Joint EFSA/EBTC scientific colloquium on evidence integration in risk assessment: the science of combining apples and oranges

25 October 2017

EFSA Scientific Colloquium N°23 - Joint EFSA and Evidence Based Toxicology Collaboration (EBTC) Colloquium

Lisbon, Portugal, 25-26 October 2017

Registration for this event is now closed.

The opening and closing plenary sessions will be webcast. The webcast will be available on this page on 25 October, 9.00-13.20, and on 26 October, 10.30-13.30. A recording will be made available at the same address following the closure of the event. 

Leading scientists from across the world will take part in the colloquium to explore future directions for evidence integration in human risk assessment of chemicals. The keynote speakers are:

  • Donald Rubin and Stijn Vansteelandt: causal inference
  • Julian Higgins and Sofia Dias: evidence synthesis, meta-analysis
  • Kris Thayer and Holger Schunemann: evidence synthesis, GRADE and GRADE-based methods
  • Marc Aerts, Wout Slob, Matthew Wheeler: dose-response modelling

The colloquium takes place in Lisbon, Portugal on 25-26 October. It is the 23rd in the EFSA scientific colloquium series and is jointly organised with EBTC at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to debate and define the evolution of evidence integration with some of the top minds in the field.

Evidence-based scientific assessments involve applying structured and standardised approaches to minimise bias and maximise impartiality and transparency in the process for collecting, evaluating and combining evidence relevant to well-formulated research questions, according to pre-defined protocols. These approaches are well-established for healthcare intervention questions and their value has been extensively acknowledged also in the field of chemical risk assessment, where their application continues to be explored.

In evidence-based scientific assessments, evidence synthesis is the step that occurs after appraising the validity of the individual studies selected for the assessment. In evaluations of the efficacy of therapeutic interventions, this is usually done through meta-analysis, which encompasses statistical methods for combining data from similar, readily-comparable studies.

In hazard identification and characterisation for chemical risk assessment, the underlying evidence bases are diverse and not readily comparable. Unlike in medicine, in this research field heterogeneity of evidence stems from not only varying degrees of validity and precision of studies and diverse data types (e.g. individual Vs aggregated), but also from dissimilar designs/settings/models, endpoints, routes of exposure, or evidence streams (human observational studies, experimental animal studies, in vitro and computational models data). As such, a process for combining evidence not only within- but also across evidence streams is needed. This process is defined as ‘evidence integration’ and is particularly relevant for assessing effects caused by exposure to a chemical substance (hazard identification), and for deriving health-based guidance values through dose-response modelling (hazard characterisation).

Evidence integration is a recognised challenge in evidence-based risk assessment and to be conducted soundly, it has to draw on valid approaches to collecting and evaluating evidence in prior steps in the risk assessment, and the integration methodology itself needs to be valid. Different methods for integrating evidence exist, ranging from approaches based on expert judgement, through structured qualitative methods, to complex quantitative methods.

Objectives of the Colloquium

EFSA and EBTC have organised a colloquium, guided by experts in the field, with the goal of developing a multi-stakeholder understanding of the best practices for evidence integration in human risk assessment of chemicals, with a specific focus on hazard identification and on combining multiple studies and endpoints for dose-response modelling in hazard characterisation.

We will discuss current practice, challenges, recent developments and innovative approaches to integrating evidence within and across evidence streams and to combining multiple studies and endpoints. Even if the case-studies and examples discussed throughout the colloquium will be specific for the field of chemicals, we aim at addressing these methodological aspects from a broad, cross-cutting perspective, relevant to other research contexts (e.g. dietary reference values).

Relevant EFSA projects

EFSA PROMETHEUS (PROmoting METHods for Evidence Use in Scientific Assessments) project:

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Scientific Committee, 2016. Guidance  on Uncertainty in EFSA Scientific Assessment - Draft version for internal testing. Available at

EFSA Guidance on the use of the weight of evidence approach in scientific assessments:

EFSA Guidance on the assessment of the biological relevance of data in scientific assessments:

Structure of the meeting

Colloquia are not consensus meetings: their objective is to convene leading scientists from Europe and beyond. Rather than offering a series of lectures, this Colloquium will provide ample opportunity for an exchange of expert opinions and scientific debate. Following the opening plenary session with introductory key note speeches, the meeting will be structured to enable participants to reach conclusions and make recommendations in small groups, focusing the discussions on four specific topics.

The four discussion groups (DGs) will focus on the following themes:

The outcome of the discussion groups will be presented and discussed in a final plenary session to formulate conclusions of the Colloquium and, as appropriate, recommendations. The outcomes of the Colloquium will be summarised in an overall report after the meeting.

Dates and Venue

The Colloquium will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. The meeting will start at 08:00 on 25 October 2017 and will end at 13:30 on 26 October 2017. Further details on the venue and logistics will be communicated to participants upon confirmation of selection.


English will be the official language of the Colloquium. No translation will be provided.


The briefing notes included in this page contain references to relevant background documents to inform about the contents of each discussion group.

The presentations and the conclusions of the meeting will be made available on the EFSA website. EFSA will also publish a summary report of the event in the form of a booklet.


For more information on the Scientific Colloquium, please do not hesitate to contact us at scientific.colloquia [at]

Who should attend?

Registration for this event is now closed. The registered participants will be informed about their participation by 8 September.