Publications · July 27, 2021

New Paper: Communicating Uncertainty in Precision Medicine

Precision medicine research programs rely on public volunteers to provide genetic, environmental, and lifestyle data for research. How prospective participants understand the implications of volunteering, including aspects of scientific and data related uncertainties, is not well understood.

To provide insight, my colleagues and I conducted an experiment testing public responses to the disclosure of uncertainty in a news story about precision medicine research. We examined the communication of uncertainty about both scientific utility and data governance.

Here’s a brief summary of what we found:

Conveying uncertainty of either type had no overall main effect on outcomes. Instead, those who reported perceiving greater uncertainty had lower attitudes, trust, and willingness to join, while those with more tolerance for uncertainty, support for science, and scientific understanding responded favorably to the scientific uncertainty disclosure.

The article was recently published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine. It’s currently open access at the journal as part of their editor’s choice collection. I’ve also posted a preprint here.

Excitingly, our paper was highlighted in an editorial in the same issue!