The reliability of evidence review methodology in environmental science and conservation

O'Leary Bethan C., Kvist Kristian, Bayliss Helen R., Derroire Géraldine, Healey John R., Hughes Kathryn, Kleinschroth Fritz, Sciberras Marija, Woodcock Paul, Pullin Andrew S.. 2016. The reliability of evidence review methodology in environmental science and conservation. Environmental Science and Policy, 64 : pp. 75-82.

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Liste HCERES des revues (en SHS) : oui

Thème(s) HCERES des revues (en SHS) : Economie-gestion

Abstract : Given the proliferation of primary research articles, the importance of reliable environmental evidence reviews for informing policy and management decisions is increasing. Although conducting reviews is an efficient method of synthesising the fragmented primary evidence base, reviews that are of poor methodological reliability have the potential to misinform by not accurately reflecting the available evidence base. To assess the current value of evidence reviews for decision-making we appraised a systematic sample of articles published in early 2015 (N = 92) using the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence Synthesis Assessment Tool (CEESAT). CEESAT assesses the methodology of policy-relevant evidence reviews according to elements important for objectivity, transparency and comprehensiveness. Overall, reviews performed poorly with a median score of 2.5/39 and a modal score of zero (range 0–30, mean 5.8), and low scores were ubiquitous across subject areas. In general, reviews that applied meta-analytical techniques achieved higher scores than narrative syntheses (median 18.3 and 2.0 respectively), as a result of the latter consistently failing to adequately report methodology or how conclusions were drawn. However, some narrative syntheses achieved high scores, illustrating that the reliability of reviews should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Given the potential importance of reviews for informing management and policy, as well as research, it is vital that overall methodological reliability is improved. Although the increasing number of systematic reviews and meta-analyses highlight that some progress is being made, our findings suggest little or no improvement in the last decade. To motivate progress, we recommend that an annual assessment of the methodological reliability of evidence reviews be conducted. To better serve the environmental policy and management communities we identify a requirement for independent critical appraisal of review methodology thus enabling decision-makers to select reviews that are most likely to accurately reflect the evidence base.

Classification Agris : P01 - Nature conservation and land resources
C30 - Documentation and information
000 - Other themes

Champ stratégique Cirad : Axe 6 (2014-2018) - Sociétés, natures et territoires

Auteurs et affiliations

  • O'Leary Bethan C., Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (GBR)
  • Kvist Kristian, Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (GBR)
  • Bayliss Helen R., Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (GBR)
  • Derroire Géraldine, Bangor University (GBR) ORCID: 0000-0001-7239-2881
  • Healey John R., Bangor University (GBR)
  • Hughes Kathryn, Bangor University (GBR)
  • Kleinschroth Fritz, CIRAD-ES-UPR BSef (FRA)
  • Sciberras Marija, Bangor University (GBR)
  • Woodcock Paul, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (GBR)
  • Pullin Andrew S., Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (GBR)

Source : Cirad-Agritrop (

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