Last updated: September 27th, 2017
This section provides a summary of the steps in the conduct of a CEE Evidence Synthesis (Systematic Review or Systematic Map), an overview of how authors register their Evidence Synthesis with CEE and of the process of submission and peer review that ensures CEE Evidence Syntheses are conducted to high standards.
CEE operates an open-access policy and all of its contributors’ Protocols, Systematic Reviews and Systematic Maps are published (subject to peer review) in its open-access journal Environmental Evidence (www.environmentalevidencejournal.org). This provides authors with a high level of visibility for their publications.
Here we set out the process for registering intent to conduct and contribute a CEE Evidence Synthesis, and for publishing Protocols and Final Reports in Environmental Evidence. High standards of reporting are expected on the conduct of a CEE Evidence Synthesis and this starts with the submission of a Protocol and continues through to the provision of supplementary material such as data extraction spreadsheets and a list of excluded articles. Full instructions for authors on preparation of manuscripts, including templates and checklists, are available from the Environmental Evidence journal website at http://environmentalevidencejournal.biomedcentral.com/submission-guidelines
In cases below where the guidance applies equally to a Systematic Review or Map we refer to these collectively as “Evidence Syntheses”. Registration and submission of an Evidence Synthesis to Environmental Evidence is an interactive stepwise process as follows;
Please note that CEE does not accept manuscripts of unregistered Evidence Syntheses (i.e. those without a previously registered and published Protocol) nor does it accept retrospective Protocols or registration of already completed Evidence Syntheses. CEE reserves the right to reject Protocols and Evidence Syntheses if they do not meet our standards or are otherwise inappropriate.
Article Processing Charges for both the Protocol and final report are payable (http://environmentalevidencejournal.biomedcentral.com/about) in line with most open-access journals. Protocol APCs include a charge for CEE Registration.
CEE operates a supportive policy for review teams undertaking Evidence Syntheses and seeks to provide help and guidance, particularly during the Protocol finalisation stage (including through web-based support materials and training events) to increase the chances of Systematic Reviews and Systematic Maps being successfully completed.
The transparency of Evidence Syntheses is enhanced by the provision of a range of mandatory supplementary materials. Some can be provided as appendices whilst others may be posted as additional files on the review webpage. For a full checklist see Section 10.
Although CEE Evidence Syntheses are designed to be reliable sources of evidence they do not necessarily make the evidence very accessible to a non-scientific readership. After all the work of searching, screening, appraising, extracting and synthesising evidence and writing the report, it is worth considering whether the full evidence synthesis format is sufficient or appropriate for disseminating the key outcomes to your target audience. The publication of the full CEE Evidence Synthesis constitutes an important resource and a transparent audit trail of methodology but may not be suitable as a dissemination tool to reach decision makers. Other formats such as policy briefs, executive summaries and guidance notes can be developed and posted on the Evidence Synthesis webpage (as well as being disseminated elsewhere). Such documents often require some special skills in order to make the conclusions and recommendations, as well as their justification, accessible to a non-scientific audience. They can be written by the review team, but can also be designed by a specialist or during meetings with policy makers and/or practitioners and managers.
Evidence syntheses can only be accurate assessments of the evidence base when they are up to date. As soon as the search is completed the reliability of an evidence synthesis as a synthesis of ‘all available evidence’ begins to decline. The rate of decline is dependent on the rate of publication of new studies and so varies from subject to subject. An outdated Systematic Review or Systematic Map may be misleading, so they should periodically be updated. Fortunately the process of updating a CEE Evidence Synthesis should not be as burdensome as the original process, provided that accurate reporting was achieved and good records were kept of the original process. We encourage the publication and archiving of as full a record as possible of all procedures and outcomes as supplementary materials. At the time of writing, updating a CEE Evidence Synthesis is yet to be completed; we suggest considering updating a Systematic Review or Systematic Map 3-5 years after publication depending on the rate of publication of new primary studies. The process for registering an update is the same as for an original Evidence Synthesis and should begin with an updated Protocol. Updates can be proposed by original authors, other review teams or a combination and should be justified in terms of new studies potentially strengthening the evidence base or the potential to improve the synthesis in some way.