Online Course: Systematic Evidence Evaluation

The IUFRO Special Programme for Development of Capacities (IUFRO-SPDC) in collaboration with the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, ran a one-week online training workshop on systematic evidence evaluation addressing the broad theme of “Forest Landscape Restoration”. The courses ran for two hours each day - one in the morning and one in the afternoon (relative to CET) to accommodate participants from around the world attending in different time zones.

Pdf of course report

Blog article


The workshop rationale was that we recognise the need for high quality scientific evidence for policy and management particularly in view of the increasingly complex problems we face in 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.

Workshop Description

The training workshops used a combination of lectures, videos, breakout sessions for group work, online quizzes and polls, and ended with presentations by participants in working groups. The workshops 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; planning a systematic review process, analysing relevant studies, and delivering an attractive and informative summary of  systematic evaluations. The workshop also introduced some useful tools and software (including free tools) that can be used in systematic review.

The workshops were conducted by Dr. Gillian Petrokofsky, Dr. William J. Harvey and Mr. Leo Petrokofsky of Oxford Systematic Reviews ( and the University of Oxford, UK. Michael Kleine, Janice  Burns and Ioana-Maria Grecu of SPDC introduced the workshops and participated in the final session, including the presentation of certificates. The workshops covered:

Monday: An Introduction to Systematic Evidence Evaluation
Tuesday: Starting a Systematic Evidence Evaluation
Wednesday: Searching for Literature
Thursday: Screening & Data Extraction
Friday: Presenting a Systematic Evidence Evaluation with Impact

Key skills developed over the course of the workshops: question framing; Literature searching; data analysis; data visualisation; database design for systematic evaluation; introduction to basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS); online tools; project planning; reference management; research design; resource discovery; science/policy interface; spreadsheets; systematic evidence evaluation; teamwork; transparent reporting of research.

Participants were from Bangladesh, Benin, Cameroon, China, Ethiopia, Philippines India, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, and Zambia.
None had any previous experience of systematic evidence evaluation, but they put in a huge amount of work during the workshops and, in the true spirit of IUFRO friendship and collegiality, worked in small groups of people they had never previously met to produce some impressive mini-reviews, which demonstrated their acquisition of skills during the workshop.
These can be accessed here:

They are obviously works in progress and the result of a very short amount of time tackling a hugely complex problem, so please view them with that in mind! The trainers very much enjoyed the enthusiasm with which participants threw themselves into the task of presenting highly complex information to the group.

Thanks to all who participated in these workshops - the first online systematic evidence evaluation training to be held.