Dr Sam Watson

Sam Watson

Senior Lecturer

Contact details

Murray Learning Centre
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Applied Health Research working on applied statistics in public health and healthcare. Dr Watson's current research looks at methods of evaluation in low resource settings including cluster trial and survey methodology particularly using Bayesian methods. Current grants/projects include evaluation of water and sanitation interventions in the Cox's Bazar displaced person's camps in Bangladesh, efficient geographical cluster design, NIHR RIGHT programme on leprosy and Buruli ulcer, NIHR Global Heath Research Unit on Improving Health in Slums, stepped-wedge cluster trial of a mental health programme in Malawi (NIH), geostatistical analysis of Covid-19 data for routine surveillence (MRC/UKRI), and healthcare access and use survey in Sierra Leone and Liberia.


  • PhD in Health Sciences, University of Warwick, 2014
  • MSc in Health Economics, City University of London, 2011
  • BSc. (Hons) in Natural Sciences, University of Bath, 2010

Postgraduate supervision

Applied statistics: experimental design, cluster trials, spatial statistics


I am a statistician in the Instititue of Applied Health Research. My research interests relate to experimental design, particularly cluster randomised trials, spatial statistics, and their intersection. Recent and ongoing grants I lead include an MRC/NIHR funded project examining the design and analysis of evaluations of interventions in space (and time), particularly focussing on generalised linear geospatial and mixed models; an NIHR/UKRI funded project on methods for real-time disease surveillance using geospatial prevalence mapping methods; and a small GCRF project piloting use of low-cost imperfect tests as outcome measures for prevalence estimation and evaluation of local interventions. 

I am also a co-investigator for several global health trials and survey-based projects including the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Improving Health in Slums (NIHR), a stepped-wedge trial of integrating depression care into routine HIV and chronic illness services in Malawi (NIH), the NIHR RIGHT programme on leprosy and Buruli ulcer, and a stepped-wedge trial of remote telephone consulting in Tanzania and Nigeria (NIHR/GCRF).


Highlight publications

I. Watson, S 2021, 'Efficient design of geographically-defined clusters with spatial autocorrelation', Journal of Applied Statistics. https://doi.org/10.1080/02664763.2021.1941807

Watson, SI, Lilford, RJ, Sun, J & Bion, J 2021, 'Estimating the effect of health service delivery interventions on patient length of stay: a Bayesian survival analysis approach', Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series C (Applied Statistics), vol. 70, no. 5, pp. 1164-1186. https://doi.org/10.1111/rssc.12501

Watson, S, Girling, A & Hemming, K 2021, 'Design and analysis of three-arm parallel cluster randomized trials with small numbers of clusters', Statistics in Medicine, vol. 40, no. 5, pp. 1133-1146. https://doi.org/10.1002/sim.8828

Watson, SI, Dixon-Woods, M & Lilford, RJ 2020, 'Randomised evaluation of government health programmes does present a challenge to standard research ethics frameworks', Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 34-35. https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2019-106003

Recent publications


Scandrett, K, Lilford, R, Nepogodiev, D, Katikireddi, SV, Davies, J, Tabiri, S & Watson, SI 2024, 'Predicting the effects of introducing an emergency transport system in low-income and middle-income countries: a spatial-epidemiological modelling study', BMJ Public Health, vol. 2, no. 1, e000321. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjph-2023-000321

Napit, IB, Shrestha, D, Neupane, K, Adhikari, A, Dhital, R, Koirala, R, Gopali, L, Ilozumba, O, Gill, P, Watson, S, Choudhury, S & Lilford, R 2023, 'Autologous blood products: Leucocyte and Platelets Rich Fibrin (L-PRF) and Platelets Rich Plasma (PRP) gel to promote cutaneous ulcer healing – a systematic review', BMJ open, vol. 2023, no. 13, e073209. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2023-073209

Higgins, J, JEROME, JG, Boima, F, Dally, E, Krangar, L, Boley, EJ, Toussaint, S, Dibba, Y, Kachimanga, C, Mhango, M, Chung, V, Watson, S & The Impact Consortium 2023, 'Community and facility-level barriers to achieving UHC in Kono District, Sierra Leone and Maryland County, Liberia', PLOS Global Public Health, vol. 3, no. 6, e0002045. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgph.0002045

Watson, SI & Pan, Y 2023, 'Evaluation of combinatorial optimisation algorithms for c-optimal experimental designs with correlated observations', Statistics and Computing, vol. 33, no. 5, 112. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11222-023-10280-w

Watson, S, Girling, A & Hemming, K 2023, 'Optimal Study Designs for Cluster Randomised Trials: An Overview of Methods and Results', Statistical methods in medical research. , pp. 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1177/09622802231202379

Conlan, C, Cunningham, T, Watson, S, Madan, J, Sfyridis, A, Sartori, J, Ferhatosmanoglu, H & Lilford, R 2023, 'Perceived quality of care and choice of healthcare provider in informal settlements', PLOS Global Public Health, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. e0001281. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgph.0001281

Watson, SI, Akinyemi, JO & Hemming, K 2023, 'Permutation-based multiple testing corrections for p-values and confidence intervals for cluster randomised trials', Statistics in Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1002/sim.9831

Asamane, EA, Quinn, L, Watson, SI, Lilford, RJ, Hemming, K, Sidibe, C, Rego, RT, Bensassi, S, Diarra, Y, Diop, S, Gautam, OP, Islam, MS, Jackson, L, Jolly, K, Kayentao, K, Koita, O, Manjang, B, Tebbs, S, Gale, N, Griffiths, PL, Cairncross, S, Toure, O & Manaseki-Holland, S 2023, 'Protocol for a parallel group, two-arm, superiority cluster randomised trial to evaluate a community-level complementary-food safety and hygiene and nutrition intervention in Mali: the MaaCiwara study (version 1.3; 10 November 2022)', Trials, vol. 24, no. 1, 68. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-022-06984-5

Watson, S, Rego, RTT, Hofer, T & Lilford, R 2022, 'Evaluations of water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions should not use diarrhoea as a (primary) outcome', BMJ Global Health, vol. 7, e008521. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2022-008521

Sampson, C, Zamora, B, Watson, S, Cairns, J, Chalkidou, K, Cubi-molla, P, Devlin, N, García-lorenzo, B, Hughes, DA, Leech, AA & Towse, A 2022, 'Supply-side cost-effectiveness thresholds: questions for evidence-based policy', Applied Health Economics and Health Policy, vol. 2022, no. 5, pp. 651-667. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40258-022-00730-3

Rego, R, Watson, S, Ul Alam, MA, Abdullah, SA, Yunus, M, Alam, IT, Chowdhury, ASMHK, Haider, SMA, Faruque, ASG, Khan, AI, Hofer, T, Gill, P, Islam, MS & Lilford, R 2021, 'A comparison of traditional diarrhoea measurement methods with microbiological and biochemical indicators: a cross-sectional observational study in the Cox’s Bazar displaced persons camp ', EClinicalMedicine, vol. 42, 101205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101205

Review article

Napit, IB, Shrestha, D, Choudhury, S, Gkini, E, Ilozumba, O, Gill, P, Bishop, J, Neupane, K, Adhikari, A, Sartori, J, Watson, SI & Lilford, R 2024, 'A randomised Trial of Autologous Blood products, leukocyte and platelet-rich fibrin (L-PRF), to promote ulcer healing in LEprosy: The TABLE trial', PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, vol. 18, no. 5, e0012088. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0012088

Udo, S, Ogbu Sunday, P, Alumbugu Tsaku, P, Olaoluwa Oladejo, I, Meka, A, Chinonso Ugwu, L, Ajisola, M, Akinyemi, J, Oladejo, A, Omigbodun, A, Choudhury, SM, Sartori, J, Ilozumba, O, Watson, S & Lilford, R 2024, 'Raw, Unadulterated African Honey for Ulcer Healing in Leprosy: Protocol for the Honey Experiment on Leprosy Ulcer (HELP) Randomized Controlled Trial', JMIRx Med, vol. 5, e50970. https://doi.org/10.2196/50970

Govindasamy, K, Darlong, J, Watson, SI & Gill, P 2023, 'Prevalence of plantar ulcer and its risk factors in leprosy: a systematic review and meta-analysis', Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, vol. 16, no. 1, 77. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13047-023-00674-4

Rego, R, Watson, S, Gill, P & Lilford, R 2022, 'The impact of diarrhoea measurement methods for under 5s in low- and middle-income countries on estimated diarrhoea rates at the population level: a systematic review and meta-analysis of methodological and primary empirical studies', Tropical Medicine & International Health, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 347-368. https://doi.org/10.1111/tmi.13739

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