What is the definition of "evidence" in Health Sciences?

Session Type
Understanding and using evidence
Yu X1, Wu S2, Chen Y1
1Evidence Based Medicine Center, Lanzhou University, China, China
2School of Public Health, Lanzhou University, China, China

Background: The term "evidence" is widely used in today's society. At the end of the 20th century, evidence-based medicine was born; evidence-based health sciences have since gradually emerged with a similar emphasis on evidence as the foundation for scientific discussions and decision-making. A "definition" is an accurate description of a concept or the meaning of a word without changing the object itself. "Evidence" is defined differently across widely-used dictionaries, and to the best of our knowledge, there is no comprehensive and systematic collection, and analysis of the definitions of "evidence" in the evidence-based health sciences.
Objectives: To find related definitions of "evidence" and analyze the differences and connections between different meanings.
Methods: We used the scoping review to conduct this research. First, we established a multi-disciplinary working group and systematically searched five electronic databases (PubMed, WOS, EBSCO, CSCD, and CSSCI) from their inception to Feb 26, 2022. Second, we also searched websites and reviewed the reference lists of the identified studies. Six reviewers working in pairs, independently, selected studies according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria, and extracted information. Any differences were discussed in pairs, and if there was disagreement, it was resolved via discussion or with the help of a third reviewer. The analysis was descriptive.
Results: Twenty-nine documents were finally included after the screening, and a total of 30 different definitions of "evidence" were identified. Three definitions came from public health, three from nursing, and others were unknown to the specific health sciences discipline. There were 23 intensional definitions and 7 extensional definitions. The top three definientia were "information", "research", and "fact". The term "research" appeared most frequently in the definitions. The definitions could be classified according to three types: dynamic or static, research or observation, and support decision-making or knowledge. Most definitions of "evidence" seemed too broad or too specific or limited, and there were no widely recognized and accepted definitions of "evidence" in health sciences.
Conclusions: Given that evidence is the foundation of evidence-based health sciences, a standardized, clear, meaningful, and widely applicable definition of "evidence" is needed.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: None