A3 Wolmar

Industrial-scale evidence collation and application


William Sutherland


If we are to respond to the ensuing conservation crisis with effective solutions then we need the means to collate and assess evidence on an industrial scale. Undertaking practices already known to be ineffective is a waste of nature, money and effort. I will then describe how a process tackling multiple reviews simultaneously, using a process we call Subject-wide evidence synthesis, has enabled the completion so far of 1735 reviews (1) of effectiveness with a further thousand underway; an estimated further 900 reviews are needed to complete reviews of the interventions for all habitats and taxa. I will review the strengths and weaknesses of this approach and then estimate the effort needed to review all aspects of sustainability, including all ecosystem services.
I will describe how considering the over ten thousand possible actions to deal with all the society’s problems can be used to identify overlaps in options for responding to the major global challenges, including the different Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi targets and the Nexus of food, water and energy.
I will consider why evidence is not used and classify the different reasons for not using evidence, including evidence complacency (2). One solution is to make evidence easier to use. One serious problem that is that evidence is collected from a range of locations and species but is applied by practitioners for specific locations and species. I will describe how it is possible to create customised reviews for specific conditions by interpreting the relevance of studies for individuals and then suggest how approach this could be rolled out for use by practitioners and policymakers.

1. Sutherland, W.J., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N. Petrovan, S.O. & Smith, R.K. 2018. What Works in Conservation 2018. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers.
2. Sutherland, W.J & Wordley, C.F.R (2017) Evidence complacency hampers conservation. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 1, 1215–1216.