MHS / Philosophy Seminar: Brendan Clarke, Using inference networks to improve evidence-based medicine

22/02/2017 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Portobello Centre, PC-B57c
Portobello Centre
1 Mappin St, Sheffield S1 4DT
Charlie Norell

Speaker: Brendan Clarke


Title: Using inference networks to improve evidence-based medicine


Date and time: 22nd February, 16:00 – 17:30


Location: Portobello Centre, PC-B57c


Evidence-based medicine (EBM) seems to be experiencing some kind of crisis. While different authorities hold competing explanations as to the aetiology of this crisis, there is a near-consensus as to what must be done (see, e.g. This is to improve the quality of the evidence-base, largely by reducing sources of bias in clinical trials. Important though reducing bias is, in this talk I suggest a different (and complementary) way of improving EBM. I think that an emphasis on improving the quality of evidence comes at the expense of an honest conversation about the way(s) that clinical evidence can and should be used to make clinical decisions. In this talk, I explore one such way of making clinical decisions that is based on Wigmore charts – which are a technique for representing inferences widely used in the legal context. I then use this sketch to argue that clinical decisions can be improved, even with an imperfect evidence-base.


Short bio:
Brendan Clarke is lecturer in history and philosophy of medicine at the Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London. After qualifying in medicine in 2007, he moved into philosophy of medicine via PhD research on causality in medicine (2011, UCL). His current research concerns contemporary questions in medical practice. He is co-investigator on the AHRC-funded Evaluating Evidence in Medicine project, which investigates the role of evidence in science and health policy. He is particularly interested in investigating the intersection between traditional epistemology and the social and political functions of health policy.

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