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Just published: The IEA Dictionary of Epidemiology, 6th edition

UPDATE: The new edition of A Dictionary of Epidemiology has just been published by Oxford University Press (OUP):

Please visit any of the following sites or your usual bookstore.


Oxford University Press has announced that the new, 6th. edition of the IEA Dictionary of Epidemiology will be published next June.

Like the past, 5th. edition, the book has been edited for the International Epidemiological Association by Miquel Porta, who was selected by the IEA Council to succeed the editor of the first four editions, John M. Last (now Emeritus Professor at the University of Ottawa). This time there are four Associate Editors: John Last himself, Sander Greenland (UCLA), Miguel A. Hernán (Harvard), and Isabel dos Santos Silva (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). The Assistant Editor has been Andrea Burón, presently at the University of Oxford. As always, there are numerous contributors from all over the world; such collective and collegial work is one of the defining characteristics of the dictionary.

The new edition has 343 pages, 54 more (18.7%) than the previous one. It includes exactly 800 bibliographic references introduced in the text of the definitions, and a complementary bibliography of 130 books and websites.

Through its President, Cesar Victora, the IEA Council suggested over a dozen names of epidemiologists of high scientific standing who were invited to contribute at their leisure, and from whom the editor obtained proposals and solutions. We trust the process of revision of the past edition was wide open, and that everybody who was capable and willing to take part had a channel to do so through the specific website, the IEA, and the editors.

The editor’s call for contributions to this new 6th. edition was widely disseminated worldwide, beginning in May 2012 –prominently, in the International Journal of Epidemiology and the Newsletter of the IEA. The editor organized a specific website for contributions from any interested individual worldwide, and also accepted contributions directly from selected colleagues. Over 400 contributions were received, most of which (71%) were suggestions to include new terms; a change in the existing definition was suggested by 17% of the contributions, only 4% suggested the removal of an existing term, and 8% made other proposals and comments. Slightly over 84% of the contributors reported to have “some to extensive training in epidemiology, and to currently work or have professional experience as an epidemiologist”; the rest declared that “while my main job is not as an epidemiologist, I often use epidemiologic knowledge, methods or reasoning in my work”. Over three quarters of the contributors (79%) were using the 5th. edition, the remaining were using other editions, and only 3 people declared that they had never used the Dictionary. Contributors to the 6th. edition and to the previous two are mentioned in the first section of the book.

Thorough as all past revisions have been, the 6th. edition probably contains the most profound changes that the dictionary ever experienced. The fundamental reason is that a methodological “revolution” is ongoing. It is deeply changing how we conceive epidemiological and clinical research, and how we assess the validity of findings. It is having an immense impact on the production of scientific evidence in the health sciences, and on most policies, programs, services and products in which such evidence is used, affecting thousands of institutions, organizations and companies, and millions of people.

There is no quick way to explain this. But a real way to understand what is happening is to read the fundamental changes that the book contains. The new ideas partly or completely changed basic concepts as, for example, risk, rate, risk ratio, attributable fraction, bias, selection bias, confounding, residual confounding, interaction, cumulative and density sampling, open population, test hypothesis, null hypothesis, causal null, causal inference, Berkson’s bias, Simpson’s paradox, frequentist statistics, generalizability, representativeness, missing data, standardization or overadjustment. They are also reflected in recent and new terms as collider, M-bias, causal diagram, backdoor (biasing path), instrumental variable, negative controls, inverse probability weighting, identifiability, transportability, positivity, ignorability, collapsibility, exchangeable, g-estimation, marginal structural models, risk set, immortal time bias, Mendelian randomization, nonmonotonic, counterfactual outcome, potential outcome, sample space, or false discovery rate.

The scope of this 6th. edition has also broadened with definitions of methods for clinical research, public health practice, genetics, and the social sciences. There are new terms from biostatistics, clinical epidemiology, preventive medicine, health promotion, and behavioral sciences; environmental, life course, and social epidemiology; genetic and molecular epidemiology; health economics; and bioethics. In addition, scientific terms relevant to professionals in clinical medicine, public health, and the other health, life, and social sciences are included.

The new edition aspires to remain an essential text for students and professionals working in and around epidemiology or using its methods. With updated entries reflecting current standards and added coverage in new subject areas, it will serve as the benchmark for the next years of epidemiologic research, education, and practice.

“A crucial addition to any library or epidemiologist’s bookshelf.” —Choice

“A required tool for any student of the discipline.” —American Journal of Epidemiology

“The dictionary can be of interest to a wide audience of people, scientists or not.” —Preventive Medicine

“This is an excellent way of refreshing, revising, and reminding yourself when memory has faded a little. It is a ‘must-have’ for any serious epidemiologist or student of epidemiology. ” —Public Health

“Anybody among us—epidemiologists and would-be epidemiologists—should also have a copy of this book at hand for frequent consultation. Priceless!” —Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health

“A required reference for the student or the recent graduate in the discipline.” —Gaceta Sanitaria

“An important and welcome source of authoritative information. It will undoubtedly be widely consulted by students, health practitioners and researchers in a multitude of disciplines. The diversity of its contributors is reflected in the wide range of classical epidemiological terms as well as terms stemming from adjacent disciplines. This practical and flexible approach is one of the strengths of the dictionary, as it makes it relevant to a wide audience who may use epidemiological methods, even if not as the main focus of their work.” —Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

The editor, Miquel Porta, is a physician, epidemiologist, and scholar from Barcelona who works in clinical and molecular epidemiology, and has promoted the integration of biological, clinical, environmental, and social knowledge and methods in research and teaching worldwide. He has served as a visiting scientist at many global institutions, including the University of North Carolina, Harvard, and Imperial College London, and was Chairman of the IEA European Epidemiology Federation.

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