Clearly and completely reporting the answers to 'how' and 'why' in science

Experts in mediation analyses from around the world publish guidelines to promote effective communication


September 21, 2021

What if there existed an analysis method that could pull more information from scientific studies, but researchers were not using it properly?  

The method, called mediation, helps answer important questions like: How much do school-based tobacco prevention programs decrease teen smoking rates? Why do monetary incentives and mobile clinics increase local vaccination rates?  portrait of David Mackinnon David MacKinnon, Foundation Professor of psychology at Arizona State University, was part of an international expert panel that created a set of guidelines to improve the use and communication of mediation analyses in research. These powerful statistical methods can identify causation and are widely used in biology, sociology, medicine and psychology. The guidelines were published in the Sept. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Download Full Image

Answering “how” and “why” questions like these require scientists to figure out what caused a decrease in teen smoking or what caused more people to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. Causation can happen in many ways and can even be indirect. Over the last 20 years, there have been rapid advances in mediation analyses to more accurately study causation. These methods are now widespread in biology, sociology, medicine and psychology studies.  

A panel of international experts recently published guidelines to clearly communicate research using mediation analyses with the goal of ensuring the methods are used correctly. The paper, called "A Guideline for Reporting Mediation Analyses," was published in the Sept. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Mediation analyses let us extract a lot of information from data and have the promise of identifying mechanisms by which effects occur that could be applicable to other situations,” said David MacKinnon, Foundation Professor of psychology at Arizona State University, an expert on mediation analyses and co-author on the paper. “These guidelines are a standardized way to report information obtained from mediation analyses. They will make it easier to interpret findings from mediation analyses, including identifying what other variables might be important, the impact of confounding variables or even more up-to-date ways to do an analysis.” 

The panel included methodologists, statisticians, clinical trial specialists, epidemiologists, applied clinical researchers, clinicians, implementation scientists and psychologists. The guidelines they devised include checklists to help researchers report findings in academic publications in an accurate, transparent and reproducible manner.

“I started working on mediation analyses in the 1980s and am amazed at how far this work has come, how many researchers are now thinking about how and why interventions work. It’s about time to have reporting guidelines,” MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon’s work on this project was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Science writer, Psychology Department

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ASU Alumni Association, Sun Devil Club to celebrate the '96–97 Pac-10 champions at Legends Luncheon


September 21, 2021

The Arizona State University Alumni Association and the Sun Devil Club will celebrate the silver anniversary of the 1996–97 Sun Devil football Pac-10 champions at the Legends Luncheon on Oct. 29.

This historic team led ASU football to its fourth undefeated regular season. Key players, including Jake “The Snake” Plummer, Derrick Rodgers, Pat Tillman, Juan Roque and Keith Poole, led the team to an 11-0 regular season and a trip to the Rose Bowl.  ASU vs Nebraska Sept. 21, 1996 During the ASU vs. Nebraska game Sept. 21, 1996, the Sun Devils dominated the No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champions Cornhuskers with a 19-0 shutout. This ended Nebraska’s 26-game winning streak. Download Full Image

“We are excited to bring the 1996–97 Sun Devil football team together for this year’s Legends Luncheon,” said Alissa Serignese, vice president of the ASU Alumni Association. “This is a team full of talented players who made history at ASU, and we look forward to honoring these legends during homecoming.” 

During this iconic season on Sept. 21, 1996, fans were electrified as the Sun Devils dominated the No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champions Nebraska Cornhuskers with a 19-0 shutout. This ended the University of Nebraska’s 26-game winning streak and was the first time since 1977 that the No. 1 team was shut out.

ASU fans rushed the field after one of the greatest collegiate football upsets and successfully dismantled the goal post. After carrying it off the newly minted Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium, rumors surfaced that fans threw parts of it over the Mill Avenue Bridge celebrating one of the most storied victories on record. The team posted incredible comeback wins over UCLA and USC, and also won in Tucson 56-14 to close the regular season.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Alumni Association and celebrate one of the greatest teams in our athletic department history,” said Ray Anderson, vice president of university athletics. “Their play on the field and their connection to the Sun Devil community remains special now. We look forward to having their presence here for a fantastic weekend.”

The Legends Luncheon is an annual event that takes place the Friday of ASU’s Homecoming weekend. Each year, the ASU Alumni Association in partnership with Sun Devil Club and Sun Devil Athletics honors the best of ASU’s former student-athletes, coaches and teams for their athletic achievements. Tickets to the luncheon are $70, and tables seating 10 can be purchased for $700. For more information on the Legends Luncheon, visit alumni.asu.edu/events/legends-luncheon.

Morgan Harrison

Director of strategic communications , ASU Alumni Association

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