Medical students, residents, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty commonly consult with biostatistical experts about study design and data analysis when conducting clinical research. The role of biostatistical training during these consultations is examined, and characterizations of the connections between biostatistical consultation and education are reviewed. The presence and kinds of teaching efforts during biostatistical consults at four academic research institutions over various periods of time between 1999 and 2005 (237 consultations in total) were recorded and are described. By site, 67, 70, 78, and 100 per cent of the consulting sessions included biostatistical training, with an overall 78 per cent (95 per cent CI: 73-83 per cent) of consultations including an educational component when all consultations were combined. Training covered a wide range of biostatistical topics. Seventy-five per cent of the consultations with faculty (120/161), 79 per cent with fellows and residents (31/39), and 100 per cent with medical students (10/10) included some degree of instruction in study design or statistical analysis topics. Results show that both the need and the opportunity exist for specialized biostatistical instruction during one-on-one sessions between a consulting biostatistician and physicians, medical students, and research staff. Academic researchers are ideally positioned to absorb this kind of training when they initiate a request for assistance with their own research project. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.