Clarifying the causes of consistent and inconsistent findings in genetics

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


As research in genetics has advanced, some findings have been unexpected or shown to be inconsistent between studies or datasets. The reasons these inconsistencies arise are complex. Results from genetic studies can be affected by various factors including statistical power, linkage disequilibrium, quality control, confounding and selection bias, as well as real differences from interactions and effect modifiers, which may be informative about the mechanisms of traits and disease. Statistical artefacts can manifest as differences between results but they can also conceal underlying differences, which implies that their critical examination is important for understanding the underpinnings of traits. In this review, we examine these factors and outline how they can be identified and conceptualised with structural causal models. We explain the consequences they have on genetic estimates, such as genetic associations, polygenic scores, family- and genome-wide heritability, and describe methods to address them to aid in the estimation of true effects of genetic variation. Clarifying these factors can help researchers anticipate when results are likely to diverge and aid researchers' understanding of causal relationships between genes and complex traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-389
Number of pages18
JournalGenetic Epidemiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


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