NETWORK OF VARIABLES
How to identify possible causes and confounding factors of a health condition
Imagine you want to design an experiment to understand how a factor affects a health condition, and you want to understand how other variables can affect this relationship. The first thing to do is to identify the factors that can relate to the problems, for instance a habit, a food intake or an environmental exposure.
Citizens, especially those affected by the health problem, can help identify these factors based on their perception and first-hand knowledge of the problem.
¿How can we involve citizens in indicating key variables to be measured in a study?
This is a tool to engage citizens in the design of the study. It allows you to identify which variables need to be taken into account when designing a study, and to decide how they can be controlled or measured. Moreover, it contributes to identifying confounding variables, which is a key aspect of epidemiological studies as it prevents possible misleading interpretation of the cause and effect relationship of a problem. Controlling for confounding variables is very important to obtain the right conclusions from a study. If you ignore them you could end up with associations where in reality there are none, or fail to find associations where they do in fact exist.
Download the toolbox
We share with you some resources that can be useful to carry out this activity.
Discover the tool in action!
Read the case study and understand how this tool has been used in a real citizen science project.
Can air pollution affect students’ attention? Building a network of variables with students
An example of this is the Atenc!ó project in Barcelona. The project aims to assess whether air pollution in high schools can affect adolescents' cognitive functions. In the design phase of the project, students were invited to propose a set of factors that they believed could influence attention. A selection of those factors were included in the final questionnaire used in the study.
To identify potential factors that can cause a health outcome and that scientists might not have thought of.
To introduce the concept of confounder to citizens and help them think as an epidemiologist!
To help citizens learn the different relationships between variables in the problem under study and get an idea of its complexity.
To think in ways to improve the study design to strengthen the future conclusions of the study.