What is the definition of "evidence" in Health Sciences?
2School of Public Health, Lanzhou University, China, China
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 multidisciplinary working group and systematically searched five electronic databases (PubMed, WOS, EBSCO, CSCD, and CSSCI) from their inception to February 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.