An Interview with Doug Altman

An Interview with Doug Altman

Roberto D’Amico from Cochrane Italy shares an interview with Doug Altman. Everyone within the Cochrane community was sad to learn of the death of Professor Doug Altman this year. Doug Altman was a Cochrane leader and pioneer since the Collaboration’s beginning in 1993. He is best known for his work on improving the reliability and reporting of medical research and for highly cited papers on statistical methodology. Doug’s long-serving contributions to Cochrane have been universally acknowledged across the world. He was a long standing co-convenor of Cochrane’s Statistical Methods, and more recently co-convened both the Cochrane Bias and Cochrane Prognosis Methods; he authored over 450 papers in statistical methodology, with 11 being cited more than 1,000 times.

In 1998, I came to the Centre for Statistics in Medicine, which was directed by Doug Altman. For two years I had the privilege of working closely with Doug and his team. That time in Oxford had an important impact on my methodological training and on my way of thinking about clinical research.

In 2013 I was asked to organize a session on state-of-the-art methodology for Cochrane systematic reviews and meta-analyses, at the annual meeting of SISMEC, which is the Italian Society of Medical Statistics and Clinical Epidemiology.

I immediately thought Doug was the person to invite. Unfortunately, he had prior engagements for the dates of the meeting and therefore could not come. I had the idea of interviewing him instead, and when I proposed it to him, he accepted gracefully. We spent half a day together in his office recording the interview. Doug was relaxed and enjoyed answering the questions. I have great memories of that day.

Listening to Doug is always a pleasure. His points of view and his suggestions are exceptionally educational and inspiring. I would like to share his insights with all of you to remember the great person he was and to keep being inspired by him. Doug Altman will always remain an example to follow.

Roberto D’Amico
Professor of Biostatistics
Università di Modena and Reggio Emilia
Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Modena
Cochrane Italy


The interview is in six parts, with Doug responding to these questions:

  1. What are the main changes in methodology of meta-analysis of interventions observed in the last 20 years?
  2. How has the methodology of systematic reviews influenced clinical research?
  3. Where is the methodology of systematic reviews and meta-analyses heading and where should it be heading?
  4. Which skills should young statisticians acquire and what knowledge should they have?
  5. What are the challenges in communicating research findings?
  6. Has the methodological quality of medical research improved in the last 30 years?

Monday, September 17, 2018