Model-based policymaking: a framework to promote ethical "good practice" in mathematical modeling for public health policymaking

Boden, L. A. and McKendrick, I. J. (2017) Model-based policymaking: a framework to promote ethical "good practice" in mathematical modeling for public health policymaking. Frontiers in Public Health, 5, p. 68. (doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00068) (PMID:28424768) (PMCID:PMC5380671)

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Mathematical models are increasingly relied upon as decision support tools, which estimate risks and generate recommendations to underpin public health policies. However, there are no formal agreements about what constitutes professional competencies or duties in mathematical modeling for public health. In this article, we propose a framework to evaluate whether mathematical models that assess human and animal disease risks and control strategies meet standards consistent with ethical "good practice" and are thus "fit for purpose" as evidence in support of policy. This framework is derived from principles of biomedical ethics: independence, transparency (autonomy), beneficence/non-maleficence, and justice. We identify ethical risks associated with model development and implementation and consider the extent to which scientists are accountable for the translation and communication of model results to policymakers so that the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific evidence base and any socioeconomic and ethical impacts of biased or uncertain predictions are clearly understood. We propose principles to operationalize a framework for ethically sound model development and risk communication between scientists and policymakers. These include the creation of science-policy partnerships to mutually define policy questions and communicate results; development of harmonized international standards for model development; and data stewardship and improvement of the traceability and transparency of models via a searchable archive of policy-relevant models. Finally, we suggest that bespoke ethical advisory groups, with relevant expertise and access to these resources, would be beneficial as a bridge between science and policy, advising modelers of potential ethical risks and providing overview of the translation of modeling advice into policy.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:LAB and IJM were funded by the Scottish Government Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS), as part of the Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks (EPIC).
Keywords:Beneficence, ethics, independence, justice, mathematical models, policymaking, transparency.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Boden, Dr Lisa
Authors: Boden, L. A., and McKendrick, I. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Frontiers in Public Health
Publisher:Frontiers Media
ISSN (Online):2296-2565
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 Boden and McKendrick
First Published:First published in Frontiers in Public Health 5:68
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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