On the 3rd June 2018, when Professor Doug Altman passed away, the statistics community lost one of its greatest statisticians. Doug Altman was a Professor of Statistics in Medicine at the University of Oxford. He was an internationally acclaimed statistician, who was best known for improving the quality of medical research. His contribution to the discipline of statistics are profound and have been, and continue to be, of far reaching consequence.
Doug led the Medical Statistics Group of Cancer Research UK from 1988. His immersion in clinical research led to Doug’s popular book “Practical Statistics for Medical Research” which was published in 1991. The group moved from London to Oxford in 1995, where he founded the Centre for Statistics in Medicine (CSM). In 2006 he founded the Equator Network, which seeks to improve the quality of scientific publications by promoting transparent and accurate reporting of health research.
In 2015, Doug was awarded the BMJ Lifetime Achievement Award and was quoted as saying in an article announcing the award that “Perpetually seeing bad articles in medical journals just got to me. I felt aggrieved by it. It was a waste of money, of course, and a breach of ethics, but that only occurred to me later. At the time, it just seemed wrong.” Doug sought to address these concerns, focussing his career on continuing to develop new methodologies whilst advocating for practical guidelines and transparency.
CSM continues under the Directorship of Professor Sallie Lamb. Only a few weeks before his death, Doug took both great pride and enjoyment in participating in the annual CSM away day, and celebrating the achievements of junior, mid-career and senior medical statisticians at the University of Oxford.