Lessons for policy makers

Systematic Reviews 01 - How to promote evidence-based policy making

September 30, 2009

Speaker: Dr. Ruhi Saith, Institute of Public Health Group

How can policy makers use evidence from academic studies? Evidence-based medicine has led the way in systematically reviewing available evidence to give rigorous information on what works and what doesn’t. 

As part of 3ie’s Delhi seminar series, Dr. Ruhi Saith, Senior Researcher, Institute of Public Health Group and consulting editor for the Cochrane Public Health Group, presented today a practical introduction on systematic reviews. Her presentation explains their advantages compared to ordinary literature reviews, and how they can benefit policy makers and development practitioners and translate into policy changes. 

Systematic reviews start with a comprehensive review of all available studies, grades them by quality criteria, only including in the review those which meet certain standards, and, where applicable, provide a consolidated estimate of the effectiveness of the intervention by pooling the results of all studies. Such systematic reviews, supported by the Cochrane Collaboration, have become the cornerstone of evidence-based medicine.

Systematic reviews started in the area of medicine started in the area of medicine, but are playing an increasing role in social policy. In the United States the What Works Clearing House summarizes evidence on education policy and programmes. Internationally the Campbell Collaboration promotes quality standards for systematic reviews in education, crime and justice and social welfare.
For instance, a recent review of 44 research studies on CCTV schemes by the Campbell Collaboration found that they do have a modest impact on crime overall but are at their most effective in cutting vehicle crime in car parks, especially when used alongside improved lighting and the introduction of security guards. The findings were extensively reported in the international media and was cited by British Home Office ministers in response to concerns in the House of Lords about the surveillance society. 

3ie is partnering with the Campbell Collaboration in the production of synthetic reviews of development policies and programmes. All 3ie-supported reviews are carried out in accordance with the Campbell guidelines and procedures. The third call for proposals will be made in early 2010. Read more on how to apply and 3ie criteria. 
Campbell Collaboration promotes quality standards for systematic reviews in education, crime and justice and social welfare. 

View video clip on “How to institutionalize evaluation: India and Mexico learning from each other”:

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