Campbell: a year in review

Written by Audrey Portes, Campbell Collaboration, Project and Administration Manager

It has been a busy year for Campbell. What were we up to in 2016? This blog of blogs in 2016 provides some insights on our activities.

Our first focus this year was about how systematic is a systematic review, and the key role of meta-analysis in building research and enduring adequate reporting.  Explained simply, a systematic review sums up the best available research on a specific question.

Systematic reviews are literature reviews undertaken following strict guidelines to minimise subjectivity, maximise transparency and replicability. They thus provide a highly reliable review of evidence on a specific topic, reported in a systematic manner.  Reviews which are not systematic in this way are subject to bias.

A second theme in our blogs this year is what works and for whom? This was the theme of the What Works Global Summit organized by Campbell in collaboration with Sense about Science, 3ie and Queen’s University Belfast in London this year. This major event gathered 860 participants from all over the world, researchers, policy makers, organizations and many others. But what was the main aim of such an event? The aim was to face together the challenge to get the evidence from reviews into policy. It was at least the first step toward an understanding that there is a need to coordinate the demand, and to learn from and build on the experience of others such as the Nordic countries with have institutionalized the use of evidence from systematic reviews. Other participants also shared their insights from WWGS, which you can find here: what did I learn about the demand for impact evaluations at the WWGS , here: evidence uptake wash sector what works, here: evidence for action  and here: what works in promoting what works

A third important focus, embodied in Campbell’s new strategy , is more effective communication of evidence. How best to disseminate evidence, and how should be policy makers involved in the process? This was the theme of OECD’s seminar in Paris in November this year organized with Campbell.  Effective communication is a challenge, not helped by misrepresentation and sensationalism in the media, as in the recent reporting of draft NICE guidelines on speed bumps.

Part of effective communication is designing research so that it is better suited to answering questions relevant for better policy and practice.  So there needs to be a basic grasp of research methods, which includes having the capacity to assess the quality of how studies were set up, and statistics.  And we need better evidence synthesis.  There is no mixed evidence only poorly synthesized evidence.   This approach supports the important principles that evidence-based policy and practice is not a blue print approach , and it is not a one-size fits all approach.

As the Campbell Collaboration’s vision statement says we need better evidence for a better world.  We aren’t doing evidence synthesis as an academic exercise. We are doing it to raise the quality of life for the poor and disadvantaged, to allow people to live lives with opportunity, to make a better world.

The evidence revolution is here. But it can fail, to be replaced by policy driven by faddism and favour. Building up a global repository of knowledge of what works – that is the Campbell Library – builds a bastion from which to defend the revolution in the interests of better policy and practice, and better lives for the poor and disadvantaged.

So Campbell has been busy in 2016, and this is just the beginning. In addition of all these blogs posted this year, Campbell has worked actively in order to spread knowledge about evidence and systematic reviews globally. The WWGS 2016 in London was a first step.  One of the next is the Global Evidence Summit in Cape Town in September 2017. We have also taken part in several important events this year in the UK, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and others. Campbell worked also on the development of its new website. Campbell Library being at the heart of its activity, 11 new reviews were published and over 30 new Plain language summaries were written and added to the website (you can find them here: Plain language summaries)

The Campbell Collaboration is definitely growing and focusing on spreading the word about Systematic Reviews.  2017 looks already very promising with new events, new systematic reviews and new challenges to tackle. Make sure you don’t miss anything, follow us on FB and twitter @campbellreviews and make sure you subscribe at our newsletter here Newsletter sign-up.

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