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Nianbo Dong wins NSF grant to develop new statistical tools

Project aimed at improving rigorous evaluations of cost–effectiveness studies

Nianbo Dong, associate professor at the School of Education, has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop and test a new statistical framework and software intended to improve the design and use of cost-effectiveness evaluation studies in STEM research.

Dong’s project is in response to a call from the NSF’s Education and Human Resources Core Research Program for development of new research, measurement and evaluation methodologies to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM — learning environments, expanded participation in STEM fields, and STEM workforce development.

Dong’s project is aimed at developing new statistical tools that can be used by scientists who use cost-effectiveness analysis in their studies when evaluating the costs versus the benefits of new interventions.

The project will develop new statistical framework to guide the design of cost-effectiveness trials and test their precision. The project also will include incorporating the new features into a new version of the software package “PowerUp!” developed by a team led by Dong.

The “PowerUp!” series of software applications is used by scientists to determine adequate sample sizes in studies to achieve specified meaningful main, moderation, and mediation effects. The “PowerUp!” software packages were developed with earlier support from the NSF and the Institute of Education Sciences.

The project is intended to fill a gap in multilevel randomized controlled trials that have well-developed methods for focusing on the effectiveness of interventions in analyzing the statistical power, but little in the way of statistical methods that use the cost-effectiveness measure as the main outcome in power analyses.

Co-principal investigators are Rebecca Maynard of the University of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Kelcey of the University of Cincinnati, Jessaca Spybrook of Western Michigan University, and Wei Li of the University of Florida.

Dong’s research has been supported by over $7 million in funding as principal investigator or co-principal investigator, with more than $4 million in support of methodology research. Much of that support has come from grants from NSF and IES. He received an NSF Faculty Early Career award in 2017.

Dong’s research program has focused on the development and application of quantitative methods to answer important education research problems, such as evaluating the effects of teacher and principal professional development and early childhood education programs, and design and analysis of multi-level experimental studies.

More details: The award abstract on the National Science Foundation website.