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Dr. N. (Niels) Smits

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Programme group: Methods and statistics

Visiting address
  • Nieuwe Achtergracht 127
Postal address
  • Postbus 15776
    1001 NG Amsterdam
  • Research

    My expertise lies in applied statistics and psychometrics. I am especially interested in developing methods for efficient assessment like computerized adaptive testing and stochastic curtailment. Other interests are test construction, the analysis of missing data, (psychometric) decision theory, classification, and machine learning. In addition, I assist applied researchers in planning, analyzing and reporting their research.

  • Publications


    • van Dorresteijn, C. M., Kan, K. J., & Smits, N. (2023). Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence: On the limited use of regression discontinuity analysis in higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 48(1), 16-26.
    • van der Ark, L. A., & Smits, N. (2023). Computerized Adaptive Testing Without IRT for Flexible Measurement and Prediction. In Methodology of Educational Measurement and Assessment (pp. 369-388). (Methodology of Educational Measurement and Assessment). Springer.


    • Flens, G., Terwee, C. B., Smits, N., Williams, G., Spinhoven, P., Roorda, L. D., & de Beurs, E. (2022). Construct Validity, Responsiveness, and Utility of Change Indicators of the Dutch-Flemish PROMIS Item Banks for Depression and Anxiety Administered as Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT): A Comparison With the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). Psychological Assessment, 34(1), 58-69.


    • Flens, G., Smits, N., Terwee, C. B., Pijck, L., Spinhoven, P., & de Beurs, E. (2021). Practical Significance of Longitudinal Measurement Invariance Violations in the Dutch–Flemish PROMIS Item Banks for Depression and Anxiety: An Illustration With Ordered-Categorical Data. Assessment, 28(1), 277-294. [details]
    • Terwee, C. B., Crins, M. H. P., Roorda, L. D., Cook, K. F., Cella, D., Smits, N., & Schalet, B. D. (2021). International application of PROMIS computerized adaptive tests: US versus country-specific item parameters can be consequential for individual patient scores. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 134, 1-13. [details]


    • Conijn, J. M., Smits, N., & Hartman, E. E. (2020). Determining at what age children provide sound self-reports: An illustration of the validity-index approach. Assessment, 27(7), 1604-1618. [details]
    • Crins, M. H. P., Terwee, C. B., Westhovens, R., van Schaardenburg, D., Smits, N., Joly, J., Verschueren, P., Van der Elst, K., Dekker, J., Boers, M., & Roorda, L. D. (2020). First Validation of the Full PROMIS Pain Interference and Pain Behavior Item Banks in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Care & Research, 72(11), 1550-1559. [details]
    • Finkelman, M. D., Jamison, R. N., Kulich, R. J., Butler, S. F., Smits, N., & Weiner, S. G. (2020). A Comparison of Short Forms of the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients With Pain – Revised (SOAPP-R). European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 36(2), 387–398. [details]
    • Smits, N., Öğreden, O., Garnier-Villarreal, M., Terwee, C. B., & Chalmers, R. P. (2020). A study of alternative approaches to non-normal latent trait distributions in item response theory models used for health outcome measurement. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 29(4), 1030-1048. [details]



    • Finkelman, M. D., Jamison, R. N., Magnuson, B., Kulich, R. J., Butler, S. F., Smits, N., & Weiner, S. G. (2018). Computer-based testing and the 12-item Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain-Revised: A combined approach to improving efficiency. Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, [e12145].
    • Finkelman, M. D., Lowe, S. R., Kim, W., Gruebner, O., Smits, N., & Galea, S. (2018). Item Ordering and Computerized Classification Tests With Cluster-Based Scoring: An Investigation of the Countdown Method. Psychological Assessment, 30(2), 204-219. [details]
    • Fokkema, M., Smits, N., Zeileis, A., Hothorn, T., & Kelderman, H. (2018). Detecting treatment-subgroup interactions in clustered data with generalized linear mixed-effects model trees. Behavior Research Methods, 50(5), 2016-2034. [details]
    • Smits, N., Paap, M. C. S., & Böhnke, J. R. (2018). Some recommendations for developing multidimensional computerized adaptive tests for patient-reported outcomes. Quality of Life Research, 27(4), 1055-1063. [details]
    • Smits, N., van der Ark, L. A., & Conijn, J. M. (2018). Measurement versus prediction in the construction of patient-reported outcome questionnaires: Can we have our cake and eat it? Quality of Life Research, 7(27), 1673-1682. [details]




    • Crins, M. H. P., Roorda, L. D., Smits, N., de Vet, H. C. W., Westenhovens, R., Cella, D., ... Terwee, C. B. (2015). Calibration and validation of the Dutch-Flemish PROMIS pain interference item bank in patients with chronic pain. PLoS ONE, 10(7), [e0134094]. [details]
    • Finkelman, M. D., Kulich, R. J., Zacharoff, K. L., Smits, N., Magnuson, B. E., Dong, J., & Butler, S. F. (2015). Shortening the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain-Revised (SOAPP-R): A proof-of-principle study for customized computer-based testing. Pain Medicine, 16(12), 2344-2356. [details]
    • Fokkema, M., Smits, N., Kelderman, H., & Penninx, B. W. J. H. (2015). Connecting clinical and actuarial prediction with rule-based methods. Psychological Assessment, 27(2), 636-644. [details]
    • Kerkhof, W., Stoel, R. D., Berger, C. E. H., Mattijssen, E. J. A. T., Hermsen, R., Smits, N., & Hardy, H. J. J. (2015). Design and results of an exploratory double blind testing program in firearms examination. Science & justice, 55(6), 514-519. [details]
    • Sie, H., Finkelman, M. D., Riley, B., & Smits, N. (2015). Utilizing response times in computerized classification testing. Applied Psychological Measurement, 39(5), 389-405. [details]
    • Smits, N., & Finkelman, M. D. (2015). Shortening the PHQ-9: a proof-of-principle study of utilizing Stochastic Curtailment as a method for constructing ultrashort screening instruments. General Hospital Psychiatry, 37(5), 464-469. [details]
    • Smits, N., Kelderman, H., & Hoeksma, J. B. (2015). Een vergelijking van compensatoir en conjunctief toetsen in het hoger onderwijs. Pedagogische Studiën, 92(4), 275-285. [details]
    • Sorsdahl, K., Stein, D. J., Cuijpers, P., Smits, N., Naledi, T., & Myers, B. (2015). The efficacy of a blended motivational interviewing and problem solving therapy intervention to reduce substance use among patients presenting for emergency services in South Africa: A randomized controlled trial. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy, 10(46). [details]


    • Fokkema, M., Smits, N., Finkelman, M. D., Kelderman, H., & Cuijpers, P. (2014). Curtailment: A method to reduce the length of self-report questionnaires while maintaining diagnostic accuracy. Psychiatry Research, 215(2), 477-482.
    • Fokkema, M., Smits, N., Kelderman, H., Carlier, I. V. E., & van Hemert, A. M. (2014). Combining Decision Trees and Stochastic Curtailment for Assessment Length Reduction of Test Batteries Used for Classification. Applied Psychological Measurement, 38(1), 3-17.
    • Smits, N., & Finkelman, M. D. (2014). Variable length testing using the ordinal regression model. Statistics in Medicine, 33(3), 488-499.
    • Terluin, B., Smits, N., & Miedema, B. (2014). The English version of the four-dimensional symptom questionnaire (4DSQ) measures the same as the original Dutch questionnaire: a validation study. The European journal of general practice, 20(4), 320-326.


    • De Kieviet, J. F., Stoof, C. J. J., Geldof, C. J. A., Smits, N., Piek, J. P., Lafeber, H. N., ... Oosterlaan, J. (2013). The crucial role of the predictability of motor response in visuomotor deficits in very preterm children at school age. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 55(7), 624-630.
    • Finkelman, M. D., Kulich, R. J., Zoukhri, D., Smits, N., & Butler, S. F. (2013). Shortening the Current Opioid Misuse Measure via computer-based testing: a retrospective proof-of-concept study. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 13, [126].
    • Fokkema, M., Smits, N., Kelderman, H., & Cuijpers, P. (2013). Response shifts in mental health interventions: an illustration of longitudinal measurement invariance. Psychological Assessment, 25(2), 520-531.


    • Finkelman, M. D., Smits, N., Kim, W., & Riley, B. (2012). Curtailment and Stochastic Curtailment to Shorten the CES-D. Applied Psychological Measurement, 36(8), 632-658.
    • Smits, N., Zitman, F. G., Cuijpers, P., den Hollander-Gijsman, M. E., & Carlier, I. V. E. (2012). A proof of principle for using adaptive testing in Routine Outcome Monitoring: the efficiency of the Mood and Anxiety Symptoms Questionnaire -Anhedonic Depression CAT. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 12, 4.
    • Spee, H., Smits, N., & de Koning, H. (2012). Bruikbaarheid van Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) voor prevalentieschatting van depressie en angststoornissen. TSG Tijdschrift voor Gezondheidswetenschappen, 90(3), 145-149.


    • Ekkers, W., Korrelboom, K., Huijbrechts, I., Smits, N., Cuijpers, P., & van der Gaag, M. (2011). Competitive Memory Training for treating depression and rumination in depressed older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49(10), 588-96.
    • Hillege, S., de Ruiter, C., Smits, N., van der Baan, H., & Das, J. (2011). Structural and metric validity of the dutch translation of psychopathy checklist: Youth version (PCL:YV). International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 10(4), 346-357.
    • Smits, N., Cuijpers, P., & van Straten, A. (2011). Applying computerized adaptive testing to the CES-D scale: a simulation study. Psychiatry Research, 188(1), 147-55.
    • Zhang, B., Fokkema, M., Cuijpers, P., Li, J., Smits, N., & Beekman, A. (2011). Measurement invariance of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) among Chinese and Dutch elderly. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 11, [74].



    • Cuijpers, P., Smits, N., Donker, T., ten Have, M., & de Graaf, R. (2009). Screening for mood and anxiety disorders with the five-item, the three-item, and the two-item Mental Health Inventory. Psychiatry Research, 168(3), 250-255.
    • Meulenbeek, P., Willemse, G., Smit, F., Smits, N., van Balkom, A., Spinhoven, P., & Cuijpers, P. (2009). Effects and feasibility of a preventive intervention in sub-threshold and mild panic disorder: Results of a pilot study. BMC Research Notes, 2, [4].


    • Smits, F., Smits, N., Schoevers, R., Deeg, D., Beekman, A., & Cuijpers, P. (2008). An epidemiological approach to depression prevention in old age. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 16(6), 444-453.
    • Spek, V., Cuijpers, P., Nyklíček, I., Smits, N., Riper, H., Keyzer, J., & Pop, V. (2008). One-year follow-up results of a randomized controlled clinical trial on internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy for subthreshold depression in people over 50 years. Psychological Medicine, 38(5), 635-639.
    • Van Straten, A., Cuijpers, P., & Smits, N. (2008). Effectiveness of a web-based self-help intervention for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress: Randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 10(1), [e7].
    • de Bruin, A. B. H., Smits, N., Rikers, R. M. J. P., & Schmidt, H. G. (2008). Deliberate practice predicts performance over time in adolescent chess players and drop-outs: a linear mixed models analysis. British Journal of Psychology, 99(Pt 4), 473-97.
    • te Brake, H., Smits, N., Wicherts, J. M., Gorter, R. C., & Hoogstraten, J. (2008). Burnout development among dentists: a longitudinal study. European Journal of Oral Sciences, 116(6), 545-551. [details]


    • Cuijpers, P., Dekker, J., Noteboom, A., Smits, N., & Peen, J. (2007). Sensitivity and specificity of the Major Depression Inventory in outpatients. BMC Psychiatry, 7, [39].
    • Evelina Ascalon, M., Meyers, L. S., Davis, B. W., & Smits, N. (2007). Distractor similarity and item-stem structure: Effects on item difficulty. Applied Measurement in Education, 20(2), 153-170.
    • Smits, N., & Vorst, H. C. M. (2007). Reducing the length of questionnaires through structurally incomplete designs: An illustration. Learning and Individual Differences, 17(1), 25-34.
    • Smits, N., Cuijpers, P., Beekman, A. T. F., & Smit, J. H. (2007). Reducing the length of mental health instruments through structurally incomplete designs. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 16(3), 150-60.
    • Smits, N., Smit, F., Cuijpers, P., & De Graaf, R. (2007). Using decision theory to derive optimal cut-off scores of screening instruments: an illustration explicating costs and benefits of mental health screening. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 16(4), 219-29.
    • Spek, V., Nyklíček, I., Smits, N., Cuijpers, P., Riper, H., Keyzer, J., & Pop, V. (2007). Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy for subthreshold depression in people over 50 years old: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Psychological Medicine, 37(12), 1797-1806.


    • Cuijpers, P., Van Straten, A., Smits, N., & Smit, F. (2006). Screening and early psychological intervention for depression in schools: Systematic review and meta-analysis. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 15(5), 300-307.


    • de Jonge, H., & Smits, N. (2020). Een Onderzoek naar het Verband tussen Voortgangstoetsen en Studievoortgang: Intern Rapport in Opdracht van de Universiteit van Amsterdam.


    • Zeileis, A., Gruen, B., Leisch, F., Umlauf, N., Smits, N., Birbaumer, M., & Ernst, D. (2017, Sep 23). Package ‘exams’: Automatic generation of exams in R.


    • Finkelman, M., Smits, N., Kulich, R., Zacharoff, K., Magnuson, B., Chang, H., ... Butler, S. (2016). A proof of concept for short forms of the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain-Revised (SOAPP-R). The Journal of Pain, 17(4, supplement), S24-S25. [196].



    • Smits, N. (2018). On the many trade-offs in item bank construction. S7. Abstract from ISOQOL 2018, the 25th Annual Conference of the International Society for Quality of Life Research, Dublin, Ireland.


    • Flens, G., Smits, N., Terwee, C. B., & de Beurs, E. (2015). Development of Dutch computer adaptive tests for anxiety and depression using the PROMIS item banks. Paper presented at 22nd Annual Conference of the International Society For Quality Of Life Research (ISOQOL) 2015, Vancouver, Canada.


    • Crins, M. H., Terwee, C. B., Westenhovens, R., van Schaardenburg, D-J., Smits, N., Joly, F., ... Roorda, L. D. (2015). Validation of the Dutch-Flemish promis pain behavior and pain interference item banks in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 74(Suppl. 2), [THU0599].
    • Finkelman, M., Kulich, R., Zacharoff, K., Smits, N., Magnuson, B., Dong, J., & Butler, S. (2015). Reducing the respondent burden of the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain-Revised (SOAPP-R): an approach using curtailment and stochastic curtailment. The Journal of Pain, 16(4, Supplement), S22.

    Talk / presentation

    • Smits, N. (speaker) (19-7-2017). Measurement Versus Prediction in Test Construction, 82nd Annual Meeting of the Psychometric Society, Zurich.
    • Smits, N. (speaker) (25-11-2016). The application of psychometrics in clinical contexts: issues and new methods, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
    • Smits, N. (speaker) (28-7-2016). Stochastic curtailment using the isotonic sequential regression model, VII European Congress of Methodology, Palma de Mallorca.
    • Smits, N. (speaker) (19-2-2016). Stochastic curtailment using the isotonic sequential regression model, International Workshop on Psychometric Computing (Psychoco) 2016, Liège.
    • Smits, N. (invited speaker) (17-12-2015). Don't ask too many questions: Stochastic curtailment of questionnaire data, Invited lecture at Empirical Economics and Econometrics Seminar, Innsbruck University, Innsbruck, Austria.
    • Crins, M. H. (speaker), Terwee, C. B. (speaker), Westenhovens, R. (speaker), van Schaardenburg, D.-J. (speaker), Joly, J. (speaker), Smits, N. (speaker), Verschueren, P. (speaker), van der Elst, K. (speaker), Cella, D. (speaker), Cook, K. F. (speaker), Dekker, J. (speaker), Boers, M. (speaker) & Roorda, L. D. (speaker) (21-10-2014). Calibration and validation of the Dutch-Flemish PROMIS pain behavior and pain interference item banks in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Conference of the International Society for Quality of Life Research, Vancouver, Canada.
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  • Ancillary activities
    • No ancillary activities