The C-Word: Scientific Euphemisms Do Not Improve Causal Inference From Observational Data

Am J Public Health. 2018 May;108(5):616-619. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304337. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Causal inference is a core task of science. However, authors and editors often refrain from explicitly acknowledging the causal goal of research projects; they refer to causal effect estimates as associational estimates. This commentary argues that using the term "causal" is necessary to improve the quality of observational research. Specifically, being explicit about the causal objective of a study reduces ambiguity in the scientific question, errors in the data analysis, and excesses in the interpretation of the results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research*
  • Causality*
  • Humans
  • Observational Studies as Topic*