Professor Sarah Edwards and Professor Phyllis Illari discuss their contributions the STS’s impact in philosophy of science and medicine. They were lead contributors to two top-rated “impact cases” in UCL’s 2021 entry to the REF assessment, the UK’s research excellence framework. That’s a national review of university research productivity. Sarah’s project involves policy-making about emerging diseases. Phyllis’s project involves policy-making when evidence in conflicting and incomplete. Simply put, “impact” is a measure of how much a influence an academic university research project has had on non-academic communities, such as business, media, schools, and medicine.
Summary of Professor Edwards’s project
Edwards’ research informed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Ethics Guidance and a Training Manual for clinical research during epidemics of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, for which no effective treatments or vaccines are known. The ethics guidance applied to 4955 studies undertaken into WHO’s priority infectious diseases and pathogens with over 88 million participants globally. Edwards’ research has benefited individuals participating in clinical research by promoting wider access to new and repurposed medicines and by protecting the rights and interests of current patients. Edwards initiated the development of an Afrocentric ethics framework for clinical research during epidemics across Africa and supervised a project for the African Union Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC), involving wide consultation, engagement, and training. Her expertise has been consulted over clinical research for COVID-19 by organisations such as WHO, Africa CDC, and the US FDA which issued new guidelines leading to >370 early approvals of medicines and medical products with surveillance for research.
Summary of Professor Illari’s project
Public bodies, such as health boards or government departments, must reliably interpret evidence to properly inform their decision-making. Illari and Clarke’s work explores the diverse types of evidence obtained from biological and social mechanisms and systems, and how these are used for multiple purposes. This has impacted on 1) international methodologies for evidence assessment in health by increasing the plurality of evidence they use, particularly evidence of mechanisms (NICE, IARC), and on 2) UK ethical frameworks for AI and data science by improving their evidence use, particularly their attention to anticipating and monitoring how systems including populations react to new ethics frameworks (Cabinet Office, DCMS, West Midlands Police, the NHS). The beneficiaries are patients who need high quality medical advice both in England and Wales and internationally, and all people in the UK affected by government and NHS data projects such as the UK Cabinet Office Framework for Data Ethics and the NHS Code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology.
More about REF
REF is a complex administrative process. For more about:
- Professor Sarah Edwards
UCL Professor of Bioethics
- Professor Phyllis Illari
UCL Professor of Philosophy of Science
- Professor Joe Cain
UCL Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology
Intro and Exit music
- “Rollin At 5,” by Kevin MacLeod
- “Silly intro,” by Alexander Nakarada
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“WeAreSTS” producer is Professor Joe Cain.
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Editing and post-production by Professor Joe Cain.