Last month the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence joined over 300 delegates at the What Works Global Summit 2023, co-hosted by the Campbell Collaboration and the Bruyère Research Institute in Ottawa Canada. The 3-day summit brought together researchers, evidence-based decision makers and practitioners to share the latest in evidence synthesis methods, practices, and research. CEE participated as an exhibitor and members of CEE also sat on a variety of panels, held workshops, and presented in sessions on many topics. Several of our board members and members of the executive team were able to attend. After so long on-line, it was wonderful to connect with the evidence synthesis community in person.

The program was varied with a wide range of workshops and sessions. Workshops included an introduction to Qualitative Evidence Synthesis run our own Ruth Garside (CEE Board of Trustees). Sessions covered a variety of themes, from new methodological tools to improvements in knowledge mobilization and stakeholder engagement, from assessing the impacts climate change and progress made on sustainable development goals, to the benefits and risks of embracing AI in evidence synthesis or using rapid evidence syntheses.

The Summit was opened by Indigenous Elder Albert Dumont, highlighting the importance of evidence syntheses that are inclusive of local forms of knowledge. As Ruth Garside noted, “We can’t be snooty about who owns useful knowledge”. Many sessions highlighted the need for better engagement with local and indigenous knowledge and incorporating multiple evidence types (whether local or global, qualitative, or mixed) to inform better decision making. From our Board Secretary Steven Cooke’s presentation on the weaving of traditional, local, and western-science knowledge in the Canadian context, to discussions on improving equity and engagement during evidence syntheses, the benefits of involving many voices became clear.
A common thread that ran through the Summit were calls for living evidence, living syntheses, and living reviews. Ruth Stewart (CEE Board of Trustees) reflects “I think we are starting to enter a phase where systematic reviews that are not living will be the exception. Now we need to making living and local evidence synthesis a reality”. While this was a repeated call in many sessions, Ruth Garside also noted that, while they have huge potential, “we need to consider how questions, evidence, concepts, and terminology change over time and how we accommodate this”.

We are grateful to the Campbell Collaboration for allowing CEE to participate as an exhibitor. There were many synergies and opportunities for potential future collaboration. Ruth Stewart was encouraged after meeting the new CEO of the Campbell Collaboration and new board members, “I believe the door is open to stronger collaboration and closer working for all of us who perhaps have had an arms-length relationship with the [Campbell] Collaboration.” It was especially motivating to see the many sessions on climate change and Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). Ruth Garside was struck by the fact that there is little evidence available on SDGs 13 (Climate action), 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on Land), stating that “we are facing huge planetary issues…and urgently need to mobilise evidence to make better decisions”. It was exciting to see many potential synergies between CEE and the Campbell Collaboration being identified and we are hopeful that there will be closer work among collaborations moving forward.

As Ruth Stewart says, for the evidence syntheses community, “the future is bright”.