‘Evidence synthesis’ refers to the process of bringing together information from a range of sources and disciplines to inform debates and decisions on specific issues. The common question “What is the evidence for that?” could be rephrased as “Has sufficient synthesis of the evidence been done in relation to that?”.
Decision-making and public debate are best served if policymakers have access to the best current evidence on an issue. However, with ever larger volumes of research being published, navigating the available evidence and determining its relevance can be difficult. In addition, evidence will only ever be one consideration among many in any decision-making process. An accurate, concise and unbiased synthesis of the evidence is therefore one of the most valuable contributions the research community can offer policymakers.
Despite examples of good practice, there remain challenges with both the supply of, and demand for, synthesised evidence. Research funding and evaluation systems often place higher value on original research, and a lack of communication and understanding between policymakers and researchers can create an unintended disconnect between the questions policymakers are asking and the research that has the potential to provide insight.
A report on evidence synthesis for policy will soon be published by the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences. It will outline some of the current challenges and propose a new set of principles for good evidence synthesis to inform policy. The report will also propose changes to the research and policy landscapes to help create a more effective “marketplace” for synthesis: one in which policymakers and commentators reach out to where accessible and timely evidence is available, and one in which academics are engaged in synthesising evidence because they know it will make a difference.
The Royal Society and Academy of Medical Sciences will adopt the principles in their own work and will work closely with others to support evidence synthesis and use.
The Royal Society’s journals accept evidence synthesis articles. For an example see this article in Proceedings B on Bovine TB.
To find out more, please read our blog posts or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.