Establishing a Standard of Proof for Public Health Threats: Exploration of the Use of Precaution and Weight of Evidence

Emerging public health risks are typically characterized by uncertainty in the evidence-base (i.e., a mosaic of clinical, laboratory, and/or epidemiological evidence, that is often unclear and not uncommonly conflicting). Given this uncertainty, it is often difficult for decision-makers to discern if action is warranted. The question of how compelling the evidence base ought to be in order to warrant action points to our topic, namely the question of a standard of proof (i.e., related to policy creation/ governance and the assessment of evidence). Within this research, across a panel of public health risk scenarios (e.g., bioterrorism, pandemic influenza, safe injection sites, vaccines, etc.), we seek to explore if it is possible to measure participant’s notions of regrets (re: false positives and false negatives) to obtain an implied standard of proof. Moreover, the research will explore respondent traits, and/or scenario features, that best explain the responses elicited from respondents with respect to their implied standard of proof.

Andrew D Scarffe
Faculty Supervisor: 
Kevin Brand
Partner University: