Mendelian Randomization

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

The Short Course Programme in Population Health Sciences has been temporarily suspended.


We anticipate opening bookings in late November 2020.

Information on this page relates to the last run of the course and is for reference only. 

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We may need to make responsive changes to our future programme to follow the latest Public Health, Government and University guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please be aware that all information about short courses planned for 2021 is provisional and subject to change.

Course dates

Due to demand, this 3 day course will run twice:
3 - 5 February 2020
27 - 29 April 2020

Course duration
3 days (approximately 9 hours of lectures/seminars and 9 hours of practicals/application).
Registration will start at 8.45am on the first day, the course will finish by 5pm on the final day.

Course tutors

Professor Debbie Lawlor, Dr Kaitlin Wade (course organisers) and others.

Due to demand this course runs twice

Apply for your preferred date only. You cannot be on the waiting list for both courses or hold a place on one and be on the waiting list for the other. When the 'A' course has passed, remaining applicants will be offered the opportunity to transfer to the 'B' course if there are any remaining spaces at that time or be added to the waiting list if not.  

Course aims 

Mendelian randomization is a study that uses genetic variants as instrumental variables to test the causal effect of a (non-genetic) risk factor on a disease or health-related outcome. Since its first proposal in 2003 it has been increasingly used to determine population causal effects using observational data. It is used in a large amount of the applied research in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU) and throughout Population Health at the University of Bristol Medical School. Academics working in the IEU and the University of Bristol (including those who are tutors on this course) have been at the forefront of developing methods for assessing and limiting potential biases with this approach. 

This course aims to provide an introduction to the conduct, assumptions, strengths and limitations of Mendelian randomization, including the use of up-to-date methods for sensitivity analyses that explore likely violation of Mendelian randomization assumptions. 

This is a introductory to intermediate level course. Students will learn about one-sample and two-sample Mendelian randomization, including their assumptions and gaining practical experience of how to apply these methods to real data. They will also learn about a range of sensitivity analyses that explore likely violation of the assumptions of Mendelian randomization. Prior experience of using Mendelian randomization is not required, but participants should have an understanding of aetiological epidemiological principles, and ideally be working on causal population health questions.

Course objectives

By the end of the course students will:

  1. understand the principles and assumptions of instrumental variable analyses;
  2. understand the properties of genetic variants that make them suitable to be used as instrumental variables;
  3. understand the strengths and limitations of one-sample and two-sample Mendelian randomization for addressing population health causal questions;
  4. be able to complete a (straightforward) one-sample and two-sample Mendelian randomization analysis;
  5. understand the concepts behind sensitivity analyses to test for potential violation of the key assumptions of Mendelian randomization;
  6. be able to apply up-to-date sensitivity analyses in one- and two-sample Mendelian randomization analyses.

Who the course is intended for

The course is intended for anyone who wants to be able to undertake Mendelian randomization analyses. It is an introductory to intermediate course. However, as Mendelian randomization is an advanced epidemiological/statistical method, those intending to take this course should already understand epidemiological principles and have knowledge and skills in statistical analysis to the level of running, and correctly interpreting results from, multivariable regression analyses. They must have experience in running such analyses efficiently in Stata or R as all practicals on the course will be run in Stata or R and the focus of these practicals will be on Mendelian randomization (not learning how to use the statistical packages).
[Note: it is not necessary for those participating in the course to be able to use both Stata and R, but they must be able to use one of these].    

The course will not include any genetic epidemiology teaching, nor how to undertake a genome-wide association study. However, genetic epidemiology and the ability to complete a genome-wide association study are NOT a prerequisite for being able to understand this course. The course will not cover more complex Mendelian randomization methods such as two-step or network Mendelian randomization.

Please note: Practical sessions of this course will be held in a computer lab, so you will not need to bring a laptop. Both Stata and R will be used during the course. (NOTE: students must be able to efficiently use ONE of these two analysis packages).

Recommended reading

1. Lawlor DA, Harbord RM, Sterne JAC, Timpson N, Davey Smith G. Mendelian randomization: Using genes as instruments for making causal inferences in epidemiology. Statistics in Medicine 2008; 27: 1133-63. 

2. Bowden J, Davey Smith G, Burgess S. Mendelian randomization with invalid instruments: effect estimation and bias detection through Egger regression. International Journal of Epidemiology 2015; 512–525. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv080. 

3. Lawlor DA. Two-sample Mendelian randomization: opportunities and challenges. International Journal of Epidemiology 2016; 908–915. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw127. 

4. Haycock PC, Burgess S, Wade KH, Bowden J, Relton C, Davey Smith. Best (but oft-forgotten) practices: the design, analysis, and interpretation of Mendelian randomization studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016; 103: 965–78.

I enjoyed all lectures and practicals led by the main tutors. They are all very knowledgeable and passionate about the topic, and created the warm and motivating atmosphere during the course.

Course feedback, February 2019

A great introduction, particularly highlighting the importance of sensitivity analysis and common pit falls in Mendelian Randomization.

Course feedback, July 2019

Course fee


More information on course fees, fee waivers and reduced prices.

Course venue

Bristol Medical School
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Course refreshments

We provide morning and afternoon refreshment breaks, including tea and coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit.

If you have specific dietary needs we ask that you let us know in advance.

Lunch is not included. There are a range of local cafes and supermarkets nearby for students to purchase lunch. 


Information about accommodation in the area.


For further information please email

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