simcausal R Package: Conducting Transparent and Reproducible Simulation Studies of Causal Effect Estimation with Complex Longitudinal Data

J Stat Softw. 2017;81:2. doi: 10.18637/jss.v081.i02. Epub 2017 Oct 16.

Abstract

The simcausal R package is a tool for specification and simulation of complex longitudinal data structures that are based on non-parametric structural equation models. The package aims to provide a flexible tool for simplifying the conduct of transparent and reproducible simulation studies, with a particular emphasis on the types of data and interventions frequently encountered in real-world causal inference problems, such as, observational data with time-dependent confounding, selection bias, and random monitoring processes. The package interface allows for concise expression of complex functional dependencies between a large number of nodes, where each node may represent a measurement at a specific time point. The package allows for specification and simulation of counterfactual data under various user-specified interventions (e.g., static, dynamic, deterministic, or stochastic). In particular, the interventions may represent exposures to treatment regimens, the occurrence or non-occurrence of right-censoring events, or of clinical monitoring events. Finally, the package enables the computation of a selected set of user-specified features of the distribution of the counterfactual data that represent common causal quantities of interest, such as, treatment-specific means, the average treatment effects and coefficients from working marginal structural models. The applicability of simcausal is demonstrated by replicating the results of two published simulation studies.

Keywords: R; causal inference; causal model; directed acyclic graph; marginal structural model; simulation; structural equation model.