I recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences. I have always been interested in becoming a doctor until the day I saw a call for an administrative assistant for the GESI Secretariat. Upon reading about the job and the role of GESI, I was absolutely intrigued and wanted to get more involved in the field of Evidence Synthesis. I decided to apply for the job and I can now proudly say that I am a viable member of GESI: An administrative assistant of the GESI Secretariat.
Few days later, I was finally exposed to the field of Evidence Synthesis through an organized workshop about the “Use of Evidence Synthesis in the Environmental Field”, The workshop introduced the concept of Systematic Reviews and Systematic Maps, the formulation of a research question, how to search and screen for evidence, data extraction, critical appraisal, synthesis, and finally putting all of this work in a final report.
The workshop delivered by Dr. Neal Haddaway did really impact the way I look at things. Even though the workshop was introducing evidence synthesis in the environmental field, one can take the concepts and apply them to any other subject of interest. I am now more interested in the public health practice and evidence-informed health policymaking. The workshop illustrated the importance of evidence synthesis in that it can determine the veracity of a system. For example, if something were true without us realizing so, or even something that was thought to be true but was in fact not. It showed me the beauty of the framework that underlies evidence synthesis that we actively seek out. It identifies, aggregates, and evaluates data before coming to a decision. It drives conclusions and allows us to take a stepwise process and remind ourselves with the limitations of our conclusions.
What I think is important about evidence synthesis is that we actually reach an answer at the very end. It allows everyone to understands how the information can be applied, and in which circumstances. For example, there are certain circumstances where you might want to extrapolate the data of a patient’s condition and their treatment option into a broader population with a specific degree of certainty. This is when evidence synthesis does an incredible job: It allows us to identify the different scenarios during which this study will or will not work.
What I also find interesting about evidence synthesis is that it identifies gaps in research in explicit ways. It is extremely important for policymakers and decision makers.
Overall, I think it fundamentally relies on asking good focused questions, and then systematically trying to find what evidence exists, and finally narrowing down the options into something that is both useful and unbiased.
It is literally to synthesize the evidence that is available.