Profesional Development Workshop

Day 1: Tuesday, 13 September


Investigating change across time: the challenges of cross-study comparative research and possible solutions

Session convener: David Bann , University College London

Across the health and social sciences, addressing many key scientific or policy questions requires an understanding of whether a given quantity has changed over time—e.g., by year of data collection or by birth year. For example, has the occurrence of—or socioeconomic inequity in—a given health outcome changed across time? Or has social mobility improved or worsened in recently born generations? Answering these questions motivates and informs future policy development and can provide clues to aetiology. While comparative research initiatives are increasingly prominent components of health and social sciences, they are notoriously challenging to conduct—involving the collation and analysis of data from distinct and potentially heterogenous sources, with a need to ensure that such collation is valid, sources of bias are avoided/minimised, and inferences are drawn appropriately. Seemingly innocuous analytical decisions can alter the conclusions drawn. Yet existing methodological training typically focuses on the analysis of single models with single datasets. This interactive workshop will therefore: 1) Discuss the opportunities and key challenges of comparative research, as well as possible solutions. We discuss the use and importance of such research, study inclusion, sources of bias and mitigation, and interpretation, highlighting examples of good practice. 2) Describe key datasets that can be used for comparative research 3) Introduce a new open-access teaching resource that offers detailed instruction and reusable analytical syntax to guide newcomers on comparative analysis and data visualisation (in both R and Stata formats). 4) Facilitate a broader discussion of methodological issues and next steps in comparative research.