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). 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


Wroe, EB, Nhlema, B, Dunbar, EL, Kulinkina, AV, Kachimanga, C, Aron, M, Dullie, L, Makungwa, H, Chabwera, B, Phir, B, Nazimera, L, Ndarama, EPL, Michaelis, A, McBain, R, Brown, C, Palazuelos, D, Lilford, R & Watson, S 2021, 'A household-based community health worker programme for noncommunicable disease, malnutrition, tuberculosis, HIV and maternal health: a stepped-wedge cluster randomised controlled trial in Neno District, Malawi', BMJ Global Health, no. 6, e006535. <http://10.1136/bmjgh-2021-006535>

Napit, IB, Shrestha, D, Bishop, J, Choudhury, S, Dulal, S, Gill, P, Gkini, E, Gwyther, H, Hagge, DA, Neupane, K, Sartori, J, Slinn, G, Watson, SI & Lilford, R 2021, 'An individual randomised efficacy trial of autologous blood products, leukocyte and platelet-rich fibrin (L-PRF), to promote ulcer healing in leprosy in Nepal: the TABLE trial protocol', Trials, vol. 22, no. 1, 453. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-021-05392-5

Yeboah, G, Porto De Albuquerque, J, Troilo, R, Tregonning, G, Perera, S, Ahmed, SAKS, Ajisola, M, Alam, O, Aujla, N, Azam, SI, Azeem, K, Bakibinga, P, Chen, Y, Choudhury, NN, Diggle, PJ, Fayehun, O, Gill, P, Griffiths, F, Harris, B, Iqbal, R, Kabaria, C, Ziraba, AK, Khan, AZ, Kibe, P, Kisia, L, Kyobutungi, C, Lilford, RJ, Madan, JJ, Mbaya, N, Mberu, B, Mohamed, SF, Muir, H, Nazish, A, Njeri, A, Odubanjo, O, Omigbodun, A, Osuh, ME, Owoaje, E, Oyebode, O, Pitidis, V, Rahman, O, Rizvi, N, Sartori, J, Smith, S, Taiwo, OJ, Ulbrich, P, Uthman, OA, Watson, SI, Wilson, R & Yusuf, R 2021, 'Analysis of Openstreetmap data quality at different stages of a participatory mapping process: evidence from slums in Africa and Asia', ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, vol. 10, no. 4, 265. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi10040265

Aujla, N, Ilori, T, Irabor, A, Obimakinde, A, Owoaje, E, Fayehun, O, Ajisola, MM, Bolaji, SO, Watson, SI, Hofer, TP, Omigbodun, A & Lilford, RJ 2021, 'Development of a video-observation method for examining doctors' clinical and interpersonal skills in a hospital outpatient clinic in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria', BMC Health Services Research, vol. 21, no. 1, 488. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-021-06491-4

Shrestha, D, Napit, IB, Ansari, S, Choudhury, SM, Dhungana, B, Gill, P, Griffiths, F, Gwyther, H, Hagge, D, Kandel, S, Puri, S, Sartori, J, Watson, SI & Lilford, R 2021, 'Evaluation of a self-help intervention to promote the health and wellbeing of marginalised people including those living with leprosy in Nepal: a prospective, observational, cluster-based, cohort study with controls', BMC Public Health, vol. 21, no. 1, 873. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10847-0

Liaqat, A, Gallier, S, Reeves, K, Crothers, HE, Evison, F, Schmidtke, KA, Bird, P, Watson, S, Khunti, K & Lilford, R 2021, 'Examining organisational responses to performance-based financial incentive systems: a case study using NHS staff influenza vaccination rates from 2012/13 to 2019/20', BMJ Quality & Safety. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjqs-2021-013671

Crothers, H, Liaqat, A, Reeves, K, Watson, SI, Gallier, S, Khunti, K, Bird, P & Lilford, R 2021, 'Outcomes for surgical procedures funded by the English health service but carried out in public versus independent hospitals: a database study', BMJ Quality & Safety. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjqs-2021-013522

Improving Health in Slums Collaborative, Bakibinga, P, Kabaria, C, Kasiira, Z, Kibe, P, Kyobutungi, C, Mbaya, N, Mberu, B, Mohammed, S, Njeri, A, Azam, I, Iqbal, R, Nazish, A, Rizvi, N, Shifat Ahmed, SAK, Choudhury, N, Alam, O, Khan, AZ, Rahman, O, Yusuf, R, Odubanjo, D, Ayobola, M, Fayehun, O, Omigbodun, A, Osuh, M, Owoaje, E, Taiwo, O, Lilford, RJ, Sartori, J, Diggle, PJ, Aujla, N, Chen, Y, Gill, P, Griffiths, F, Harris, B, Madan, J, Muir, H, Oyebode, O, Pitidis, V, De Albuquerque, JP, Smith, S, Taylor, C, Ulbrich, P, Uthman, OA, Wilson, R, Yeboah, G & Watson, S 2021, 'Pharmacies in informal settlements: a retrospective, cross-sectional household and health facility survey in four countries', BMC Health Services Research, vol. 21, no. 1, 945. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-021-06937-9

Lilford, RJ & Watson, SI 2020, 'Comment on Hemming et al.'s 'Stepped-wedge trials should be classified as research for the purpose of ethical review'', Clinical Trials, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 459-460. https://doi.org/10.1177/1740774520920543

Kachimanga, C, Dunbar, EL, Watson, S, Cundale, K, Makungwa, H, Wroe, EB, Malindi, C, Nazimera, L, Palazuelos, D, Drake, J, Gates, T, van den Akker, T & Shea, J 2020, 'Increasing utilisation of perinatal services: estimating the impact of community health worker program in Neno, Malawi', BMC pregnancy and childbirth, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2714-8

Futter, A, Watson, S, Chilton, P & Lilford, R 2020, 'Nuclear war, public health, the COVID-19 epidemic: lessons for prevention, preparation, mitigation, and education', Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, vol. 76, no. 5, pp. 271-276. https://doi.org/10.1080/00963402.2020.1806592

Schmidtke, KA, Nightingale, PG, Reeves, K, Gallier, S, Vlaev, I, Watson, SI & Lilford, RJ 2020, 'Randomised controlled trial of a theory-based intervention to prompt front-line staff to take up the seasonal influenza vaccine', BMJ Quality & Safety, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 189-197. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjqs-2019-009775

Watson, SI, Dixon-Woods, M, Taylor, CA, Wroe, EB, Dunbar, EL, Chilton, PJ & Lilford, RJ 2020, 'Revising ethical guidance for the evaluation of programmes and interventions not initiated by researchers', Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 26-30. https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2018-105263


Watson, SI & Lilford, RJ 2021, 'Global COVID-19 vaccine roll-out: time to randomise vaccine allocation?', The Lancet, vol. 397, no. 10287, pp. 1804-1805. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00895-3

Review article

Lilford, R, Nepogodiev, D, Chilton, PJ, Watson, SI, Erlangga, D, Diggle, P, Girling, AJ & Sculpher, M 2021, 'Methodological issues in economic evaluations of emergency transport systems in low-income and middle-income countries', BMJ Global Health, vol. 6, no. 3, e004723. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2020-004723

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