Background Rigorous evaluation of associations in epidemiology is essential. There is a precedent in making judgements on associations in the monographs of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, however, only the carcinogenic effects of exposures are examined. A proposal to set up a World Council of Epidemiology and Causality (WCEC) to do this for all outcomes has been developed, published in outline, and discussed briefly at a previous SSM Pemberton lecture. The aim of this presentation is to summarise recent feedback on this proposal, particularly at an international workshop. The published and informal written feedback prior to the workshop and workshop discussions are summarised.
Methods The idea of a WCEC was debated at a workshop at the International Epidemiology Association’s (IEA) 20th World Congress of Epidemiology, 2014. The objective was both to debate the idea and set out further questions and next steps. The workshop consisted of a presentation followed by discussion in five groups. Notes were made for each subgroup. These were edited by the facilitator, the author, and re-edited following feedback from the facilitators. Other feedback was read and summarised.
Results The idea of a WCEC was perceived as potentially valuable. Future discussions should involve a wide range of partners (identified). WCEC should seek to absorb the best practice from organisations working on causality. Following more detailed discussions, including the development of a costed strategic plan, a small, central, independent office should be established to develop a work agenda and the necessary collaborations. The long term aim would be to have a distributed model of working. One or a few important causal topics should be chosen to develop the work, as exemplars. Long term priorities will need to be decided in engagement with potential users of outputs/recommendations arising. Funding needs to be identified for this developmental phase, preferably from one major and several supporting sources. Guidelines on causation, including on publication standards, should be developed by WCEC and its partners. While the focus of the WCEC will be on epidemiological and related type of evidence, the causal concepts and approaches will need to draw on a wide range of contributing disciplines. A committee of 8–12 people including representatives of organisations that have developed causal statements should be formed to move the above ideas forward.
Conclusion Feedback indicates that the WCEC idea, notwithstanding many challenges, has promise and deserves more debate. The preferred model is for a small independent body working closely with relevant partners with a distributed approach to tasks. Other recommendations will be summarised and contextualised given recent approaches in causal thinking in epidemiology.
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