New Initiative to Build Capacity in Evidence Informed Decision Making in Healthcare

NUI Galway Evidence Synthesis Ireland/Cochrane Ireland Director, Professor Declan Devane (centre) pictured at the 2019 joint Cochrane UK and Cochrane Ireland Symposium, Oxford, March 2019, with Professor Martin Burton, Director of Cochrane UK (left) and Dr David Tovey, former Editor-in-Chief of The Cochrane Library (right). Photo: Christopher Wood
Aug 28 2019 Posted: 09:06 CDT

Researchers from NUI Galway are leading the all-island initiative, Evidence Synthesis Ireland, which aims to build knowledge, awareness and capacity in the methods used to gather and build evidence (known as evidence synthesis) and using it effectively to inform health and healthcare decisions in Ireland. Policy makers, healthcare institutions, clinicians, researchers and the public will stand to benefit.

Evidence synthesis, also sometimes called “systematic reviews”, is a way of combining information from multiple studies that have investigated the same thing, to come to an overall understanding of what they found. This helps determine how effective a certain treatment or drug is, or how people have experienced a particular health condition or treatment. For example, steroids given to women who are about to give birth prematurely can save the life of the newborn child. However, this treatment wasn’t routinely put into practice until all the individual clinical trials were brought together. It was only when this evidence synthesis was done that the overall benefits became clear - that the steroids saved the lives of premature babies when compared to not giving the steroids.

Evidence Synthesis Ireland is funded for an initial three years by the Health Research Board for €1.5 million and the Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland for €0.5 million. Importantly, this new initiative also includes the relaunch of Cochrane Ireland, the Irish branch of Cochrane, which is an international non-profit organisation with 11,000 members from more than 130 countries worldwide. The mission of Cochrane is to promote evidence-informed health decision-making by producing high-quality, relevant, accessible systematic reviews and other synthesised research evidence.

To develop capacity in this area, Evidence Synthesis Ireland activities are providing an extensive training programme and webinar series, a Fellowship programme and Studentship scheme. The training programme includes workshops and events to develop knowledge and skills in different types of syntheses, for multiple audiences. The Evidence Synthesis Ireland Fellowship Scheme 2019 gives Fellows the opportunity to join experienced national and international evidence synthesis teams from across the globe to work on generating reviews with potential for strong policy and/or practice impact.

Cochrane Ireland and Evidence Synthesis Ireland is being led by a team from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway. Professor Declan Devane, Director of ESI and Cochrane Ireland, Dr Elaine Toomey, Associate Director of Cochrane Ireland and Ms Sheena Connolly, Senior Administrator.

Professor Declan Devane, Director of ES/Cochrane Ireland and School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway, says: “We are delighted to receive this funding award and excited by the potential it has to make a difference to healthcare decisions across the Island. Healthcare decisions should be based on the full range of information that is available on a topic; it can’t rely on one or more individual pieces of information, or studies. We want to build people’s capacity to understand, conduct and use synthesis of evidence across health topics.”

Dr Elaine Toomey, Associate Director of Cochrane Ireland at NUI Galway, said: “We are very excited about this new initiative, and look forward to both strengthening our existing Cochrane community in Ireland, and also to growing and expanding our community, with people’s engagement and advocacy playing a key role in this.”

A joint symposium will be held in collaboration with Cochrane UK and Cochrane Ireland in Dublin on 21-22 April 2020, with further details being published soon.

The next call for the Fellowship programme and Studentship scheme will be September 2019, with details available on: www.evidencesynthesisireland.ie/fellowships and to stay informed contact esi@nuigalway.ie, or follow on Twitter at @CochraneIreland, @EvidSynIRL

For more information about Cochrane Ireland and Evidence Synthesis Ireland, visit: www.evidencesynthesisireland.ie or www.ireland.cochrane.org 

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