On Monday 14th November EBM+ had its monthly EEiM meeting at UCL where organisers come together to discuss draft papers and all other project-related matters (we forgot to take a group photo from the day – sorry!).
To give you an insight into our work, the meeting agenda was as follows:
Impact and Engagement
We tend to start off with a quick chat about our upcoming impact and engagement activities, obviously the most important part of the day [insert declaration of conflict of interest here].
For example, our school volunteering programme is getting underway as we begin our workshops with UCL student volunteers before they enter schools in January.
We will also be rolling out a number of short videos soon starring Jon, Phyllis and Brendan in which they discuss EBM+ and some of the problems we hope to tackle in medicine – stay tuned!
We then discussed sub-projects which relate to our EEiM research questions. For example, these include questions like [EM Mechanisms and Evidence] What is evidence of a mechanism, and how do we get it? [QE: Quality of Evidence] How can quality of evidence be characterised? As well as our overarching question [Q]: How can evidence of mechanisms be considered alongside evidence of correlation to evaluate causal claims in medical research and health policy.
Thus, the work EBM+ members undertake often fits within one or more of these sub-projects. For example, Donald Gillies’ philosophical work ‘Discovering Cures in Medicine’ is taking shape and should contribute to a number of our research questions. Donald recently spoke about this – you can see the lecture here.
Following our brief admin chat, Phyllis presented her draft paper. Without giving away the title – or very much else – this was looking at some key objections towards mechanisms, and uses this analysis as a developmental tool to encourage future work on mechanisms.
Based on the Russo-Williamson Thesis (RWT), Jon argues that mechanisms should accompany correlative evidence to establish causal claims in medicine. Despite going against EBM’s core ideals, this evidentially pluralist approach helps to both explain the role of clinical trials and improve the process of extrapolating from trial data to other populations or single cases.
Last but not least, lots of our members have been working on a handbook for practitioners in order to evaluate evidence of mechanisms in medicine. Amongst its strengths, this handbook starts off as quite introductory (e.g. What is a mechanism?) and develops into a very useful analytical toolkit, also intended to align with a NICE handbook.
Overall, I am always greatly impressed by the heterogeneous viewpoints everyone brings to the table, all with their own unique strengths. These contributions can range from; the core analytical and conceptual underpinnings of causality in medicine; techniques used to handle complexity taken from the philosophy of information; to sociological areas of inquiry relating to how clinical research is translated (or not, in some cases) into meaningful health policy.
If you have any questions about our research or wish to know more about our upcoming events, don’t hesitate to get in touch.