Using Bayesian graphical models to model biases in observational studies and to combine multiple sources of data: application to low birth weight and water disinfection by-products


Nuoo-Ting Molitor, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Imperial College School of Medicine, Norfolk Place, London, W2 1PG, UK.


Summary.  Data in the social, behavioural and health sciences frequently come from observational studies instead of controlled experiments. In addition to random errors, observational data typically contain additional sources of uncertainty such as missing values, unmeasured confounders and selection biases. Also, the research question is often different from that which a particular source of data was designed to answer, and so not all relevant variables are measured. As a result, multiple sources of data are often necessary to identify the biases and to inform about different aspects of the research question. Bayesian graphical models provide a coherent way to connect a series of local submodels, based on different data sets, into a global unified analysis. We present a unified modelling framework that will account for multiple biases simultaneously and give more accurate parameter estimates than standard approaches. We illustrate our approach by analysing data from a study of water disinfection by-products and adverse birth outcomes in the UK.