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Engaging environmental policy-makers with systematic reviews: challenges, solutions and lessons learned
- Collins, Alexandra M., Coughlin, Deborah, Randall, Nicola
- Environmental evidence 2019 v.8 no.1 pp. 2
- decision making, issues and policy, systematic review, United Kingdom
- The creation and accumulation of robust bodies of knowledge, along with their dissemination, utilisation and integration in decision support are key to improving the use of evidence in decision-making. Systematic reviews (SRs), through their emphasis on transparency, replicability and rigour, offer numerous benefits throughout the policy-making cycle and for improving the use of evidence in environmental policy-making. As a result there have been numerous calls to increase the use of SRs in environmental policy-making. This commentary paper introduces the challenges of engaging policy-makers with SRs and, using experiences of producing SRs with Government Departments and Agencies within the UK and Europe, identifies possible solutions and shares our lessons learned. It highlights that co-production can help to overcome a number of challenges by ensuring that review questions are policy-relevant, that the context of the review is taken into consideration and that review’s findings are communicated so that they are recognised and used in policy decision-making processes. Additionally, a pragmatic approach to the review’s methodology may be required to respond to policy-making requirements. Here, a risk-based approach can communicate the trade-offs between the rigour and timeliness of the review. Ensuring that systematic approaches are upheld at all times can help address impartiality concerns and can develop skills in both reviewers and policy-makers to increase awareness of systematic methods, leading to changes in practice and culture within decision-making organisations and the promotion of evidence informed policy development and decisions.