Mechanisms in medicine

July 3-5 2017, Keynes Seminar room 15, University of Kent, Canterbury, UKmm

Keynote speakers

Raffaela Campaner (University of Bologna)
Daniel Commenges (Bordeaux Population Health Research Center)
Jeffrey Aronson (Oxford University)
Stathis Psillos (University of Athens)
Daniel Steel (The University of British Columbia)
Kurt Straif (International Agency for Research on Cancer)
John Worrall (London School of Economics)


Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is a relatively recent technique for supporting clinical decisions by the current best evidence. While it is uncontroversial that we should use the current best evidence in clinical decision making, it is highly controversial as to what the best evidence is. EBM considers evidence from clinical trials, in particular, randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews of those trials, to be the best evidence. On the other hand, evidence of mechanisms that is obtained by means other than clinical trials is considered to be of low quality.

However, there is a growing body of literature that highlights the many benefits of considering evidence of mechanisms alongside evidence from clinical trials. For instance, evidence of mechanisms is crucial for interpreting clinical trials, establishing a causal claim, and extrapolating from the trial population to the treatment population.

This conference seeks to explore whether and in which ways evidence of mechanism may improve medical decision making. The conference will bring together philosophers and medical researchers.


3 July

9.00 Welcome
9.05-10.05 Daniel Steel: The Precautionary Principle meets the Hill Criteria of Causation: A Case Study of Tuberculosis among Gold Miners in South Africa – AudioSlides
10.15-11.15 Maria Jimenez-Buedo, Héctor Cebolla-Boado and Leire Salazar: Breastfeeding and Child Health: Why you may not want to randomize even if you could – AudioSlides
11.15-12.15 Ashley Kennedy & Sarah Malanowski: A Role for Mechanistic Reasoning in Medical Decision Making – AudioSlides
13.30-14.30 Jonathan Fuller: Predicting the Results of Medical Interventions: When Mechanistic Models Misfire – AudioSlides
14.30-15.30 Sarah Wieten: Manageable Mechanisms in Medicine: Augmenting the Russo-Williamson Thesis – AudioSlides
16.00-17.00 John Worrall: Evidence-Based Medicine and ‘Patho-Physiologic Rationale’: It’s the evidence, stupid! – AudioSlides

19.30 Dinner Ancient Raj

4 July

9.00-11.00 EBM+ Symposium:
Jon Williamson: Introduction to EBM+ – Slides
Veli-Pekka Parkkinen & Michael Wilde: Evaluating evidence of mechanisms in practice – AudioSlides
Phyllis Illari: Who’s afraid of mechanisms? – AudioSlides
11.15-12.15 Kurt Straif: The IARC Monographs, Integrating mechanistic evidence in cancer hazard identification – AudioSlides
13.30-14.30 Jeffrey Aronson: Does mechanism research or clinical observations generate more medical discoveries? Analysis of the meta-research data – Audio
14.30-15.00 Virginia Ghiara: Varieties of Process Tracing and Methodological Issues – AudioSlides
15.00-15.30 Daniel Auker-Howlett: Kinds of mechanistic evidence – AudioSlides

16.00-17.00 Elena Rocca: ‘The airbag problem’ in risk assessment: how mechanistic knowledge influences the evaluation of new evidence – AudioSlides

19.00 Dinner Ala-Turka

5 July

9.00-10.00 Daniel Commenges: Causality: marginal effects, conditional effects and mechanisms
Coffee – AudioSlides
10.15-11.15 Jürgen Landes, Barbara Osimani, and Roland Poellinger: Probabilistic Causal Inference from Heterogeneous Evidence – AudioSlides
11.15-12.15 Juergen Landes: Mechanisms, drug safety and varied evidence – AudioSlides
13.30-14.30 Rafaella Campaner: Which mechanicism for mechanisms in medicine – AudioSlides
14.30-15.30 Maël Lemoine & Brendan Clarke: Mechanisms, disease-entities and –omics – AudioSlides
16.00-17.00 Stathis Psillos & Stavros Ioannidis: Methodological Mechanism Revisited – AudioSlides

19.30 Dinner Posillipo



Registration is free but compulsory. There are a limited number of places so please register early. Please register via email to


This conference is organised by Christian Wallmann on behalf of the Centre for Reasoning at the University of Kent and the EBM+ consortium. It is an activity of the project Evaluating evidence in medicine, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

For any queries please contact Christian Wallmann: