Using systematic review methodology to establish an evidence base for implementation of the Environment Agency Wales Climate Change Strategy

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Environment and Natural Resources


There is a lack of knowledge dialogue in environmental management at the interface between scientific research and policy/practice. This project develops an existing partnership between scientists at the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (CEBC), University of Wales, Bangor and decision-makers at the Environment Agency with the key aim of developing and implementing a model for knowledge transfer in environmental management through an evidence-based framework following a protocol modified from that established in the field of health care research and practice. The partnership was established through a NERC Knowledge Transfer Grant to develop an evidence-based framework for biodiversity conservation. The success of this programme has encouraged both parties to explore the broadening of the approach from biodiversity management to wider environmental management issues. The Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation will undertake systematic reviews and disseminate research evidence to support decision-making using the methodology established through the current Knowledge Transfer Programme. The work requires a trained individual, working within the CEBC team, to systematically search for and access relevant information using an explicit and repeatable review protocol so as to avoid bias, interpret the findings and present them on an open-access web site in a format suitable for decision-makers. The Environment Agency Wales has identified subject areas for review from its Climate Change Strategy Implementation Plan. The Agency will assess the review evidence produced in this project and feedback information on its utility. The output represents a critical step forward in knowledge transfer in push-delivering systematic unbiased reviews of evidence to decision-makers to underpin environmental policy and practice. To date decision-makers rely heavily on their own experience, i.e. decision-making is largely experience-based rather than evidence-based. Decision-makers want to and do use evidence when available, but what they gather is not systematic, but incomplete and often biased. This framework offers a systematic, transparent and unbiased method of appraising the evidence. The approach has other significant benefits; the evidence-based framework is also a formal method for identifying gaps in evidence and therefore prioritising research. It therefore encourages a two-way flow of information between the research and user communities encouraging a move toward more needs-led research. The project is directly relevant to NERCs aim of ensuring NERC science contributes to the effectiveness of public services and the sustainability of human wellbeing.
Description The project demonstarted the process of evidence-based practice in terms of the relationship between the scientific community undertaking systematic review and evidence synthesis and the user community (Environment Agency Wales) in communicating their evidence needs and interpreting the systemnatic review outcomes. However, it also demonstrated a need to change the culture of both communities if an evdience-based approach to decision making is to be achieved. The scientific community is too focussed on primary research at the expense of synthesis and dissemination. The user community is content with expert-based decision making and somewhat dismissive of evidence, especially when its delivery is slow and expensive.
Exploitation Route This project demonstarted that the products of systematic review are valuable to end users. They inform their decision making and can be responsive to their needs. The potential of systematic review to be the central methodology for science to inform policy is high. This is already demonstrated in the health and education services but the environmental sector is lagging behind for lack of investment. Systematic review methodology now has guidelines and standards within environmental management provided by the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence. The methodology is available to be exploited by partnerships between end users and the academic community to form an evidence-based framework for decision making and improve effectiveness in environmental management.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Retail,Transport

Description Process and products have been used in decision making by Environment Agency Wales
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description What evidence questions should I ask to develop my work- An introduction to Systematic Reviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 12 policy formers from Environment Agency Wales attended a workshop on question setting to guide conduct systematic reviews of evidence. This stimulated considerable discussion on the format of questions suitable for systematic review.

Questions were generated by the policy formers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011