The “Gloomy Prospect”

This week’s PIG-IE reading is a nice follow up to last week’s paper with a discernable pessimistic twist.  It is:

Davey-Smith, G.  (2011). Epidemiology, epigenetics, and the ‘Gloomy Prospect’: embracing randomness in population health research and practice.  International Journal of Epidemiology, 40, 537-562.

I doubt we will get Prof Davey-Smith to respond to queries, but we should give it a go nonetheless.  See you on Monday.

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One Response to The “Gloomy Prospect”

  1. pigee says:

    Okay, a bit late, but nonetheless, here is the recap of our discussion–filtered through the fog of the week.

    1. Gotta like an article that successfully weaves together Winnie the 100 year-old smoker, Sylvia Plath, and Piebald guinea pigs.
    2. Some welcomed the elaborate discussion of what is meant by shared environment, others did not. The difference in opinion hinged on whether the reader felt their respective field had figured out that environments don’t come in simple packages or not.
    3. Most everyone felt that the gloomy prospect applies to all categories of information including genes and shared environments and not just non-shared environments. More to the point, we found the authors optimistic take on GWAS and other genetic studies puzzling given the now ubiquitous finding that few if any SNPs or candidate gene findings replicate.
    4. Some of us (meaning Brent) feel that few psychologists have come to grips with the fact that the author supports, which is that most effects of most variables are teeny tiny when you move into the real world. You can take solace in this fact if you want, because it is clear that this truth applies to almost everyone. On the other hand, you really have to wonder what we are finding in our small studies that, by definition, can only detect medium and large effects. Many of us rationalize this discrepancy by arguing that we are studying ‘theoretical’ relations, or ‘process’ in our ecologically invalid and ungeneralizable studies. But if all effects go close to zero in the messy real world, how important is our theory or our process? Just a question.

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