New developments related to EBM+

June 16, 2020 Jon Williamson

EBM+ augments evidence-based medicine (EBM) by providing methods to evaluate mechanistic studies alongside the association studies (such as RCTs) that are the bread and butter of EBM. There has been a lot of interesting research in recent months related to the EBM+ programme. Here’s a quick overview of some key themes.

The following paper provides a case study in virology that shows how mechanistic reasoning reinforces reasoning from association studies:

One might worry that it’s not really feasible to evaluate mechanistic studies alongside association studies. Here I attempt to dispell that worry, as well as the concern that EBM+ might be particularly open to subjective influence:

Good evidence of the feasibility of EBM+ is provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, whose methods are now very close to those advocated by EBM+. This paper describes the new IARC methods:

While this paper analyses the methods from a philosophical point of view:

The following paper explores IARC, EBM+ and extrapolation:

while this paper emphasises the importance of mechanistic evidence to extrapolation:

There’s also the question of whether EBM+ can be extended to the social sciences. This paper argues that the social science ought to be considered to be a part of the health sciences:

  • Clarke B, Ghiara V, Russo F (2019): Time to care: why the humanities and the social sciences belong in the science of health,

This paper also creates a bridge between the health sciences and the social sciences:

  • Kelly, M. P., & Russo, F. (2018). Causal narratives in public health: the difference between mechanisms of aetiology and mechanisms of prevention in non-communicable diseases. Sociology of health & illness, 40(1), 82–99.

Do you have something to say on whether EBM+ might be extended to the social sciences? If so there is a call for papers open for a topical collection of the journal Synthese, deadline 15 November 2020. Please contribute!

Jon Williamson
University of Kent