Imperial College London

Hilary Watt CStat FHEA MSc MA(Oxon) BA

Faculty of MedicineSchool of Public Health

Teaching Fellow



+44 (0)20 7594 7451h.watt Website




322Reynolds BuildingCharing Cross Campus





Hilary teaches statistics using her published methods that help students understand statistics. She uses definitions and images that intentionally correct widespread misconceptions, whilst simultaneously clarifying core concepts. She is actively researching methods of statistics education, with co-investigators that she has invited to join her. She is especially interested in language used to define p-values and confidence intervals. She develops images with interactive exercises that foster conceptual understanding. She has published on her teaching success, given statistics teaching talks at the Royal Statistical Society annual international conference and talks/ led discussions at the annual UK Burwalls medical statistics teaching conference. 

Hilary was awarded two NIHR grants for randomised controlled trials as co-applicant Statistician. The first, recently published, evaluated a brief video-feedback intervention to promote positive parenting, in very young children with behavioural problems (HTA funded, PI Prof Paul Ramchandani). The second, in progress, evaluates drug treatment to improve attention (extended-release guanfacine) in patients with Alzheimer's disease, as an add-on therapy in patients already receiving memory-enhancing drugs (NIHR funded, PI Dr Paresh Malhotra). Hilary is valued member of the NIHR Research Design Service, whose clients are highly appreciative of her expertise and willingness to put in time and effort to help them to secure grant funding. Hilary is co-supervising/ providing statistical for three students who have been awarded fellowships.

Hilary is leading the new Statistics Masterclass series that will allow taught post-graduate and PhD students and staff to all benefit from her teaching of conceptual understanding of statistics. She will further promote her software resources on data cleaning and data management. Hilary's passion for statistics teaching developed from a concern that even some people who become professors of statistics acknowledge that they took a few years to gradually understand core concepts (p-values and confidence intervals). There is research evidence of fundamental misunderstandings that many researchers share. Whilst research politics plays a part, the high prevalence of low standards of interpretations in quantitative research may also reflect levels of understanding.

Hilary designed & developed tutorials and lectures, taught and examined on a particularly fast-paced post-graduate statistics module at Imperial College London, UK, for eight years. She developed and trialled new teaching methods, paying detailed attention to students’ reactions. In 2018, she earned a reputation for making statistics easy to understand. Dissertation tutors and external examiners were very impressed with the statistical aptitude and written interpretations of this student cohort some months after this one intense statistics module, demonstrating substantial improvements year on year. Her resulting publication on core-concept teaching methods has been accepted for publication into a peer-reviewed statistics teaching book chapter (in press, book chapter derived from outstanding contributions to Burwalls annual UK statistics teaching conference).

Eminent statisticians have been expressing concern over standards of statistical interpretation in applied research over many years. This agenda has been actively embraced by the American Statistical Association over the past several years, with many resulting publications including in Nature. By tying her teaching methods in with this agenda, she earned a publication in the high-profile International Journal of Epidemiology in 2020. Key ideas are encompassed into her talk (view by clicking here).

Hilary performs a stand-up comedy act, as a homage to Florence Nightingale, including Florence's use of data to promote public health. She uses comedy to bring curious scientific facts to a wider audience, promoted via her YouTube channel. Her YouTube channel also contains statistics teaching videos that use her published methods to foster conceptual understanding of core concepts. 

Outside of work, Hilary loves to connect with nature and to connect to her voice by singing.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

O'Farrelly C, Barker B, Watt H, et al., 2021, A video-feedback parenting intervention to prevent enduring behaviour problems in at-risk children aged 12-36 months: the Healthy Start, Happy Start RCT, Health Technology Assessment, Vol:25, ISSN:1366-5278, Pages:1-+

Watt H, 2020, Reflections on modern methods: statistics education beyond “significance”: novel plain English interpretations to deepen understanding of statistics and to steer away from misinterpretations, International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol:49, ISSN:0300-5771, Pages:2083-2088

O'Farrelly C, Watt H, Babalis D, et al., 2021, A brief home-based parenting intervention (VIPP-SD) to reduce behaviour problems in young children: A pragmatic randomised clinical trial., Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, ISSN:1072-4710


Watt H, 2022, Teaching conceptual understanding of p-values and of confidence intervals, whilst steering away from common misinterpretations, Burwalls teaching medical statistics, Editor(s): Medeiros Mirra, Farnell


Watt H, Leedham-Green K, Farnell D, et al., Round Table: Discussion on choice of confidence interval (CI) “definition”, Burwalls 2022: Annual meeting for teachers of statistics in medicine and allied health sciences

Watt H, Leedham-Green K, Farnell D, et al., Denying knowledge of differences amongst subjects when p>0.05; people are less likely to make this error when their p-value interpretation includes “population”, Royal Statistical Society 2022 International conference

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