Building capacity in producing trusted evidence – Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland Fellowships
2School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Galway, Ireland
3Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, and HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Galway, Ireland
Evidence Synthesis Ireland (ESI), which includes Cochrane Ireland, aims to build evidence synthesis knowledge, awareness and capacity among the public, healthcare institutions and policymakers, clinicians and researchers on the island of Ireland. One way we do this is through the ESI Fellowship Scheme, launched in January 2019.
Objectives: The scheme builds capacity in Fellows through developing the practical skills of how to plan, design, conduct and report an evidence synthesis. Fellows receive mentoring from evidence synthesis experts and contribute to reviews that have a strong policy and/or practice impact. Process: The scheme places Fellows virtually with experienced review teams nationally and internationally, to gain hands-on evidence synthesis experience in a high-quality environment with one-to-one mentorship. Fellowships range from 6 months to 2 years, and are unpaid, allowing those working full-time to apply. Benefits include free attendance at ESI workshops, co-authorship, €1000 travel bursary, access to Covidence, and networking/collaboration opportunities. Eligible applicants are clinicians/trainees, researchers, academics and/or postgraduate residents of Ireland/Northern Ireland. Fellows are selected through a competitive process, and are expected to commit to 8 hours/week to the review, in addition to theoretical training.
Results: Fellows are placed on a range of review types – 50% on Cochrane reviews (reviews of effectiveness, qualitative evidence synthesis, rapid reviews, living reviews, diagnostic test accuracy), and 50% on other reviews (umbrella, overviews, scoping reviews, prognostic reviews, evidence and gap maps, mixed methods). To date, 68 Fellows have been placed. Fellows are mostly female (64%), over half have never completed a systematic review, and 35% are early-career. Fellows are academics (30%), healthcare-professionals (35%), postdoctoral researchers (24%), clinician-academics (6%), policymakers (6%), and others (9%). Fellows report capacity built in evidence synthesis competencies and illustrate this capacity through leading further reviews, collaborating with mentors and teaching evidence synthesis.
Conclusions: Evidence Synthesis Ireland provides a unique opportunity for researchers to develop their evidence synthesis skills and contribute to evidence-based healthcare in Ireland. This model could be replicated by others, to strengthen capacity in producing robust evidence. Patient relevance: The scheme is relevant to patients as it contributes to strengthening capacity of researchers/clinicians to produce robust evidence.