FCDO (previously DFID) have supported the development of evidence synthesis as a science to help inform policy since 1992 through the Liverpool programme.
With the support of FCDO, the programme has developed over the years, with a strong emphasis on high impact reviews that influence policy; on capacity development; on dissemination of findings; and on ensuring the evidence produced is institutionalised in decision making.
The programme has had substantial impact on developing a portfolio of influential reviews, developing methods, assuring adoption of methods, contributing to debate in contested areas, and in informing global and national policies and decision making.
READ-It represents a new phase in the development of the Evidence Ecosystem portfolio in health related to diseases of poverty through Cochrane and related organizations relevant to FCDO, global and national health systems.
However, the ecosystem has changed: the methods of systematic reviews are now widely accepted, there are many systematic reviews available, and there are increasing numbers of evidence to decision making projects in LMICs drawing on methods that Cochrane and related organizations such as GRADE have developed.
During the Inception phase, we:
• Conducted consultations, literature scanning and consensus building to identify review topics that are important questions to our stakeholders and potentially high impact;
• Built consensus with partners on new protocols for years one and two;
• Developed outlines for methods projects to advance the science of synthesis;
• Conducted a planning and consultation meeting with all potential partners and DFID. In this meeting, we gained a common understanding of the planned science, policy engagement and performance expectations.
• Set up work plans and contracts with all new partners;
• Liaised with the World Health Organization and PAHO, taking on several topics in our response mode;
• Drafted a code of conduct and safeguarding procedures.
In the light of the current environment, for this new programme, we have modified what we do and shifted our emphasis in the following ways:
1. We have made the bold step of counting only high impact reviews (or reviews we anticipate will be high impact) to measure progress against our most important output (output 1). Whilst we will report the production of other reviews, they are not counted in the log frame output. This will create incentives across the partnership to focus scarce resources on areas for impact. High impact is defined as reviews informing polices or spending; generating and informing international debates; or widely used in scientific or general media; these will be generally related to public health and primary care in LMICs.
2. We have included methods development as an output indicator in the log frame, to ensure contributors in LMICs to advance methods.
3. We have included some pilot work in sectors outside health to forward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, where transdisciplinary working is likely to be important in improving health.
4. We will promote leadership across partners and develop independent hubs. This will depend on the development of academic thinking and skills to identify key research questions where systematic reviews may help; to encourage dialogue with researchers and those engaged in policy; and to explore how best to be responsive to demand from policy makers.
5. We have developed our core business in topics in neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis; and we are extending our portfolio in public health approaches in nutrition, public health and accidents, and are exploring review approaches in the SDGs and in humanitarian health. This is in response to DFID priorities and our own horizon scanning, examination of disease burden, and an assessment of our potential to impact.
Since March 2020, READ-It have been involved with COVID-19 pandemic responses.
- We are involved with the Cochrane response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We liaised with the Cochrane Editor-in-Chief (EiC) and Cochrane Central (UK); became part of the central planning team; and continue to be involved in the Cochrane Central meetings to discuss and agree Cochrane’s COVID-19 response. Full information regarding Cochrane’s COVID-19 response on the COVID-19 resources homepage, which is updated daily. A new rapid review editorial process has been used for the Cochrane COVID-19 response reviews.
- CIDG, the South Africa team and TB Union (India) are currently involved in COVID-19 pandemic response (reviews and in-country support) and this will continue into Year 2 and beyond.