Advanced Topics in Causal Research

This course offers an introduction to causal epidemiological research from a modern perspective. We begin by covering a framework and language that enables us to make a large variety of causal research goals explicit. These include goals relating to mediation, effect modification, interaction, and the effects of time-fixed or time-varying treatments.

Dr. S.G. (Sjoerd) Elias
Associate Professor, UMC Utrecht
Quick overview
  • 3 weeks - 14 hrs / wk
  • Academic Certificate
  • 1.5 EC
  • Online
  • English
€980,-
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Enrollment closes 01/04/2024 188 days left to apply
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Course description

With the foundations in place, we turn to the key obstacles on the path to reaching such research goals. Emphasis is placed on confounding and selection bias. Other sources of bias, notably missing data and measurement error are not addressed in detail. You are also introduced to directed acyclic graphs as tools to identify structural sources of bias and guide analysis.

Having described key obstacles, we address ways (other than classical multivariable regression) to overcome them, incl. propensity score analysis, inverse probability weighting and instrumental variable analysis.

Learning objectives

At the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Be able to approach causal inference from a counterfactual outcomes perspective.
  • Be able to distinguish between conditional and marginal causal effects and understand the
    concept of collapsibility.
  • Be able to represent assumptions in directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) and be able to read off the implications of these assumptions.
  • Be able to recognize key obstacles to causal inference, including time-fixed and time-varying confounding and selection bias.
  • Understand more advanced approaches to account for confounding, including propensity score methods and instrumental variable methods, and be able to apply these.
  • Understand the concepts of effect modification and interaction and be able to compute and interpret different measures of effect modification and interaction.
  • Understand principles and pitfalls of mediation analysis.

Assessment

To successfully complete this course, you need to actively participate in the discussion forums and complete the final exam. You are allowed to redo the final exam once. The exams are, by default, online using online proctoring. If you wish to take the exam on-site in Utrecht, the Netherlands, this is possible as well.

Exam edition April 2023
The exam will take place on April 21th, 2023 from 14:15 – 16:15 CET. The re-examination will take place on June 2th, 2023 from 14:15 – 16:15 CET. Note: these times might be subject to change. The exact time and place will be announced as soon as possible in the learning environment and any changes announced there will overrule the information here.

Exam edition April 2024
The exam will take place on April 26th, 2024 from 14:15 – 16:15 CET. The re-examination will take place on June 14th, 2024 from 14:15 – 16:15 CET. Note: these times might be subject to change. The exact time and place will be announced as soon as possible in the learning environment and any changes announced there will overrule the information here.

It might be that, due to a force majeure situation, you cannot be present during the first exam moment.

• MSc Epidemiology Postgraduate students must then, preferably prior to the first exam option, ask the academic counsellor for permission to be absent. Please note that the academic counsellor can ask for some form of proof of your absence (e.g. in case of illness) to establish if you are applicable for authorized absence. Jaco de Fockert-Koefoed, MSc is the academic counsellor you need to turn to through adviseurs@umcutrecht.nl.

• All other participants should contact the MSc Epidemiology Office instead, through MSc-Epidemiology@umcutrecht.nl.

In short, as of now, it is no longer possible to skip the first deadline option and -automatically- enroll in the second (re-sit) exam. Missing the first deadline results in no longer being able to finish the course that college year.

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