This year we had an NRW member of staff, Josie Jackson from the Integrated Evidence Group in Natural Resources Wales (NRW, UK), placed in the editorial team part time whilst still undertaking her role as Evidence synthesis and communications specialist. NRW is Wales’ government sponsored body for the environment whose remit is wide and includes forestry, fisheries, water efficiency, biodiversity, and waste regulation.
NRW and the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (CEE) are working together to continually develop the Centre for Environmental Evidence Database of Evidence Reviews (CEEDER) as an important environmental decision-making tool for operational users and policy makers.
In her role, Josie supports staff to use and commission evidence syntheses and provide specific evidence advice to staff across NRW. This includes effective evidence communication advice to various audiences as well as advice around scoping exercises, rapid and systematic reviews.
I joined NRW in late January 2020 having just finished a short post-doc in conservation genomics at Cardiff University. Almost immediately after joining, I was asked if I would like to start a secondment for a quarter of my time in the CEEDER editorial team. Of course, I said “yes please”!
The benefits to NRW were clear, I was trained up by a collaboration of global evidence synthesis experts and this new knowledge was fed immediately into my role, which was spread wider through the organisation. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to speed up my learning curve in evidence synthesis methodology while increasing NRW’s exposure of the latest research advances in environmental sciences from across the world.
It felt good to be part of something global, even our weekly skypes were across three times zones! My day job is focussed on how we manage the Welsh environment, so being able to additionally help shape a tool which is used internationally was a huge motivator for me.
In the editorial team I was involved in searching for and screening the latest evidence reviews. I would often pass on recent findings that were directly relevant to my colleagues and importantly for us in NRW, these articles were evidence reviews as opposed to primary research. Assessing the papers using the CEESAT criteria improved my skills to rapidly search for information that indicated reliability. This familiarity with the CEESAT criteria has been an invaluable skill to bring to my NRW role, as like many of us, I often have little time to keep up to date with research, and to critically appraise it quickly.
But it is not all assessing articles! For example, during the year I (from a evidence user perspective) fed into the development of more tools to help those using, reviewing, or producing evidence syntheses, for example a checklist of journal editors which I have since been adapting for NRW to use internally.
For CEEDER, by including a representative from their targeted user audience into the editorial team, it created a continuous feedback loop between evidence user and provider to ensure the database was being improved according the needs of environmental decision makers themselves. This is an obvious win-win and means that CEEDER is constantly evolving and improving.
An example of this in action was when I passed on some feedback from NRW staff that they would like CEEDER to include articles that are similar to systematic maps or ‘overviews’ (in addition to systematic reviews), like those that ask the question of ‘what evidence exists on…’. This evidence is useful to us in NRW because we can get a general overview of a subject and assess where the evidence gaps are. As a small team, CEEDER can be incredibly agile and responsive to these suggestions and soon after we began including these ‘evidence overviews’ in addition to reviews. Adaptive management in action!
So now my time with the editorial team has unfortunately come to an end, and I am left to thank the team for being brilliant team-mates and mentors. I have learnt an immense amount and much of which I apply frequently in my role. I highly recommend this experience for those working in similar environmental organisations.
And the NRW and CEEDER partnership journey continues! We are looking forward to the next developments of the partnership to improve CEEDER for all.