K308 Cabinet

Applying Systematic Reviews and Systematic Maps for devising management recommendations


Biljana Macura


Systematic reviews and maps are becoming a golden standard for evidence synthesis in conservation and environmental management. Building upon previous studies, these research methods for collating research evidence are based on key principles of transparency, comprehensiveness and repeatability [1]. While aiming at minimizing bias and subjectivity at all stages of the review process, they can provide the best available evidence to decision makers in environmental policy and practice [2]. Systematic reviews are conducted in several consecutive steps: 1) review question formulation with stakeholder engagement; 2) peer-reviewed and published protocol outlining the review methods; 3) comprehensive search for relevant grey and academic literature; 4) careful screening and inclusion of relevant evidence using pre-determined criteria; 5) critical appraisal of internal and external validity of each included study; 5) transparent synthesis and reporting of review results; 6) communication of review results. Whilst systematic reviews address questions about effectiveness of interventions or impact of an activity, systematic maps are used to describe and catalogue the evidence base on a broad subject of interest. They can highlight knowledge clusters, knowledge gaps, and methodological patterns in the primary research.
To guarantee high standards of systematic reviews and maps, Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (CEE) was established as a coordinating body for the promotion, conduct and registration of environmental systematic reviews. Mistra EviEM is the Swedish centre of the CEE network [3]. Since 2012, Mistra EviEM has been conducting systematic reviews and maps relevant (but not restricted) to Swedish environmental policy and management, focusing on several key areas such as forestry, agriculture, biodiversity conservation, etc. These reviews are conducted in attempt to fill synthesis gaps identified by Swedish environmental stakeholders. They address questions on e.g. if and how management measures achieve desired effects, or what are the environmental consequences of anthropogenic activities. This presentation will give an overview of synthesis approaches used by Mistra EviEM to transparently, comprehensively and objectively describe and summarise scientific evidence and inform environmental policy and management. Importance of stakeholder engagement in prioritisation and planning of a review conduct and communication of review results will be highlighted. Finally, some common (methodological) flaws in the primary studies that can limit use of these studies in systematic reviews and maps will be described.
[1] Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (2013) Guidelines for Systematic Review and Evidence Synthesis in Environmental Management. Version 4.2.
[2] Haddaway NR, Pullin AS (2014) The Policy Role of Systematic Reviews: Past, Present and Future. Springer Sci. Rev 14:179–183.
[3] EviEM (2017) About Us.