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Thursday, 14 September 2017 11:34

Rigour must not trump relevance

by Josee Koch and Vannessa Kruger

Global Evidence Summit, Day One

The most important message from day one of the Global Evidence Summit surfaced in the context of the role evidence can play in transformation and the struggle for universal equity. Harasha Doyal of the South African Government Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) told the meeting “...Rigour must not trump relevance”. She said that consensus needs to be reached on what evidence is needed, when, why, and in what form - to ensure that it contributes to transformation unpinned by the principle of equity.

EHPSA is represented at the 2017 Global Evidence Summit in Cape Town, South Africa, which ha the overall theme Using Evidence, Improving Lives.The summit, which is being held for the first time on the African continent, brings together over 1400 delegates from 77 countries to share experiences and deliberate on how evidence can be used to improve the quality of people’s lives.

On Saturday EHPSA will be presenting learning from the programme – so watch this space!


Day One of the conference covered the theme Evidence for Africa: How evidence is changing communities across Africa, and sessions were packed with a wide range of examples, approaches and theories of change. The deliberations produced number of key messages relevant to the EHPSA programme. Amongst these key messages are the concepts of co-production, capacity sharing and knowledge brokers as practical mechanisms to promote the production of relevant evidence and more effective use of the evidence.

These are the highlights of day one.

• The co-production model: the likelihood of evidence being used increases significantly when evidence users are involved in the production of evidence. The concept of “embedded research” is integral to the co-production model, yet embedded research has its own challenges as there is a risk of evidence-users engaging with only those academics who will give them “evidence’” which supports prevailing paradigms (or current political agendas). For embedded research to bring about meaningful change it must meet all the basic requirements of “good science”.
• Capacity sharing: capacity sharing between those who supply evidence and those who demand evidence is an important factor to ensure use. Suppliers of evidence increase their understanding of evidence requirements as well as programming and programming processes within the contextual environment. On the other hand evidence users need to recognise the criteria of good science and how to interpret results.
• The role of the knowledge broker: Knowledge brokers (e.g. EHPSA) have important roles to play in the translation and dissemination of evidence. Even in the face of effective capacity-sharing initiatives, both the producers and users of evidence have competing priorities, different responsibilities and skill sets. The knowledge broker’s use of networks and other modalities to promote routine and continuous engagement can have a significant impact on effective use.

It’s still early days in the GES Summit and certain issues require clarification and further deliberation. The question of what constitutes “evidence” needs to be addressed. So far there hasn’t been a reference to issues of ethics of post-implementation science or operation research sustainability. Hopefully, these issues will be raised over the next few day.

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