It’s a common scenario you’ll find around many college campuses: A graduate student is deep into a research project using SAS when, all of the sudden, they hit a roadblock they just can’t seem to overcome.
Luckily for students at UCLA, they have a place to go for answers - the Statistical Consulting Services website.
“We had two purposes in mind when we created the website,” said Philip Ender, Manager of UCLA’s Statistical Consulting Group. “The first was to help UCLA faculty, staff researchers and graduate students with questions that may come up during their research. The second purpose was to create a resource for statistical consultants so that when tricky SAS programming or statistical issues came up, we wouldn't have to recreate the wheel each time.”
The Statistical Consulting Group also offers in-person consulting services for faculty and students at UCLA, and even those outside of the university community. The website is available to anyone around the world looking for information about using SAS.
The statistical consultants at UCLA are trained by SAS instructors at no charge to the university. SAS Analytical Training Consultant Mike Speed teaches courses on data mining and mixed models. “I’m very impressed with what they’re doing with the training we provide,” said Speed. “It’s also fun to teach at UCLA. We’ll get anywhere from 40 to 60 students in a class and they’re very enthusiastic and eager to learn.”
SAS also provides training materials and books to the university. “Our services are more efficient because of the training SAS provides,” said Ender. “We would not be able to afford these training sessions and materials from our own budget.”
Ender says the website gets about a million hits a month and hundreds of email messages. “We get very positive responses from people on campus and around the world.”
Using SAS for big data research
SAS is also being used as part of a major research project CalSIM (California Simulation of Insurance Markets) at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. It’s a microsimulation model that can be used to estimate the potential impact of the changes in health care policies, especially the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in California.
“We use SAS for our research because it’s ideal for handling large data sets. We index our data and make use of the MP connect to speed up the computation,” explained Xiao Chen, Senior Statistician at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “CalSIM is very critical because it will help policy researchers and policymakers understand the impact of the ACA.”
SAS has provided the CalSIM team with training courses, learning materials and ongoing technical support.
“SAS has helped our group tremendously,” said Chen. “We’ve found putting our programmers through the Programming III course and Macro Language Programming II course has helped them gain the experience and knowledge to make their SAS programs more efficient.”
A growing partnership
SAS Analytical Training Consultant Tom Bohannon has been teaching SAS at UCLA for several years and has watched the students’ SAS skills take off.
“We go there and conduct workshops on topics they request,” said Bohannon. “At first they were requesting basic courses like SAS Programming, but now they’re getting deeper into SAS and need a higher level of education so we’re teaching data mining and advanced business analytics courses as well.”
SAS and UCLA leaders only see the partnership continuing to grow.
“It’s important for us to expose as many students as possible to SAS,” said Bohannon. “SAS skills not only help them with their research today, but will prove to be a real advantage to them as they enter the workforce.”
The SAS Global Academic Program supports teaching, research and learning at academic institutions. For information on how it can support your academic goals, visit: support.sas.com/learn/ap.