The Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences have developed a set of principles for good evidence synthesis for policy. These principles aim to make it easy for those new to synthesis to identify, use, conduct or commission good synthesis. The ‘Evidence synthesis for policy’ report, contains principles for good evidence synthesis as well as three proposals for the research and policy landscape. As part of this joint programme, three of the Royal Society’s journals, Proceedings A, Proceedings B and Royal Society Open Science have launched a new article type called Evidence Synthesis.
Due to the complex nature of policy-making, decision makers often need access to an unbiased summary of all the available relevant evidence. The process of ‘evidence synthesis’ brings together information from a range of different sources. These articles access, appraise and synthesize scientific information and makes them readily available to non-specialists. They are rigorous, objective and transparent and driven by stakeholder needs, enabling the reader to make informed decisions. They contain no new research but are a synthesis of existing information relevant to an identified policy question and are important to ensure well-founded policymaking and public debate.
We have now launched this new article type across Proceedings A, Proceedings B and Royal Society Open Science and are encouraging submissions from all scientific disciplines. An Evidence synthesis article should state explicitly whether its goal is to summarise evidence in a policy-neutral manner, or whether it is making the case for a particular course of action based on expert interpretation of the underlying evidence. A clear question needs to be formulated and supported by an appropriate justification for timeliness and relevance to the target audience. These articles differ from standard reviews in that the identity of the audience is clear at the outset, and the article is tailored to its needs, with a strong element of critical evaluation. All of these articles will be Open Access.
We welcome studies that include, but are not limited to:
- synthesis techniques such as evidence reviews (articles that collate and summarise multiple primary studies related to a specific policy-relevant question),
- meta-analysis (that utilise statistical methods to combine the results from multiple studies in an effort to increase power (over individual studies),
- improve estimates of the size of the effect and/or to resolve uncertainty when reports disagree),
- systematic reviews (synthesis of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify select and critically appraise relevant research and to collect and analyse collective data,
- statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be employed.
Before publishing an Evidence Synthesis article we will consider:
- the importance and timeliness of the topic (in general and to its target audience);
- the methodological clarity, management of uncertainty, quality and impartiality of the synthesis relative to its stated aim;
- the degree to which the identified target audience will be served by the form of the Evidence Synthesis (for example, accessibility, length and adequate coverage)
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