Issue: September 2014
eNews from The Methodology Center

teacher with children

Head Start is the largest federally funded preschool program for disadvantaged children. Some people have questioned its worth because research has shown relatively small impacts on cognitive and social skills. In a forthcoming article in Child Development, Methodology Center Affiliate Brittany Rhoades Cooper and Methodology Center Scientific Director Stephanie Lanza perform latent class analysis (LCA) on the Head Start Impact Study data set to identify subgroups of children who have similar home environments and caregivers. The authors then examine cognitive, behavioral, and relationship skills measured two years later to determine whether the effects of Head Start vary across these subgroups. The results of the analysis suggest that some subgroups of children benefit significantly from Head Start. This approach could have broad application by researchers interested in using LCA to understand differential effects of an intervention by simultaneously considering multiple potential moderators.


Read more.


Open the article. (requires journal access)

Linda Collins

Behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, and risky sex lead to illnesses that cost millions of lives and billions of dollars worldwide every year. Interventions designed to reduce these behaviors have tremendous potential to reduce morbidity and mortality and improve public health, but currently, they are not reaching their full potential.


Methodology Center Director Linda Collins believes we can do better. In an eleven-minute talk at TEDxPSU in March, "Reducing smoking deaths: Is it rocket science?" Linda proposed using engineering methods to build more potent, efficient, and scalable behavioral interventions. She illustrated how this can be done by comparing our national effort to reduce smoking to our national effort to put a person on the moon. Though the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) is not explicitly discussed, the talk lays out its rationale; this is a must-watch for anyone who wants to learn about Linda's research.

Watch the talk.

Read more about Linda's work on optimizing behavioral interventions


We are pleased to release the latest versions of the SAS procedures PROC SCADLS and PROC SCADGLIM (1.2) for variable selection. These procedures are useful tools for researchers who are selecting variables from datasets where the number of potential variables is very large. These updates fix minor bugs and allow the procedures to be run on 64-bit versions of SAS. Methodology Center Principal Investigator Runze Li leads The Center's research on variable selection in high-dimensional data sets.


Download the software or read more.

Susan Murphy, Credit to MacArthur Foundation

The University of Michigan has named Susan Murphy distinguished university professor for her research, leadership, and service. Susan is Methodology Center principal investigator, Herbert E. Robbins Distinguished University Professor of statistics, research professor at the Institute for Social Research, and professor of psychiatry.


Susan's research focuses on the development of innovative research approaches to improve the personalization of treatment. She developed the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART), which led to her being named a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellow in 2013. SMART is an experimental design tool that allows scientists to build empirically based interventions that adapt according to patient characteristics and response to treatment. While development of SMART continues, Susan is also investigating the construction of just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs), which use real-time data from mobile technologies to deliver personalized behavioral interventions exactly when interventions are needed.

Mark Stemmler

Mark Stemmler, professor of psychological assessment at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, has written a new book, Person centered methods: Configural frequency analysis (CFA) and other methods for the analysis of contingency tables. Mark is a long-time friend of The Methodology Center, and last month, he visited us from Germany to teach a one-credit graduate course. While he was here, he took time to briefly chat about his new book and the value of CFA.


Read the interview.

Rachel Smith

Methodology Center Investigator Rachel Smith is leading a team of researchers who are investigating communication between spouses following a health diagnosis. Their goal is to design targeted messages to support management of genetic test results. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) is funding this research.


Read more.


Methodology Center Affiliate David Conroy recently published a paper demonstrating that Americans consume more alcohol on days that they work out. 


Read more.


Listen to our podcast with David.

As the science surrounding our methods evolves, we update our website. Most recently, we overhauled some of our website's most popular content: pages on the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) for engineering effective behavioral interventions. Read about Linda Collins' latest research and thinking on this method. 

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