Environmental Conservation


Can methods applied in medicine be used to summarize and disseminate conservation research?

a1 Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Building 43, Australian National University, Acton, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
a2 Biotext, 113 Hopetoun Circuit, Yarralumla, ACT 2600, Australia
a3 Mathematical Sciences Institute, Building 27, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200 Australia
a4 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia

Article author query
fazey i   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
salisbury jg   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lindenmayer db   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
maindonald j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
douglas r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


To ensure that the best scientific evidence is available to guide conservation action, effective mechanisms for communicating the results of research are necessary. In medicine, an evidence-based approach assists doctors in applying scientific evidence when treating patients. The approach has required the development of new methods for systematically reviewing research, and has led to the establishment of independent organizations to disseminate the conclusions of reviews. (1) Such methods could help bridge gaps between researchers and practitioners of environmental conservation. In medicine, systematic reviews place strong emphasis on reviewing experimental clinical trials that meet strict standards. Although experimental studies are much less common in conservation, many of the components of systematic reviews that reduce the biases when identifying, selecting and appraising relevant studies could still be applied effectively. Other methods already applied in medicine for the review of non-experimental studies will therefore be required in conservation. (2) Using systematic reviews and an evidence-based approach will only be one tool of many to reduce uncertainty when making conservation-related decisions. Nevertheless an evidence-based approach does complement other approaches (for example adaptive management), and could facilitate the use of the best available research in environmental management. (3) In medicine, the Cochrane Collaboration was established as an independent organization to guide the production and dissemination of systematic reviews. It has provided many benefits that could apply to conservation, including a forum for producing and disseminating reviews with emphasis on the requirements of practitioners, and a forum for feedback between researchers and practitioners and improved access to the primary research. Without the Cochrane Collaboration, many of the improvements in research communication that have occurred in medicine over the last decade would not have been possible.

(Received April 21 2004)
(Accepted September 1 2004)

Key Words: conservation research; disseminating research; evidence-based conservation; implementing science; science communication; systematic reviews.

c1 Correspondence: Mr Ioan Fazey Fax: +61 2 61250757 e-mail: ifazey@cres.anu.edu.au