Working with policy makers to maximise the utility of EGMs: experiences of Exeter Policy and Research Programme Evidence Review Facility
Simon Briscoe, University of Exeter Medical School
Background: Evidence and gap maps (EGMs) are used to summarize the quantity, quality, and main characteristics of an evidence base and are an interactive resource for evidence users to identify research that meets their specific interests and requirements. EGMs are of great potential utility for health and social care policy makers who wish to gain an overview of a broad evidence base to inform decision making. However, differences in expectations and understanding of EGMs and systemic review processes between researchers and policy makers means production of EGMs and ensuring their future utility is not always straightforward.
Objectives: To discuss the challenges experienced by the Exeter Policy and Research Programme Evidence Review Facility whilst working alongside policy makers to produce EGMs to inform health and social care policy.
Methods: To establish if an EGM is appropriate to meet the needs of policy makers, we work closely with them to understand the size and main features of the existing literature base through extensive scoping. We provide examples of previous EGMs to support policy makers’ understanding of their functionality and consider how they may use the EGM. Policy makers are consulted on designing the framework and are given the opportunity to revise its format prior to publication of the final report.
Results: Working with policy makers to create EGMs that are relevant and useful can be a protracted process, especially when a focused research question has not been identified. It is not always possible to structure the EGM according to the needs of policy makers or to identify the features of the evidence of interest because of limitations in reporting, which may only become fully apparent after commencing the mapping process.
Conclusions: A better understanding of how EGMs are used to inform policy making would enable researchers to determine the potential strengths and limitations of this approach in different contexts.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: During development of the map, feedback from patients and members of the public is sought to inform the scope and format and ascertain the accessibility of the EGM.