University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and Nutrition Obesity Research Center researchers Kevin Fontaine, Ph.D. and David B. Allison, Ph.D., have been awarded a four-year, $1 million R25 grant from the National Institutes of Health to deliver an annual short course on applying innovative methodologies in behavioral and social sciences to obesity research.
The Strengthening Causal Inference in Behavioral Obesity Research grant will be used to offer a five-day course at UAB in which experts from various disciplines — statistics, psychology, philosophy and more — and will expose students to new methods to find causation from observational studies, rather than associations.
“Obesity literature is often association studies rather than randomized controlled trials, which makes it a challenge to determine true causation,” said Fontaine, chair and professor in the Department of Health Behavior. “But there are many techniques in other disciplines that can help us strengthen the quality of the conclusions of obesity research to better determine whether A really does cause B.”
Fontaine says about 50 experts from across the United States and UAB have been secured to teach the course on a rotating basis. The intended students are up-and-coming obesity researchers, postdoctoral investigators, and even established researchers. More information on course sign-up will be available late fall/early winter 2014. The first course will take place in summer 2015.