Public engagement event: Your health, what is the evidence?

Archaeology Lecture Theatre, Archaeology building, UCL, 5.30pm Monday 10th September 2012

The most wide-ranging change in medical practice in the past two decades has been the introduction of evidence-based medicine (EBM). The EBM project, which calls for the explicit examination of evidence to guide healthcare decisions, has made a significant difference to the practice of healthcare. However, the complexity and sheer quantity of medical evidence means that tools for assessing this evidence are of crucial importance to this project. For example, the quality of evidence supporting a particularly health intervention might be assessed by examining the method by which that evidence is produced. Typically, this kind of ranking suggests that randomised control trials (or meta-analysis of randomised control trials) will produce better evidence than other trial methodologies. This means that evidence produced by other means, such as that arising from laboratory science, or from observational studies, is usually regarded as unsuitable when it comes to clinical decision making.

However, recent philosophical work has cast some doubt on the wisdom of relying on just one form of evidence when considering complex medical interventions. For instance, it seems possible to improve the reliability of evidence gained from clinical trials by judicious use of evidence gleaned from laboratory investigation. This suggests that current schemes of ranking biomedical evidence may be capable of some improvement.

This evening event presents some results of a preliminary project designed to investigate these questions, together with some lively discussion between philosophers and medical practitioners about the role of ranking evidence in supporting good scientific practice.

Participants: Brendan Clarke, Phyllis Illari, Federica Russo, Jan Vandenbroucke, Jon Williamson.

Thanks to the generosity of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the event will be followed by a reception in the Wilkins Lower Refectory [see here for directions].

The event is free, and there is no need to book. Contact Brendan Clarke ( for any queries.

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