Board of Trustees Professor in Economics and Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University National Academy of Sciences ~ British Academy ~ National Research Council ~ Econometric Society ~ American Academy of Arts and Sciences ~ American Association for the Advancement of Science ~ Distinguished Fellow, American Economics Association

13 October 2019

Patient Care under Uncertainty

Patient Care under Uncertainty by Charles Manski
Princeton University Press, 2019
Charles F. Manski
Princeton University Press
Price: $39.95 / £34.00
ISBN: 9780691194738
Published: 09/09/2019
Pages: 184

"Although uncertainty is a common element of patient care, it has largely been overlooked in research on evidence-based medicine. Patient Care under Uncertainty strives to correct this glaring omission. Applying the tools of economics to medical decision making, Charles Manski shows how uncertainty influences every stage, from risk analysis to treatment, and how this can be reasonably confronted.

In the language of econometrics, uncertainty refers to the inadequacy of available evidence and knowledge to yield accurate information on outcomes. In the context of health care, a common example is a choice between periodic surveillance or aggressive treatment of patients at risk for a potential disease, such as women prone to breast cancer. While these choices make use of data analysis, Manski demonstrates how statistical imprecision and identification problems often undermine clinical research and practice. Reviewing prevailing practices in contemporary medicine, he discusses the controversy regarding whether clinicians should adhere to evidence-based guidelines or exercise their own judgment. He also critiques the wishful extrapolation of research findings from randomized trials to clinical practice. Exploring ways to make more sensible judgments with available data, to credibly use evidence, and to better train clinicians, Manski helps practitioners and patients face uncertainties honestly. He concludes by examining patient care from a public health perspective and the management of uncertainty in drug approvals.

Rigorously interrogating current practices in medicine, Patient Care under Uncertainty explains why predictability in the field has been limited and furnishes criteria for more cogent steps forward."

01 October 2018

1000+ members of National Academy of Sciences sign "Statement to Restore Science-Based Policy"


Statement to Restore Science-Based Policy in Government

By Concerned Members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences

April 2018

In September 2016, over 375 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) signed an Open Letter calling attention to the dangers of human-induced climate change. The letter warned that U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord would have negative consequences for the world’s climate system and for U.S. leadership and credibility.

In the intervening months, these negative consequences have become more obvious. Human-caused climate disruption is leading to suffering and economic loss. Suffering and loss are not future hypotheticals. They are happening now. Despite these serious negative consequences, the present Administration has fulfilled its threat to initiate U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. The United States is the only nation in the world that has taken this action. 

28 August 2018

BLOOMBERG: Advice to Researchers: Admit What You Don’t Know

By Mark Buchanan
"Research in science or medicine or economics is most valuable when it is unbiased, with researchers honestly reporting the limitations of their results. It’s a lot less valuable if it exaggerates what’s known, claiming excessive certainty or precision, in an effort to win an argument. That happens a lot, of course — researchers are only human. But where does the problem occur most? For more than a decade, economist Charles Manski of Northwestern University been studying the issue, which he refers to as the “Lure of Incredible Certitude.” In a recent article, he suggests that it’s most prevalent in his own profession, economics."

24 April 2018

THE NEW YORKER: America’s Top Scientists Reprimand Donald Trump (Again)

By Carolyn Kormann
"More than five hundred and seventy members of the National Academy of Sciences published a statement on Monday decrying the Trump Administration’s “denigration of scientific expertise and harassment of scientists.” The members, who are acting independently of the N.A.S., represent many fields (social, biological, environmental, physical), but they note that the White House’s “dismissal of scientific evidence” has been “particularly egregious” in the case of climate change. They cite the Administration’s recent effort—led by Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and supported by President Trump—to hold a “Red Team/Blue Team” debate on the validity of global-warming research. “Such an exercise seeks to foster the erroneous impression of deep uncertainty concerning the reality and seriousness of anthropogenically driven climate change,” they write. . . . Benjamin Santer, a sixty-two-year-old atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California, co-authored the statement with Ray Weymann, a retired astrophysicist, and Charles Manski, an economist at Northwestern University."


23 April 2018

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: Speaking Science to Power

Today, on April 23, 2018, a statement was released by 317 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. It calls for “the Federal Government to maintain scientific content on publicly accessible websites, to appoint qualified personnel to positions requiring scientific expertise, to cease censorship and intimidation of Government scientists, and to reverse the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord.

We are the three writers and organizers of this statement. Although our expertise is in very different areas—economics, astrophysics and climate science—we share a common concern. It relates to the dismissal of science and scientific understanding by the current administration. This piece explains why we decided to write the statement, what we hope to accomplish with its release, and how interested readers can help to achieve the goals quoted above. 

03 January 2018

Opinion: Trump Administration’s attacks on science are taking a grim toll

 Opinion article published by The Mercury News

A new federal administration was installed less than a year ago. Since then, we have seen a March for Science and eloquent opinion pieces urging protection of the scientific enterprise. But the devaluing of science and harassment of scientists have only increased in severity. This should not stand.
Scientific input is crucial to analysis and formulation of policy. The dismissal of scientific understanding by the current administration has affected the physical, biological, social and medical sciences.
This anti-science perspective is manifest in numerous ways. Informative summaries of well-established science are removed from federal websites. Government scientists are abruptly transferred from jobs requiring their expertise to jobs that do not. Scientific advisory groups are disbanded. Severe budgetary cuts are proposed for government agencies performing important research. Unqualified individuals are appointed to government positions where scientific qualifications are essential. Key science positions at government agencies remain unfilled.
The most egregious attacks have been on climate science. U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord leaves the U.S. isolated from the international community — the only U.N. member declining to participate in the accord. Climate scientists have been prevented from speaking at scientific conferences. Some are forbidden from using phrases affirming the reality and seriousness of human-induced climate change, or from speaking to the press about matters directly related to their research.
A serious current concern is the stated intention of EPA head Scott Pruitt to assemble a “Red Team-Blue Team” exercise to re-litigate all aspects of climate science. This call for a “do-over” ignores many previous assessments of climate science by highly qualified experts.
These assessments have consistently acknowledged the reality and dangers of anthropogenic climate change. By calling for a new “Red Team-Blue Team” process, Mr. Pruitt is implicitly questioning the legitimacy of all previous assessments, and seeks to foster the erroneous impression of deep uncertainty. A similar strategy was used by the tobacco industry in challenging links between smoking and cancer.
How should all citizens – not just scientists – behave in this new Age of Unreason? One perspective is that we should simply continue with our normal lives. There may have been merit in this at the beginning of the Administration, when it was not clear how campaign rhetoric would translate into governance. Today, the time for strategic patience is over. Silence is complicity.

Scientists have a special responsibility to defend scientific understanding, and to advocate for the use of sound science in public policymaking. Citizens have responsibilities, too. We are not powerless. We can contact our congressional representatives. Write letters to newspapers. Become active on social media. Speak publicly about the dangers of embracing scientific ignorance. Enlist our friends and neighbors to speak out in defense of science.

Beyond individual actions, we see a pressing need for leading scientific institutions to use their voices. Among the goals of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science is to “Promote and defend the integrity of science and its use.” It is important to support the AAAS and other organizations that share this objective.
As members of the National Academy of Sciences, we particularly support the NAS mission to provide “independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.”
In fall 2016 two of us, and two others, organized an open letter pointing out the serious consequences of U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord. It was signed by 377 members of the NAS. Commenting on the open letter, Neil deGrasse Tyson said: “For lawmakers to not heed the advice of esteemed scientists on matters of science, in this the 21st century, signals the beginning of the end of an informed democracy.”
Charles F. Manski is the Board of Trustees Professor in Economics at Northwestern University. Ben Santer is a leading climate researcher and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. Ray J. Weymann is Director Emeritus of Carnegie Observatories, Carnegie Institution for Science. All are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

03 September 2015

Cleveland Fed: The Media's Enormous Responsibility

In an exclusive interview with the Cleveland Fed, Charles Manski argues it’s not just statistical agencies that bear the “enormous responsibility” of communicating uncertainty to the public:

26 December 2014

Brookings Institution: Federal Budget Commentary (C-Span)

Charles Manski joined a Brookings Institution Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy discussion on the challenges of the federal budget process in remarks carried on C-Span:

16 July 2013

Royal Economic Society: Decisions in an Uncertain World

There is far more uncertainty in economics and policy-making than many would have us believe, according to Professor Charles Manski of Northwestern University.

Professor Manski was giving the Sargan Lecture at the Roya Economic Society annual conference in April 2013. The full lecture is available here: