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IUFRO-SPDC Training Workshop on Systematic Review in Forest Science

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 15-17 July 2017

The IUFRO Special Programme for Development of Capacities (SPDC)
in collaboration with the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR), South Africa
and the University of Oxford, United Kingdom,

organized a

3-day training workshop on systematic review in forest science, held as pre-conference event in connection with the 7th Forest Science Symposium "Research Underpinning the Sustainability of a Diverse Forestry Sector", 7th Forest Science Symposium “Research Underpinning the Sustainability of a Diverse Forestry Sector.

A total of 15 participants from 12 African countries joined the training workshop and also participated in the Forestry Science Symposium organised by the Institute of Commercial Forestry Research.

The results of the training workshop are summarised in a presentation, held by Dr. Gillian Petrokofsky, Oxford University, UK at the Forestry Science Symposium.



The need for quantitative and qualitative scientific evidence for policy and management has significantly risen in recent years as the world is becoming increasingly interlinked with complex problems awaiting adequate policy and management decisions at all levels. This holds also true for the land use sector where forests and trees play key roles in the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of landscapes, particularly against the backdrop of the most pressing problems in the 21st century such as poverty, food security, transformation to a greener economy and sustainable development. In this context, it is important that sufficient evidence is generated from the body of globally available scientific research for the purpose of informing policy decisions and actions about forests and forest-related land-uses.

Objectives of the Workshop

This Training Workshop presented tools for systematic reviews which aim to support good decision-making. Using a participatory approach, participants learned how to prepare systematic reviews that assess the evidence base for questions of high priority for policy and forestry management. Participants were encouraged to bring to the workshop particular topics of interest to them and their countries - within the overall theme of the workshop- that would benefit from a scientific evidence approach.

The course introduced participants to the skills and methods required for systematic reviews of forest-related science, including framing answerable questions that address policy and practice concerns; finding the best available evidence to answer the question; recognizing the limitations of available studies and the problem of bias; critically appraising the evidence for its validity and usefulness; planning a systematic review process; and devising active dissemination strategies to publicise the review results. The workshop also introduced some useful tools and software (including free tools) that can be used in systematic review.

The workshop was conducted by Dr.  Gillian Petrokofsky, Biodiversity Institute, University of Oxford, UK.  Dr. Petrokofsky has explored the systematic review process for forest science as part of her research on the quality of evidence for science-policy dialogue and for constructing relevant research agendas.  She has been involved in various evidence-based projects related to natural resources management including training workshops in systematic review.

Who was to participate?

Early and mid-career scientists, working in forest and tree-related research from developing countries in the African region, were encouraged to submit their expression of interest for participating in this workshop.


Sponsorship for selected African participants was available from IUFRO-SPDC covering the costs of the workshop, travel, accommodation and subsistence during the training workshop (15 to 17 July 2017) as well as participation in the 7th Forest Science Symposium taking place at the same venue from 18 to 20 July 2017.