Evidence Synthesis

Evidence synthesis is a type of research method that allows researchers to bring together all relevant information on a research question. This can be useful to identify gaps in knowledge, establish an evidence base for best-practice guidance, or help inform policymakers and practitioners. There are many types of outputs that use evidence synthesis, such as policy briefs, systematic reviews, clinical practice guidelines and so on.

There are several organisations dedicated to supporting and collating systematic reviews with relevance to public health policy and practice. These include:

  • The Cochrane Collaboration. This global organisation consists of around 40 review groups, each with a focus on a different health topic. Cochrane reviews are usually focused on the effectiveness of clinical interventions, and take a somewhat narrow approach to evidence synthesis. The Public Health group supports people from all over the world to conduct systematic reviews to the Cochrane model and standard. You can read more about the Cochrane library, review methods and software here.
  • The Campbell Collaboration has a similar approach to the Cochrane Library, but focuses more on education, social welfare and development.
  • The EPPI-Centre is part of the Institute of Education, UCL. This unit does systematic reviews for different government departments, with a wide variety of topics and methods. The Centre has also developed novel synthesis techniques, software, and review methods including participatory methods. They run training and seminars, see below for details.
  • 3ie funds, produces, quality assures and synthesises rigorous evidence on development effectiveness. They support evaluations and reviews that examine what works, for whom, why, and at what cost in low-and middle-income countries.
  • Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, York. CRD do health-relevant systematic reviews and have developed particular expertise in high quality systematic reviews and associated economic evaluations.
  • The Health Evidence Network, WHO. HEN produces a variety of publications to meet policy-makers’ needs for evidence, synthesizing the best available evidence in response to policy-makers’ questions. These include joint policy briefs and policy summaries, produced with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Polices, which synthesize the evidence around specific policy options for tackling key health system issues; and HEN summaries of reports, including synopses of the main findings and policy options.

There are additionally many local and global networks for those interested in doing and using systematic review evidence in public health policy and practice; e.g. the Africa Evidence Network.

On this page:

Synthesis methods

Tools and resources