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Causality: A consulting and collaborating statisticians perspective Andrew Pickles University of Manchester ESRC Methods Festival Colour scheme by Amy.

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Presentation on theme: "Causality: A consulting and collaborating statisticians perspective Andrew Pickles University of Manchester ESRC Methods Festival Colour scheme by Amy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Causality: A consulting and collaborating statisticians perspective Andrew Pickles University of Manchester ESRC Methods Festival Colour scheme by Amy Pickles

2 Non-causal Analysis Not all analysis need be concerned with formally identifying causes - descriptive data still valuable - establishing a prima facie case is often sufficient e.g. adjusted regional/ethnic differences in unemployment

3 Evidence of Causality Evidence takes many forms: theoretical plausibility, qualitative data and experience, large sample historical/administrative data, observational studies, natural experiments, formally randomised experiments within each of these categories evidence for elaborations of the simple causal effect should be sought e.g. dose response The rank order is not accidental. Evidence from medicine shows increasing bias in effect estimates as the rigour of the study decreases. Nonetheless replication across studies of different designs both within and across these categories is required.

4 Always Approximating We should not be attempting to model everything E.g. Rothman in epidemiology– typically concerned with component causes Non-focal causes often accounted for implicitly in the design or analysis Assumptions about non-focal causes should be as general as possible.

5 Misleading Simplification Response heterogeneity e.g. omitted interactions Random coefficients to allow effects to vary with unknown other factors e.g. effects of divorce (negative for some children, positive for others) But weak design can allow unjustified claims of treatment works in some people. Nature versus nurture debate – gene and environmental effects often represented by additive random effects, but many genetic effects are environmentally contingent and vice-versa

6 Randomisation and natural experiments Require strenuous effort and imagination Protocol failures/departures require use of causal analysis methods from observational studies: –Propensity score/marginal structural means/structural nested models i.e. adjustment for known confounders –(Structural equation and random effects) modelling of longitudinal data can account for some simple forms of unmeasured confounders, and lagged/reciprocal effects under additional assumptions. –Instrumental variables allow adjustment for unknown confounders (but hard to find convincing and efficient IVs)


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