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IUFRO-SPDC Training Workshop on Systematic Review in Forest Science

Training Workshop on Systematic Review in Forest Science

IUFRO’s Special Programme for Development of Capacities (SPDC), the University of Oxford and the Asia-Pacific Association of Forest Research Institutions (APAFRI) collaborate to deliver a three-day training workshop that introduces participants to systematic review as a powerful tool in evidence synthesis for forestry and related fields.


This workshop was held at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) Kepong, Malaysia, 17-19 November 2015.

There were 25 participants from Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India , Malaysia,  Nepal and Philippines, with a total of 11 women and 14 men. Participants learned about the use of systematic reviews and worked in the key steps involved in the systematic review process. The course was conducted with a spirit of excellent collaboration and joint learning. - An important feature of IUFRO-SPDC's workshops is that they proceed in an open, collaborative environment with shared learning and peer-to-peer support. Active participation helps build confidence in applying the techniques of systematic review and simulates the work of a real systematic review team in action.


In the workshop participants worked in small groups on a real-world question of interest to them. Each of the training topics (see below) are explained by the trainers and then worked on in practical sessions by the participants with guidance from the trainers.  Groups present mini-protocols at the end of the workshop and these are ‘peer reviewed’ by fellow participants.

The workshop covered the following topics:

  • The strength of IUFRO as a network of forestry research partners who can collaborate on policy-relevant forestry questions that require robust evidence.
  • Evidence – what do we mean? Introduces collaborative systematic review as a tool for robust evidence for policy & practice.  
  • What is the question? Introduces the importance of clear question-framing for research and reviews.
  • Finding the evidence. Introduces the importance and challenges of comprehensive inclusion of relevant evidence and how to construct a good search strategy.  
  • What evidence do we include and exclude? Introduces the importance of specifying explicitly what evidence is relevant to a particular review.  
  • Checking consistency amongst reviewers.  Introduces the simple kappa statistic.
  • Critical Appraisal & data extraction. Introduces concepts of bias and quality of primary studies.
  • Forming a Review Team. Introduces the key roles of review team members, the time needed to complete a review and indications of costs and limitations.
  • Writing a Systematic Review Protocol. Takes participants through the essential elements needed in a systematic review. Also introduces systematic maps as alternative tool for certain review questions.