Journal of Development Effectiveness

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Journal of Development Effectiveness
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Why do we care about evidence
synthesis? An introduction to the
special issue on systematic reviews
a

Howard White & Hugh Waddington

a

a

International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, 3ie, London, UK Version of record first published: 18 Sep 2012.

To cite this article: Howard White & Hugh Waddington (2012): Why do we care about evidence synthesis? An introduction to the special issue on systematic reviews, Journal of Development Effectiveness, 4:3, 351-358

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19439342.2012.711343

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Journal of Development Effectiveness
Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2012, 351–358

Why do we care about evidence synthesis? An introduction
to the special issue on systematic reviews
Howard White and Hugh Waddington*

Downloaded by [117.18.231.3] at 09:35 28 December 2012

International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, 3ie, London, UK Systematic reviews are currently in high demand in international development. At least 100 new reviews are ongoing or already completed on a range of topics across the board in international development, many of which were commissioned by policy-making agencies. These new reviews need to be based on answerable questions, using methods of analysis and reporting which are appropriate for social and economic development programmes and relevant to users. This introductory paper lays out why we believe systematic reviews should be an important component of evidence-informed development policy and practice. It concludes by introducing the papers collected in this issue, which aim to demonstrate how reviews can be made to live up to the promises generated around them.

Keywords: systematic reviews; impact evaluation

In the nineteenth century, as the public-health doctor Muir Gray has said, we made great advances through the provision of clean, clear water; in the twenty-first century we will make the same advances through clean, clear information. Systematic reviews are one of the great ideas of modern thought. They should be celebrated. (Goldacre, 2009, p. 98)

1. Introduction
The use of the systematic reviews methodology is comparatively new among social scientists in the international development field, but has grown rapidly in the last 3 years. In the medical field, the case for reviews has been based on two main rationales. First, the power of meta-analysis when you pool findings from inconclusive studies, as demonstrated in the case of the efficacy of corticosteroid treatment for early deliveries captured in the Cochrane Collaboration logo (Greenhalgh 2001, p. 132). Second, reviews have overturned accepted wisdom, as in the recent review which demonstrated the limited efficacy (and harms)...
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