, human resources, or community engagement to provide the best chance of success, as well as careful design of the study itself, including specific strategies to collect and rigorously evaluate data that will yield productive information no matter the outcome.
RS: Should early career researchers be encouraged to freelance? What kind of skills would you advise biomedical students and graduates to equip themselves with?
JH: I think the most valuable experiences that can help a person prepare for a career in freelancing actually spring from interpersonal interactions. A successful freelancing business is heavily reliant on excellent teamwork, communication, organization, and management skills. For this reason, I would encourage researchers to collaborate within and outside of their department, to participate in leadership activities such as organization of academic conferences and research meetings, to mentor other researchers at a variety of training and skill levels, and perhaps most importantly, to identify and carefully observe role models who espouse the values that you would want to incorporate into your practice; who treat their collaborators with respect, patience, and thoughtful kindness.
RS: Do you think there is a rising demand for on-demand services in the medical and life sciences industry?
JH: In today’s data driven world, I believe the demand for a helping hand from a biomedical researcher with skills spanning the interpersonal and analytical are higher than ever. While medical professionals have an incredible wealth of knowledge surrounding the most pressing research questions in their field, they often hindered by the time and expertise needed to manage and analyze the amount of data at their fingertips in a rigorous and reproducible way. It gives me incredible satisfaction to be able to help their ideas come to life and I think there will always be a need for these mutually beneficial collaborations.
Scientists like Jane are helping Kolabtree realize our mission of making scientific expertise easily available to those who need it, across geographic boundaries. With easy access to specialized skills and services, small businesses and researchers can have the resources they need to drive innovation and high-quality research.