The gold standard for EVIPNet Policy Briefs are Systematic reviews :
Systematic reviews of research evidence constitute a more appropriate source of research evidence for decision-making than the latest or most heavily publicized research study ( Mulrow 1994 (1) ; Bero and Jadad 1997 (2) ). By systematic reviews, we mean reviews of the research literature with an explicit question, an explicit description of the search strategy, an explicit statement about what types of research evidence were included and excluded, a critical examination of the quality of the studies included in the review, and a critical and transparent process of interpretation of the findings of the studies included in the review.
Systematic reviews have several advantages in the use of scientific evidence to inform policy. Firstly, they reduce the risk of bias in selecting and interpreting the results of studies. Secondly, they reduce the risk of being misled by the play of chance in identifying studies for inclusion, or the risk of focusing on a limited subset of relevant evidence. Thirdly, systematic reviews provide a critical appraisal of the available research and place individual studies or subgroups of studies in the context of all of the relevant evidence. Finally, they allow others to appraise critically the judgments made in selecting studies and the collection, analysis and interpretation of the results.
EVIPNet uses systematic reviews as the foundation for the preparation of research syntheses, which is the basis for a policy brief offering policy options to a specific policy maker question. EVIPNet research syntheses involve systematic and transparent efforts to contextualize the results of systematic reviews and to integrate that evidence with setting-specific evidence, such as relevant national research, to support well-informed policy decisions.
More about systematic reviews
Room for innovation: There are more than 20 instruments presently available for critically appraising systematic reviews and two systematic reviews of these instruments have been published (Oxman et al. 2006d). Most of the criteria used in these different instruments are similar. These instruments have been developed and evaluated primarily for appraising systematic reviews of clinical questions. Little work has been done yet to develop and evaluate them for appraising systematic reviews for health policy and public health decisions.
Although it has become commonplace to use systematic reviews to inform Health Technology Assessment (HTA ) and clinical practice guidelines ( Oxman et al. 2006d (18)), systematic methods are rarely used to EVIPNet are research syntheses for health policy decisions (Innvaer et al. 2002 (6); Lavis et al. 2002 (11); Chalmers 2004 (5); Lavis et al. 2004 (10); Lavis et al. 2005 (8); Oxman et al. 2007 (15)). The methods that are used for systematic reviews of health systems questions are also less well developed (Sheldon 2005 (20); Oxman et al. 2006d (18)). The Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) Group has developed comprehensive search strategies for health policy relevant reviews (Bero et al. 2007 (3) ), and continues to develop those methods. The Norwegian satellite of EPOC based at the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services, is a partner in EVIPNET. The Centre was established with the aim of supporting the production of reviews that are relevant to health policy decisions in LMIC ( Johansen et al. 2007 (7) ), and will support the further development of efficient search strategies for EVIPNet. Information retrieval for systematic reviews for health policy decisions may be more elusive than retrieval for clinical reviews, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the research, use of research designs other than randomised trials, and limitations of what and how research is indexed (Oxman et al. 2006d (18)). Moreover, database searching may be more difficult due to a lack of standardization of the vocabulary and the scarcity of rigorous evaluations. Furthermore, data and information may not be published and easily accessible to researchers and policy makers.
Several investigators have addressed the question of when a review, HTA or guideline needs updating. However, none of these studies have focused on research syntheses for health policy decisions.