Two articles published on the use and benefits of systematic mapping to evidence-based environmental management

NEWS | 2016-05-18

Systematic mapping is a relatively novel method for summarising evidence in the field of environmental management. Project managers Neal Haddaway and Claes Bernes have recently published an article with two of EviEM’s review team chairs, Katarina Hedlund and Bege Jonsson explaining the benefits of systematic maps. Neal Haddaway has also published an article with review EviEM team member Nicola Randall and her colleague Katy James that describes the methods required to undertake a systematic map in detail.

Reviews of evidence are a vital means of summarising growing bodies of research. Traditional approaches to reviewing evidence may be subject to bias and may be unreliable. Systematic reviews aim to reduce bias and increase reliability when summarising high priority and controversial topics. So far, systematic reviews have become industry standards in some disciplines, such as medicine, for summarising evidence. Similar to systematic reviews, systematic maps were developed in social sciences to reliably catalogue evidence on a specific subject. Rather than providing answers to specific questions of impacts, systematic maps aim to produce searchable databases of studies, along with detailed descriptive information.

These maps (consisting of a report, a database, and sometimes a geographical information system) can prove highly useful for research, policy and practice communities, by providing assessments of knowledge gaps (subjects requiring additional research), knowledge gluts  (subjects where full SR is possible), and patterns across the research literature that promote best practice and direct research resources towards the highest quality research. In their discussion article in AMBIO, Haddaway et al. demonstrate the usefulness of systematic maps, providing examples of how these projects have been undertaken in recent projects.

Systematic maps are becoming increasingly common across a number of fields, but so far only limited guidance exists to help reviewers use the best methods in their systematic maps. In their methodology article in Environmental Evidence, James et al. outline best practices that should be followed when conducting a systematic map.