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Random Notes: To uncertainty and beyond

Humility, uncertainty and collaboration may not have the same ring to it as liberty, equality and fraternity, but it is a triad worth pondering. It comes from the title of a recent editorial by Andy Oxman in JAMA. His argument is that we often need to be humble about our ability to resolve health problems; that we have to acknowledge uncertainty about the effects of interventions, particularly when they are small, and to promote evaluations which can resolve such uncertainties; and that we should collaborate across the board - on identifying gaps which need to be studied, on evaluations, on synthesizing the results of outcome research, and on communicating results to decision-making processes.

Andy Oxman was addressing healthcare; and yet all these points are equally applicable to social care. In the area of social policy we have greater opportunities for collaboration than ever, through technological platforms and through bodies like the Campbell Collaboration; we have an increasing awareness of gaps in our knowledge about the effects of social interventions; and we have good reason to be humble about these gaps. In a nutshell: the case for an evidence-based approach in social policy is as compelling as ever, and perhaps more so.

Eamonn Noonan, CEO

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