Maximising the availability and use of high quality evidence for policymaking: Collaborative, targeted and efficient evidence reviews

Anna Gavine (Lead / Corresponding author), Stephen MacGillivray, Mary Ross-Davie, Kirstie Campbell, Linda White, Mary Renfrew

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    A number of barriers have been identified to getting evidence into policy. In particular, a lack of policy relevance and lack of timeliness have been identified as causing tension between researchers and policy makers. Rapid reviews are used increasingly as an approach to address timeliness, however, there is a lack of consensus on the most effective review methods and they do not necessarily address the needs of policy makers. In the course of our work with the Scottish Government’s Review of maternity and neonatal services we developed a new approach to evidence synthesis. In this paper we describe the approach we developed, collaborative targeted efficient evidence reviews for policy making, which has potential for use in other evidence reviews for policymaking makers.

    We developed a standardised approach to produce collaborative targeted efficient evidence reviews for policy making. This approach aimed to ensure the reviews were policy relevant, high quality and up-to-date, and which were presented in a consistent, transparent, and easy to access format. The approach involved the following stages: 1) establishing a review team with expertise both in the topic and in systematic reviewing, 2) clarifying the review questions with policy makers and subject experts (i.e. health professionals, service user representatives, researchers) who acted as review sponsors, 3) development of review protocols to systematically identify quantitative and qualitative review-level evidence on effectiveness, sustainability and acceptability; if review level evidence was not available, primary studies were sought, 4) agreeing a framework to structure the analysis of the reviews around a consistent set of key concepts and outcomes; in this case a published framework for maternal and newborn care was used, 5) developing an iterative process between policy makers, reviewers and review sponsors, 6) rapid searches and retrieval of literature, 7) analysis of identified

    literature which was mapped to the framework and included review sponsor input, 8) production of recommendations mapped to the agreed framework and presented as ‘summary topsheets’ in a consistent and easy to read format.

    The approach used enabled us to answer policy relevant questions by identifying the best available evidence in a streamlined, efficient, effective and transparent manner whilst ensuring rigour was maintained. The use of a framework to map the evidence helped structure the review questions, expedited the analysis and provided a consistent template for recommendations which took into account the policy context. The combination of topic specialists and evidence synthesists on the review teams together with the involvement of policy makers and subject experts as sponsors helped to ensure that the review questions were relevant, the reviews were comprehensive and up-to-date, and the recommendations were feasible and acceptable in real world settings.

    Our approach has drawn on different components of pre-existing rapid review methodology to provide a rigorous and pragmatic approach to rapid evidence synthesis. We therefore propose that collaborative targeted efficient evidence reviews for policy making can be considered to be collaborative targeted efficient evidence reviews for policy makers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5
    JournalPalgrave Communications
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2018


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