Chair’s message for 2016
A major challenge for any global collaboration is communication among all contributors – individuals, groups and organisations; communication about how things are going, how it all fits together and where we are headed. Perhaps even more challenging for an open collaboration such as CEE is communication with all potential contributors so that we can realise the growth we need. As a Board we produce Strategic Plans, Annual Reports and Business Plans but what really matters is whether we have a collective feeling of positive progress and that CEE is making a difference. For this reason I thought I would give you my personal view at the beginning of 2016 in the hope that this will initiate some discussion and encourage you to share your experience of contributing to CEE. What do you think is working and what isn’t? Are we on the right track?
2016 is set to be exciting year for the Collaboration. Planning is well underway to hold our first International Conference in Stockholm in August. We have put out a call for sessions and will shortly be announcing a call for abstracts and registration. Organisation of the conference is being expertly led by the CEE Swedish Centre, EviEM and overseen by the CEE Meetings Team. I have a good feeling about the conference which is a prime example of what we can achieve when we work together and I expect it to be a key milestone in the growth and influence of CEE.
Submissions to our open-access journal, Environmental Evidence are increasing and diversifying as we get more manuscripts on methodology and commentary. The journal is now indexed on Scopus and being tracked by ISI. All indications are that we will achieve a good initial Impact factor (I know this matters to some authors). We will be expanding the Editorial Board this year to reflect the broader subject base of submissions. Environmental management is a very broad subject!
Governance of organisations like CEE can seem a tedious task that brings few rewards but my experience is different from this. Engaging with such a diverse group of people, all brought together by a common mission and a belief that we are making a difference, is reward in itself. It also gives me a closer connection to the global network of commissioners and authors of CEE reviews. We need to maintain a dynamic Board of Governors with healthy rotation of representatives and we will continue to seek new members as some of the longer serving Trustees reach the end of our terms of office.
At the heart of our Collaboration is our network of Centres. They raise awareness within their countries and regions of the work of CEE, provide training and promote the conduct of CEE reviews and maps as well as doing a few themselves. Centres also provide personnel to run most of the CEE working teams such as the Journal, Meetings, Guidelines, Training and Website and Communications Teams. We now have six Centres, the newest in France having joined us in 2015. We continue to expand this network as the most fundamental structural element of the Collaboration.
CEE is becoming increasingly involved as a partner in the activities of the cross sectoral evidence synthesis community (e.g. Health, Education, International Development sectors). For example, CEE is a partner in the Global Evidence Synthesis Initiative, led by the Cochrane Collaboration and including the Campbell Collaboration, 3ie and the EPPI Centre. This initiative seeks to build capacity for evidence synthesis where it is currently lacking, as in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. CEE is also a partner in EvidenceAid an interdisciplinary group aiming to provide evidence to help the international community cope with humanitarian disasters (see a recent blog that Teri Knight and I wrote on this subject), I hope CEE will continue to work with this community on interdisciplinary issues.
Opportunities for interaction within CEE are now greater than ever due to the rise of social media. For example, we have over 500 members of our LinkedIn Discussion Group and I encourage more to join and start discussions on all aspects of CEE’s work. Perhaps most importantly we are seeing an increase in the number of authors registering systematic reviews and maps with CEE and publishing them in the CEE journal. The growth of the CEE Library is a measure of our achievement and we now have 80 completed reviews and maps and some 30 more in progress. It is through attracting more authors and review teams to contribute to CEE that this number will rise and recognition of CEE as a reliable source of evidence will increase.
CEE guidelines are used much more widely than just for CEE systematic reviews and maps. Many articles are published that cite the guidelines even though the authors have not registered their review with CEE. We need to communicate more effectively with these authors to show them the benefits of registration and what CEE is trying to achieve at a global scale – increasing open-access to a reliable source of environmental evidence through the CEE library. At the same time we need to update our guidelines to reflect methodological advances and increases in standards. A major challenge this year will be changing the way we provide and update our guidelines to a more interactive system.
What progress would I like to see in 2016? There are two areas that we need to work hard on. First, the development of tools to ensure that our products are communicated effectively to potential users of evidence. CEE systematic reviews and maps are rigorous and reliable products but will anybody read them? We would be interested in hearing from anyone who has a ‘better communication of findings’ project of this kind planned or underway. Second, we need to be more proactive in forming themes for evidence synthesis activity where they are needed. These themes will be co-ordinated programmes, fundable by donor agencies, which seek to establish an evidence base for a focussed area of environmental management. CEE is interested in partnering or supporting institutions that wish to lead such thematic programmes.
Finally, I want to thank all who have contributed to CEE and its development to this key point. I think we are creating something remarkable and influential. I look forward to seeing many of you in Stockholm where we will be making even more exciting plans for the future.