Online Course: Systematic Evidence Evaluation 2021

Course Outline

The IUFRO Special Programme for Development of Capacities (IUFRO-SPDC) in collaboration with the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, held a one-week online training workshop - from 22 to 26 March, 2021 - on  systematic evidence evaluation  addressing the broad theme of “Forest Landscape Restoration”.

The workshop was attended by 40 early and mid-career scientists from 21 different economically-disadvantaged countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America working on research issues related to forest landscape restoration.

Workshop Report

Please see also our blog post.


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 evidence evaluation 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 virtual workshop particular topics of interest to them and their countries - within the overall theme of the workshop on forest landscape restoration - that would benefit from a scientific evidence approach.

Workshop Description

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. A detailed course description of this online training is provided here.

The trainers combined lectures, videos, quizzes, polls, and interactive ‘breakout’ sessions (for group work), to create a supportive, stimulating learning environment and to help develop the necessary skills and methods for systematic evidence evaluation. Participants presented the results of their group work in a series of mini-presentations that simulated the production of a systematic evidence evaluation Protocol.

The workshop was conducted by Dr. Gillian Petrokofsky, Dr. William J. Harvey and Mr. Leo Petrokofsky of Oxford Systematic Reviews (  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.

Outside of the course time, IUFRO-SPDC offered an extra session  “Making the most of virtual interactions” to facilitate networking among participants and exchange knowledge on platforms for online meetings, seminars, large events, teamwork, and networking.