Ramspek, CL, Steyerberg, EW, Riley, RD, Rosendaal, FR, Dekkers, OM, Dekker, FW and van Diepen, M (2021) Prediction or causality? A scoping review of their conflation within current observational research. Eur J Epidemiol.

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Abstract

Etiological research aims to uncover causal effects, whilst prediction research aims to forecast an outcome with the best accuracy. Causal and prediction research usually require different methods, and yet their findings may get conflated when reported and interpreted. The aim of the current study is to quantify the frequency of conflation between etiological and prediction research, to discuss common underlying mistakes and provide recommendations on how to avoid these. Observational cohort studies published in January 2018 in the top-ranked journals of six distinct medical fields (Cardiology, Clinical Epidemiology, Clinical Neurology, General and Internal Medicine, Nephrology and Surgery) were included for the current scoping review. Data on conflation was extracted through signaling questions. In total, 180 studies were included. Overall, 26% (n = 46) contained conflation between etiology and prediction. The frequency of conflation varied across medical field and journal impact factor. From the causal studies 22% was conflated, mainly due to the selection of covariates based on their ability to predict without taking the causal structure into account. Within prediction studies 38% was conflated, the most frequent reason was a causal interpretation of covariates included in a prediction model. Conflation of etiology and prediction is a common methodological error in observational medical research and more frequent in prediction studies. As this may lead to biased estimations and erroneous conclusions, researchers must be careful when designing, interpreting and disseminating their research to ensure this conflation is avoided.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
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Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2021 12:04
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2021 12:04
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/9952

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