WV81: Missing data: consequences and solutions (ONLINE COURSE)

Although researchers do their best to avoid missing data, it is a common problem in medical and epidemiological studies. How large the impact is of missing data on the study results and how to solve the missing data problem depends on how much data is missing and why the data are missing. This three-day course provides you with simple and advanced tools how to evaluate and handle missing data in medical and epidemiological studies.

(If there is [full] to a course, please do sign up, but you will be placed on a waiting list. Once there is an open spot we will contact you. At that point you can decide whether to participate in the course.)

Because of the Corona virus, we have decided to offer the course online in January 2021. This is because there is a lot of interest from foreign students for this course and it is almost impossible to find a suitable space where sufficient distance can be kept.

20, 21, 22 January 2021 (online course) Tuition fee: € 750,-
Course coordinator:
Dr. M.W. Heymans
Learning method:
Lectures and Computerpractical
Written examination with computer assignments (facultative)
Examination dates:
See schedule at 'Tentamens'
Number of EC:
  • Course description and topics

    There are various methods that can be used to deal with missing data. Simple solutions are that you ignore the missing values and delete all cases with missing values from the analysis or to use a regression model to estimate the missing values. There are also more advanced methods as Multiple Imputation. Multiple Imputation with the Multivariate Imputation with Chained Equations (MICE) procedure is a promising technique that works well in various missing data situations. With Multiple Imputation several complete datasets are generated. Data analysis has to be done in each dataset and results are pooled using special calculation rules (called Rubin’s rules). These steps will be discussed during the course as well as questions of how to use different missing data methods in medical and epidemiological datasets. Furthermore it is important to check if your imputation strategy was successful (imputation diagnostics) which will also be discussed during the course.

    Each course day starts with lectures in the morning followed by computer exercises. During the computer exercises various ways to explore missing data problems as well as the application of simple and more advanced missing data methods as Multiple Imputation will be trained using SPSS and R(Studio) software. During the computer exercises you will work with real epidemiological and medical datasets.

  • Faculty
    Martijn W. Heymans, PhD , course coordinator
    Assistant professor
    Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics. Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc

    Dr. Martijn Heymans expertise is in Missing data and Prognostic and Prediction modeling. He (co)-authored more than 250 scientific publications and also teaches courses in epidemiology, applied biostatistics and regression techniques and works as a statistical consultant. Website: https://missingdatasolutions.rbind.io/

    Applied Missing Data book: https://bookdown.org/mwheymans/Book_MI/

    Iris Eekhout, PhD
    Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics. Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc
    Department Child Health, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Leiden

    Iris Eekhout finished a master in Clinical Psychology and a master in Methodology and Statistics at the University of Leiden. She did a PhD project on missing data methods at the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the VU University medical center, that focused on methods to handle missing questionnaire items and total scores. Currently, Iris teaches in several EpidM courses and works as a statistician at TNO.

  • Programme

    Missing data consequences


    -Examples of Missing data in different Epidemiological and Medical research designs.
    -The meaning of missing data mechanisms (MCAR, MAR, MNAR).
    -Consequences and impact of missing data for statistical analyses.
    -Ways to evaluate various missing data situations and mechanisms.

    Missing data solutions
    - The application of simple missing data methods.
    - The theory and practice of Multiple Imputation.
    - Data analysis after Multiple Imputation.
    - How to evaluate imputation success by using imputation diagnostics

    SPSS and R(Studio) software.

  • Learning objectives

      1. The participant is able to distinguish between different missing data mechanisms called missing completely at random (MCAR), missing at random (MAR) and missing not at random (MNAR).
      2. The participant can apply basic evaluation procedures to make a valid assumption about the missing data mechanism.
      3. The participant understands the working of the most frequently used methods to handle missing data in epidemiological and medical datasets.
      4. The participant recognizes the strengths and limitations of the most frequently used methods to handle missing data in various missing data situations.
      5. The participant is able to work with SPSS to investigate missing data and to work with the best missing data methods for various missing data situations.
      6. The participant is able to use Multiple Imputation by the Multivariate Imputation by Chained Equations (MICE) procedure in SPSS amd R(Studio).
      7. The participant understands how multiple imputation works and how a multiple imputation model should be specified.
      8. The participant understands how to handle missing questionnaire data and can comprehend the difference between handling item scores at item level and at total score level.
      9. The participant understands the practical solutions to handle missing data in Multilevel (and Longitudinal) studies.
      10. The participant is able to work with SPSS and R(Studio) to handle missing data in questionnaires and in Multilevel (and longitudinal) studies.

  • Target group and course pre-requisites

    Target group

    The course is designed for PhD-students, practitioners and applied researchers working in the field of epidemiology, medicine, public health, psychology, human movement sciences. The course is designed for everybody who wants to learn about missing data because missing data may be present in your own research and you are going to start with your data analysis or you want to learn how to judge other articles or research grants who report missing data. It is also important to be able to judge the impact of missing data for practice-related research.

    Course pre-requisites

    The following concepts are assumed known by participants at the start of this course:
    - Knowledge of basic statistical tests as t-tests and regression analyses.

    - Knowledge of some basic SPSS commands. Knowledge of R(Studio) is not a prerequisite.

  • Course material

    All course material (lectures, assignments, feedback of the assignments and computer exercises, any additional literature, any additional teaching material and information about the exam) for this course will be placed on Canvas. Canvas is EpidM's digital learning environment.

    To complete the practical for this course, you must have a laptop / computer with SPSS and R. R is free to download. You will receive instructions in good time when you register for the course.

    A week before the start of the course you will receive information about creating a Canvas account for this course.

    Applied Missing Data book:


  • Exam and accreditation


    A declaration of participation is issued if the course has been followed entirety. In special cases, the course coordinator can, after prior consultation and for a valid reason, decide to issue a certificate in case of a small absence (max. 20%).

    Participants who take this course as part of the Master Epidemiology always complete the course with an exam. Other participants can choose if they want to complete the course with an exam. The costs in this case are 150, - per examination or re-examination.
    The exam will be in English. Only when you pass the exam you get a certificate showing the credits (study points/EC).
    The examination dates can be found on the website of EpidM.

    Anyone who wants to participate in the examination should apply at least four weeks before the exam to register via the website: tentamens

    The examination material of reference and questions to practice can be found on the Canvas page of the course (see above).
    During the examinations of EpidM the use of e-books is forbidden

    Accreditation points

    Only for Dutch students!
    If you wish to be considered for accreditation points connected to this course, you must sign the attendance list on the last day of the course.

    To qualify for the accreditation points, you must have been present throughout the course.

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