Another day in Copenhagen

What amazed me (again) today, was the amount of people from various areas actually doing systematic reviews. this was evident from the poster session, where very interesting pieces of research were showcased. Form teaching maths in secondary schools to water irrigation systems, foreign investment and feeding programmes. I learned about regression discontinuity designs (RDD’s) and non-randomised studies based on participant self-slection (I don’t think this one is a great idea for health care, I can just imagine the participants going absolutely crazy…. )

But, my pick of the day goes to a poster titled ” Systematic reviews in international development: closing the gap between evidence and policy”. This research was conducted through 3ie – International Initiative for Impact Evaluation. The pie chart shows the proportion of reviews done in particular areas. The large blue piece refers to systematic review related to health care.

Although I knew that most systematic reviews were done in this area, I was surprised that they actually comprise more than 60% of all reviews.

As part of the study, they also did a “gap analysis”. They looked at specific topics (HIV/AIDS and Maternal health – to date) and mapped out the systematic reviews that exist in these areas, as well as the quality of evidence provided by them. One thus has a overview of what evidence is available and what is still needed.

This is an example of the HIV/AIDS gap map, which can be seen in the table. The reviews are colour coded according to their quality. This table, as well as the one for Maternal and child health, is also available online ( The reviews in the table link to the full text and the summary thereof.  I think this is a very useful tool when deciding where research is needed and I had to think back to our priority setting exercise with the EHCRC. Although the author mentioned that this is still work in progress and will need to be updated regularily, I think it is worthiwhile to visit the website to find out more!

I am off to the National Danish Museum to learn some more about the Danish culture. Did you know, that the Danish are regarded as the happiest people in the world? Well, I think it is contagious 🙂


Never a dull moment

Today was the very interesting first day of the Campbell Colloquium. It was intriguing to hear people in areas other than health care, talking about systematic reviews.

Have you ever heard of “Evidence-based policing”? What about systematic reviews on finance? I met a woman from Indonesia that is doing a systematic review on the influence of world banks on the Indonesian financial system…

While the plenary sessions focused on knowledge translation, the workshops addressed basic and advanced concepts in conducting systematic reviews. Although the workshops focused on social science reviews, I discovered that the methodology is not really different from Cochrane reviews. It is mostly the terminology that varies.

As I am sitting here, wondering what the highlight of the day was, I realise, that there was never a dull moment. Every session was great! But, I think the most thought-provoking presentation was the opening plenary by Prof Sandra Nutley: The need for a better map and different shoes: connecting evidence, policy and practice in an era of austerity, complexity and decentralised decision making.

In a nutshell: This presentation focused on knowledge translation (KT) activities and how we should put more emphasise on the social contexts in which we want our research to provide the answers we need to improve the situation. She explained the three generations of evidence (Best 2008): In the 1980’s, the focus was on Knowledge transfer. Knowledge was seen as a product, and its degree of use a function of effective packaging. In the 1990’s, the focus shifted to Knowledge exchange, where knowledge was regarded as the result of social and political processes and its degree of use a function of effective relationships and interaction. Since 2005, the focus is on Knowledge integration, where knowledge is embedded in systems and cultures and the degree of its use a function of effective integration with organisations and systems. It is important to know that these notions exist in parallel, although most models on KT still reflect 1st and 2nd generation thinking. KT activities should be seen on a spectrum from increasing the use of explicit evidence on the one side; to creating environments that encourage engagement on the other side.

To know “what works” is even more important in an era of austerity – and in areas with scarce resources. We therefore need good maps to guide KT acitivities. Some generic features of effective practices to increasee research use include: 1. Research should be translated 2. Ownership is key 3. Contextual analysis is important 4. Credibility of research 5. Leadership 6. Need for enthusiasts (like us :-)) 7. Support – financial, technical and emotional 8. Integration

“Yes, it’s quite a noise. But are we having any impact?” This is the question we should be asking ourselves. Regardless whether we are referring to health care, education, economics or criminology.

Welcome to Copenhagen

After a long flight, I arrived in the beautiful Copenhagen. I used the free afternoon to learn more about this lovely city, its people and culture: No better way than to stroll through the streets and take a tour of the city on the canals. I saw great architecture – old and new, a hippie island from the 70ties, the queens yacht, the little mermaid, the world’s narrowest house and 1000nds of bicycles. (reminds me a little of Amsterdam)  Image

So, now I am ready to start learning about educational reviews in the morning. Looking forward to the workshops on assessing study quality, publication bias and coding as well as the plenary sessions on translating evidence into practice.

My name is Anke Rohwer. I am a researcher at the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care at Stellenbosch University, South Africa ( and have a background in Midwifery and Clinical Epidemiology. One of the main activities of our centre is writing systematic reviews.

I have recently registered a new title (E-learning versus face-to-face learning on evidence-based health care (EBHC) for increased EBHC knowledge and skills in postgraduate health care professionals) for a systematic review with the Campbell Collaboration. The Campbell Collaboration is an international research network that prepares and disseminates high quality systematic reviews of social science evidence in three interlinked fields: education, crime and justice, and social welfare (

Similar to The Cochrane Collaboration, the Campbell Collaboration hosts a colloquium every year. This year, it will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, from the 29-31st May 2012. Not only will I be attending this year’s colloquium to learn more about systematic reviews in the educational field, but I will also be blogging about my experience! In this way, I can share all the knowledge that I will be gaining on a daily basis!

På gensyn! (until later – or at least I hope that is what it says 🙂 )