Mapping the Maps: Methods and Uses of Evidence and Gap Maps.

Session Type
Oral presentation
Evidence synthesis innovations and technology
Campbell F1, Wong R2, Llewellyn J3, Bond M4
1Newcastle University, United Kingdom
2University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
3University of Sheffield, United Kingdon
4University college London, United Kingdon

Background: Evidence and Gap Maps (EGMs) sit within a family of evidence synthesis methods that seek to address broader research questions. Evidence and gap maps are a valuable tool in where a wider understanding is needed of existing research in a topic area and locating evidence gaps. They do not synthesise existing evidence, but by locating, categorizing, coding and presenting the evidence in an interactive web based tool, with links to the primary research they offer a valuable visualisation of existing evidence. Their popularity is growing and they are particularly valued by policy makers.
Objectives: We undertook a scoping review to address the following questions: 1) What methods are currently used in their development and updating. 2) To what extent do they adhere to recommended guidance. 3) What procedures are in place for updating and maintaining EGMs.4) What methods are in place to evaluate the use of web based EGMs.
Methods: We developed a search strategy that included websites as well as database searches. We contacted hosting organisations to locate published EGMs. We used a piloted data extraction table to gather data. We only included EGMs with public facing online maps. We also retrieved any linked or supporting documentation.
Results: We included 96 Evidence and Gap Maps addressing a wide range of topics, though they were predominantly in the field of international development, social care and public health. Their potential in health care is currently less well realised. Approximately 43% did not undertake critical appraisal of the evidence. Over half of the EGMs were not link to a description of their methodology or information that described the search dates, or plans to update the map.
Conclusions: EGMs are an increasingly adopted approach in evidence synthesis and valued by policy makers. They are valuable tools for visualising evidence and highlighting gaps. Yet the guidance for their development is limited, and there is little standardisation in the processes of linking maps to the methods underpinning them. EGM processes must be more transparent and rigorous.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: extensive consultation with the public on views on EGMs