Levels of evidence for human system risk evaluation

NPJ Microgravity. 2024 Mar 20;10(1):33. doi: 10.1038/s41526-024-00372-w.


NASA uses a continuous risk management process to seek out new knowledge of spaceflight-induced risk to human health and performance. The evidence base that informs the risk assessments in this domain is constantly changing as more information is gleaned from a continuous human presence in space and from ongoing research. However, the limitations of this evidence are difficult to characterize because fewer than 700 humans have ever flown in space, and information comes from a variety of sources that span disciplines, including engineering, medicine, food and nutrition, and many other life sciences. The Human System Risk Board (HSRB) at NASA is responsible for assessing risk to astronauts and communicating this risk to agency decision-makers. A critical part of that communication is conveying the uncertainty regarding the understanding of the changes that spaceflight induces in human processes and the complex interactions between humans and the spacecraft. Although the strength of evidence grades is common in the academic literature, these scores are often not useful for the problems of human spaceflight. The HSRB continues to update the processes used to report the levels of evidence. This paper describes recent updates to the methods used to assign the level of evidence scores to the official risk postures and to the causal diagrams used by the HSRB.

Publication types

  • Review