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What is Evidence-Based Forestry?

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partner research institutions have key roles in generating evidence for policy processes, both through targeted research and through building the body of relevant knowledge. However, while other sectors have well-established procedures for using systematic approaches to identify and consolidate research findings, transparent methods for assessing a body of evidence have been used only rarely to inform decision-makers in the forestry arena. This opens the potential for bias in the evidence that underpins policy, and for poorly informed policy decisions.

There are well-established procedures in a number of sectors for using systematic, evidence-based approaches. These include health care (Cochrane Collaboration), social welfare (Campbell Collaboration), and environmental conservation (Collaboration for Environmental Evidence). These collaborations are international research networks that prepare and disseminate high quality systematic reviews of evidence in their fields, contributing to better-informed decisions and better-quality practice.

Evidence-based approaches

As the Figure illustrates, evidence-based approaches draw on processes that identify priority topics for decision makers and society more generally, use systematic reviews to identify the best available evidence on those topics, and triangulate review results with expert opinion.

The Evidence-Based Forestry initiative draws on the experiences and expertise of existing collaborations to strengthen the forestry community’s capacity for evidence-based decision making, by establishing a “collaboration without walls” between CIFOR and partner organizations in international forestry research. Our definition of “forestry” is broad, reflecting the wide scope of CIFOR and partners’ work across the spectrum of forests and landscapes, their values and services, their governance, and their contributions to sustainable development.

A key output of evidence-based collaborations are systematic reviews, which identify the best available evidence on specific questions by using transparent and pre-defined procedures to find, evaluate and synthesize the results of relevant research. This process ensures that reviews can be updated as new relevant information emerges, and minimizes biases that may be present in existing forestry reviews of literature used by decision-makers.

In 2014, the Evidence-Based Forestry initiative will institute a global consultation with stakeholders to identify priority research questions of policy to forestry, broadly defined as above. Read more about this ‘T20Q’ process here.

To learn more about our work or find out ways in which you can participate, download the Evidence-Based Forestry initiative brochure, or also read about the views of CIFOR Director-General Dr. Peter Holmgren on EBF here. You can contact us at CIFOR-EBFInitiative@cgiar.org.

The Evidence-Based Forestry initiative is funded primarily by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through their KNOW-FOR grant to CIFOR.

References and key sources

Issues in evidence-based policy

Identifying key questions for policy and research

  • Sutherland, W.J., W.M. Adams, R.B. Aronson, et al., 2009. One hundred questions of importance to the conservation of global biological diversity. Conservation Biology 23(3), 557-567.
  • Cooke, S.J., A.J. Danylchuk, M.J Kaiser, M.A Rudd, 2010. Is there a need for a ‘100 questions exercise’ to enhance fisheries and aquatic conservation, policy, management and research? Lessons from a global 100 questions exercise on conservation of biodiversity. Journal of Fish Biology 76(9), 2261-2286.
  • Pretty, J., W.J. Sutherland, J. Ashby, et al., 2010. The top 100 questions of importance to the future of global agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. 8(4), 219-236.
  • Petrokofsky, G., N.D Brown, G.E Hemery, et al., 2010. A participatory process for identifying and prioritizing policy-relevant research questions in natural resource management: a case study from the UK forestry sector. Forestry 83(4), 357-367.
  • Petrokofsky, G., N.D Brown, G.E Hemery, 2013. Matching a scientific knowledge base with stakeholders’ needs: The T10Q project as a case study for forestry. Forestry Policy and Economics 37, 29–36


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