Simplifying the selection of evidence synthesis methods to inform environmental decisions: A guide for decision makers and scientists

Carly N. Cook, Susan J. Nichols, J. Angus Webb, Richard A. Fuller, Rob M. Richards

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    10 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Achieving evidence-based environmental management requires that decision-makers have access to evidence that can help identify the most effective interventions for their management context. Evidence synthesis supports evidence-based decision-making because it collates, filters and makes sense of a sometimes large and often conflicting evidence-base, potentially yielding new insights. There are many approaches to evidence synthesis. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, making them suited to different purposes, questions and contexts, given particular constraints. To make sense of the wide array of approaches, we outline the important considerations when selecting the most appropriate method for a particular decision context. These include the purpose for the synthesis, the required outcomes, and the multiple constraints within which decision-makers must operate. We then critically assess a spectrum of approaches to evidence synthesis commonly used within environmental management, detailing the characteristics of each that can be used to determine when it is a suitable method. To guide this selection process we provide a decision tree for those commissioning (e.g., decision-makers or stakeholders) or conducting (e.g., scientists) evidence synthesis, which can be used to identify an appropriate method. The decision tree classifies evidence synthesis methods according to whether their purpose is to test or generate hypotheses, the level of resources they require, the level of certainty in the outputs, and the type and scope of the question being addressed. This tool is a major advance because it helps select an appropriate synthesis method based on the multiple constraints that impact the decision. We conclude that there is an approach to evidence synthesis that will suit all management contexts, but that selecting the right approach requires careful consideration of what is fit for purpose.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-145
    Number of pages11
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Volume213
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

    Cite this

    @article{52ea0aa0e2b34b45a2947de11ac884a3,
    title = "Simplifying the selection of evidence synthesis methods to inform environmental decisions: A guide for decision makers and scientists",
    abstract = "Achieving evidence-based environmental management requires that decision-makers have access to evidence that can help identify the most effective interventions for their management context. Evidence synthesis supports evidence-based decision-making because it collates, filters and makes sense of a sometimes large and often conflicting evidence-base, potentially yielding new insights. There are many approaches to evidence synthesis. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, making them suited to different purposes, questions and contexts, given particular constraints. To make sense of the wide array of approaches, we outline the important considerations when selecting the most appropriate method for a particular decision context. These include the purpose for the synthesis, the required outcomes, and the multiple constraints within which decision-makers must operate. We then critically assess a spectrum of approaches to evidence synthesis commonly used within environmental management, detailing the characteristics of each that can be used to determine when it is a suitable method. To guide this selection process we provide a decision tree for those commissioning (e.g., decision-makers or stakeholders) or conducting (e.g., scientists) evidence synthesis, which can be used to identify an appropriate method. The decision tree classifies evidence synthesis methods according to whether their purpose is to test or generate hypotheses, the level of resources they require, the level of certainty in the outputs, and the type and scope of the question being addressed. This tool is a major advance because it helps select an appropriate synthesis method based on the multiple constraints that impact the decision. We conclude that there is an approach to evidence synthesis that will suit all management contexts, but that selecting the right approach requires careful consideration of what is fit for purpose.",
    keywords = "Aggregative methods, Configurative methods, Decision support, Evidence synthesis, Environmental management, Management decisions",
    author = "Cook, {Carly N.} and Nichols, {Susan J.} and Webb, {J. Angus} and Fuller, {Richard A.} and Richards, {Rob M.}",
    year = "2017",
    month = "9",
    doi = "10.1016/j.biocon.2017.07.004",
    language = "English",
    volume = "213",
    pages = "135--145",
    journal = "Biological Conservation",
    issn = "0006-3207",
    publisher = "Elsevier BV",

    }

    Simplifying the selection of evidence synthesis methods to inform environmental decisions: A guide for decision makers and scientists. / Cook, Carly N.; Nichols, Susan J.; Webb, J. Angus; Fuller, Richard A.; Richards, Rob M.

    In: Biological Conservation, Vol. 213, 09.2017, p. 135-145.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Simplifying the selection of evidence synthesis methods to inform environmental decisions: A guide for decision makers and scientists

    AU - Cook, Carly N.

    AU - Nichols, Susan J.

    AU - Webb, J. Angus

    AU - Fuller, Richard A.

    AU - Richards, Rob M.

    PY - 2017/9

    Y1 - 2017/9

    N2 - Achieving evidence-based environmental management requires that decision-makers have access to evidence that can help identify the most effective interventions for their management context. Evidence synthesis supports evidence-based decision-making because it collates, filters and makes sense of a sometimes large and often conflicting evidence-base, potentially yielding new insights. There are many approaches to evidence synthesis. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, making them suited to different purposes, questions and contexts, given particular constraints. To make sense of the wide array of approaches, we outline the important considerations when selecting the most appropriate method for a particular decision context. These include the purpose for the synthesis, the required outcomes, and the multiple constraints within which decision-makers must operate. We then critically assess a spectrum of approaches to evidence synthesis commonly used within environmental management, detailing the characteristics of each that can be used to determine when it is a suitable method. To guide this selection process we provide a decision tree for those commissioning (e.g., decision-makers or stakeholders) or conducting (e.g., scientists) evidence synthesis, which can be used to identify an appropriate method. The decision tree classifies evidence synthesis methods according to whether their purpose is to test or generate hypotheses, the level of resources they require, the level of certainty in the outputs, and the type and scope of the question being addressed. This tool is a major advance because it helps select an appropriate synthesis method based on the multiple constraints that impact the decision. We conclude that there is an approach to evidence synthesis that will suit all management contexts, but that selecting the right approach requires careful consideration of what is fit for purpose.

    AB - Achieving evidence-based environmental management requires that decision-makers have access to evidence that can help identify the most effective interventions for their management context. Evidence synthesis supports evidence-based decision-making because it collates, filters and makes sense of a sometimes large and often conflicting evidence-base, potentially yielding new insights. There are many approaches to evidence synthesis. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, making them suited to different purposes, questions and contexts, given particular constraints. To make sense of the wide array of approaches, we outline the important considerations when selecting the most appropriate method for a particular decision context. These include the purpose for the synthesis, the required outcomes, and the multiple constraints within which decision-makers must operate. We then critically assess a spectrum of approaches to evidence synthesis commonly used within environmental management, detailing the characteristics of each that can be used to determine when it is a suitable method. To guide this selection process we provide a decision tree for those commissioning (e.g., decision-makers or stakeholders) or conducting (e.g., scientists) evidence synthesis, which can be used to identify an appropriate method. The decision tree classifies evidence synthesis methods according to whether their purpose is to test or generate hypotheses, the level of resources they require, the level of certainty in the outputs, and the type and scope of the question being addressed. This tool is a major advance because it helps select an appropriate synthesis method based on the multiple constraints that impact the decision. We conclude that there is an approach to evidence synthesis that will suit all management contexts, but that selecting the right approach requires careful consideration of what is fit for purpose.

    KW - Aggregative methods

    KW - Configurative methods

    KW - Decision support

    KW - Evidence synthesis

    KW - Environmental management

    KW - Management decisions

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85030464107&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.mendeley.com/research/simplifying-selection-evidence-synthesis-methods-inform-environmental-decisions-guide-decision-maker

    U2 - 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.07.004

    DO - 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.07.004

    M3 - Article

    VL - 213

    SP - 135

    EP - 145

    JO - Biological Conservation

    JF - Biological Conservation

    SN - 0006-3207

    ER -