Uncertainty, Decision and Policy

April 15, 2021

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Cambridge University
Cambridge University

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We are pleased to announce a one-day workshop on the topic of 'Uncertainty, Decision and Policy', featuring talks from Katie Steele (Australian National University), Krister Bykvist (Stockholm University/ Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm), Martin Peterson (Texas A&M University), and Nir Eyal (Rutgers University). 

A key feature of the COVID-19 pandemic has been uncertainty: we are uncertain what the large-scale effects of policies such as lockdown might be; we are uncertain of the risks associated with researching vaccines; and we are uncertain about such basic issues as whether our best vaccines stop transmission of the disease. These deep and pervasive uncertainties raise a series of philosophical questions regarding who should decide how to proceed in the face of uncertainty, and how they ought to decide. Can we have reasons to adopt policies that we know must be “second-best” given the actual state-of-the-world when we are uncertain how the world is? Should we adopt “precautionary” measures or are these policies inherently irrational? How should we act when we are uncertain not only about the facts but about relevant normative issues?


10:00 BST: Start

10:15 BST: Katie Steele 

Pandemic decision-making and the spread of social risk

11:30 BST: Krister Bykvist

How to handle moral trade-offs in pandemics (and other crises)?

12:45 BST: Break

13:30 BST: Martin Peterson

COVID-19 and the Precautionary Principle: A convex and well-formed region in an optimally designed conceptual space?

14:45 BST: Break

14:50 BST: Nir Eyal

Which uncertainties matter? The case of risky COVID vaccine human challenge trials

16:05 BST: Discussion

16:30 BST: End

Titles and abstracts of the talks will be released closer to the date of the workshop. Zoom links will be emailed to those who register for the event. 

This event is part of a series of workshops at the University of Cambridge funded by the British Academy as part of a larger project on 'Rethinking the Ethics of Vaccination'. Further planned events include workshops on:

Solidarity, Responsibility and Obligation (25th March)

Vaccine Hesitancy (28th April)

Populations and Individuals (12th May)

What Counts? Who Counts? (1st June)

For further information on the planned events, get in touch with the organisers, Stephen John or Emma Curran (ejc97@cam.ac.uk). 

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April 14, 2021, 7:00pm BST

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