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The Evolution of Systematic Evidence Reviews: Past and Future Developments and Their Implications for Policy Analysis

Sebastian Lemire, Laura R. Peck, Allan Porowski, Abt Global


June 23, 2023

What current trends are researchers seeing in systematic evidence reviews, and how can they be applied to better inform public policy decisions? Over the last 50 years, meta-analysis, mixed-methods synthesis, and core components analysis have helped researchers better summarize their findings. This article dives into these three waves of evidence reviews in the context of public policy analysis – what are the benefits and limitations of each kind and how can each influence future reviews? What new trends are emerging?

A systematic evidence review is one type of evidence review that uses standardized procedures to identify all published and unpublished research on a topic, determine which evidence is relevant, assess the rigor of the evidence, and subsequently summarize its findings. In this article, experts identify and provide examples for three current trends making impacts in systematic evidence reviews: (1) using data science tools, (2) embedding an equity focus, and (3) translating research into practice. Authors also dive into the more-recent establishment of large-scale, federal collaborations to review and synthesize evidence.

As the research field evolves, systematic evidence reviews are expected to be faster with the help of data science, more equitable by the deepening involvement of practitioners, and more strongly tied to policy as new laws mandate the use of evidence-based practices. All efforts must be supported by a community of strong researchers who consistently report findings; otherwise, systematic evidence reviews are likely to be overly time-consuming and inefficient.

Dive into the full article for more details, and check out more of Abt’s systematic evidence review work.

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