Don’t trust the data: Advice from Best Paper winners


Missing San Francisco already? I caught up with the SAS Global Forum 2013 paper winners and asked them to share some of their insights about their work, the conference and what they took away from the experience. To kick off this series, I've posted their words of wisdom for other SAS Users. The question was simple: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from another SAS user? Or wished you’d gotten? Here are their answers:

Be cautious: “Don’t trust the data—check and re-check everything.” — David Scocca, Communicating Standards: A Code Review Experience

Select the right paper topic: "Whatever you are trying to do, just assume someone else in the SAS world has already done it or something similar.  There are a lot of really good programmers out there, and more often than not this assumption will prove correct.  Start with searching Google or the conference proceedings.  It is better to build off the examples of others than try to reinvent the wheel.  And likewise, never assume that you know all that is important to know about SAS.  New capabilities are constantly being added.  You only need to attend a few presentations at a conference like this to be reminded how much there is to learn.” — Dylan Ellis, RUN_MACRO Run! With PROC FCMP and the RUN_MACRO Function from SAS® 9.2, Your SAS® Programs Are All Grown Up

Prepare, conquer and promote your alma mater: “While at this year’s SAS Global Forum, I attended a pre-conference training session with Warren Kuhfeld on Creating Statistical Graphics in SAS. Dr. Kuhfeld showed me how to import and create various templates for SAS output that can be customized depending on your output needs. I found this incredibly useful, particularly for presenting data to those who are not always mathematically inclined. (During this session I also learned that Dr. Kuhfeld created the HTML Blue default output and that the Carolina Blue color was chosen since it is his Alma Mater.  As a Carolina alumnus, I found this quite exciting!)” — Lucy D’Agostino McGowan, Multilevel Reweighted Regression Models to Estimate County-Level Racial Health Disparities Using PROC GLIMMIX

Consult your resources: “Use SAS Enterprise Guide if you are stuck.  Being new to SAS and not understanding the syntax a colleague recommended that I use SAS EG when stuck to see how it would solve a problem and get code examples.  I have used SAS EG many times to understand how it would write the code to solve a similar problem.  From there it has been relatively easy with information available and examples to solve most code problems I have encountered.” — John Heaton, SAS® Data Integration Studio: The 30-Day Plan

Become a conference regular: “The best advice I’ve got again and again was actually a very simple one ‘come to the SAS conference[s]often!’ Statistical programming involves working with software that develop[s]at an incredible fast speed. It’s easy to get stuck in one’s own routine work and lost touch with the outside world. People at all different stages in their careers should refresh their knowledge base frequently and joining these conference[s]is certainly a boost in the process.” — Beinan Zhao, Estimating Patient Adherence to Medication with Electronic Health Records Data and Pharmacy Claims Combined

Remember your audience: “Veteran presenters have over the years advised me to present on topics and strategies that I believe are the most useful to the greatest number of conference attendees. Most attendees are relatively new to SAS.  In general, never forgetting my audience seems to serve me pretty well.” — Patrick Thorton, A Concise Display of Multiple Response Items

Live by the data: “Everything starts and ends with the data". Best quote I live and die by when it comes to SAS development.  Which is why I've used that punch line in this year's paper and one of mine last year.” — Stephen Overton, Escape from Big Data Restrictions by Leveraging Advanced OLAP Cube Techniques

On the importance of punctuation:  “Don’t forget the semi-colon.” – Art Carpenter, Macro Quoting to the Rescue: Passing Special Characters

Thanks once again to all the paper winners for participating and sharing their stories with us. Readers, keep checking back for more posts in the series. Until then, start deaming of Washington D.C. and SAS Global Forum 2014!


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Natalie Meyer

Administrative Support Student

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