Innovations in responsive evidence synthesis services in the time of COVID

Innovations in responsive evidence synthesis services in the time of COVID

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Date: 20 January 2021


This CEDIL webinar, Co-ordinated by Ruth Stewart, Director the Africa Centre for Evidence and Chair of the Africa Evidence Network, will focus on innovations in responsive evidence synthesis services in the time of COVID-19. It aims to share and discuss innovations both in the way in which evidence is synthesised to inform decisions, and in the way that evidence services are delivered. In addition, it will put decision-makers at the centre of the discussion, whilst showcasing the breadth and depth of activities across LMICs. A panel of experts will update us on the international collaborations that they are part of, as well as zooming in on specific innovations in their work.



1. To share and discuss innovations both in the way in which evidence is synthesised to inform decisions, and in the way that evidence services are delivered

2. To put decision-makers at the center of the discussion

3. To showcase the breadth and depth of activities across LMICs



Harsha Dayal, Director of Research at Department for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South African Government


Laurenz Langer, Africa Evidence Network, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Daniel Patino-Lugo, University of Antioquia, Colombia

Promise Nduku, Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE), University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Cristián Mansilla, McMaster University, Canada

With contributions from Rhona Mijumbi

Useful Resources:

COVID End Website from McMaster University: Link to website

Living Hub of COVID 19 Knowledge Hubs: Link to website

Q & A from webinar:

Can the panel comment on (1) whether they think the COVID-pandemic has made rapid reviews and rapid evidence synthesis services more ‘acceptable’ in the evidence synthesis / systematic review communities across the world [and possibly also funding; and (2) if so, in what ways [ for what] are rapid reviews acceptable?

I think re (1), Covid has accelerated the trend of their acceptance; i wouldn’t say it is the main factor of their acceptance as key synthesis groups like Campbell and others did explore them pre-covid already. But the pandemic certainly has enhanced their production and, in reference to (2) there probably was no alternative to them in the beginning. An interesting linked development is how living and machiene-supported (or both) reviews allow for the production of full reviews in rapid timeframes…

I would only add to Laurenz comment that living reviews have started to increasingly become the norm in the evidence syntheses world, especially because the constant evolution of the existing evidence for every single topic/question. So I think the issue is less than if the rapid review is acceptable or not, but how often is being updated.

I’m very impressed to see our Colombian colleagues taking evidence to parents with the support of a decision aid. Are policy makers given similar support for navigating the evidence? I’d be interested to see examples if they exist.

Yes, policymakers form the Ministry of Education in Colombia are very interested in helping parentes (and also teachers) to navigate the evidence arround COVID19 and schools reopening.

I’d like some news on whether and how these various places managed to integrate with medical information, evidence and modelling techniques from the social and econimic sciences, which might also focus on different outcomes?

The great thing about these collaborations is that as partnerships / networks we include a wide range of professionals and disciplines and address a wide range of issues for decision-makers. That means that we include a wide range of types of evidence. We consider broad outcomes (eg COVID-END includes focus on social and economic outcomes) and we incorporate evidence from modelling and clinical guidelines as well as more traditional syntheses of papers. I think it’s fair to say that modelling is still considered more ‘separately’ (largely because it answers different questions). Our priority in all of these partnerships is to answer the questions presented to us by decision-makers using ALL the available evidence, irrespective of type / source.

I could just add that the Living Hub includes 343 hubs that are also coded in the specific sector that they are providing knowledge (20 different sectors)

Several presenters mentioned that much of this work is driven by the needs of policymakers and other decision-makers. What challenges have you experienced in generating more demand from decision-makers? Do you receive much feedback about how useful they find the evidence syntheses, and how it could be more useful for them?

I think it’s fair to say that our experience is that demand far outstrips our scope to respond. Generating demand is not a problem. This is because of our collective track record for responding to decision-makers’ needs in meaningful ways. Our relationships with government colleagues have been fostered over many years and are central to all we do.

Just to add to this question in regards to demand and responsiveness…I would also be interested in expanding on some points in the previous presentations around ‘timely’ or ‘rapid’ response – what have you learned OR what do you need to be more reactive to the demand.

In terms of generating demand – and given the importance of non-state actors in first-line response, including community-based organisations, do we have any sense on evidence demands emanating from non-state actors, NGO alliances, CBOs etc?

Very interesting presentations, thank you. It would be interesting to know who uses the hub of hubs (what types of people) how they use it, and how many users it attracts?

We know it is used – we suspect largely by researchers. We will be looking in more detail at who uses it and for what in the future.
COVID-END has additional resources that are more focussed on decision-makers and there is work underway to analyse use. I strongly recommend checking out their inventory of evidence syntheses addressing questions of importance across outcome areas.

On the Living Hub: Given the evidence around the increase of domestic violence linked to movement restrictions globally, could specific foci include domestic violence / gender-based violence – or is this absorbed in public safety and/or children and youth services?

So the hub of hubs is designed to help guide people towards which hubs are out there and what they cover, and steer you to what you want.
This means that if there is evidence / evidence hubs on gender based violence and COVID, the hub of hubs will help you find it.
There is an ongoing shift across all our collaborations towards social and economic issues and we anticipate a lot more evidence and evidence syntheses on these issues in the coming months.

Thank you for this question. The COVID-END inventory of best evidence syntheses includes a detailed taxonomy of decisions. One of them under economic and social responses was related to domestic violence. You could find there reviews that have been classified as “best” in their topic.

2 Responses

  1. Hello,

    Will this lecture be recorded? If so, where could I find it?

    Thank you!


    1. Yes, the session will be recorded. We will upload the recorded session on this page itself.

      Please check back on this page next week.

      Thanks & Regards,
      Team CEDIL.

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