Leverhulme Lecture 17th November 2015, 'Ecstasies and agonies of evidence synthesis'

Professor Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, and Director of Cochrane South Africa, delivered the prestigious LSTM Leverhulme Lecture at LSTM on Tuesday evening.

His lecture entitled “Ecstasies and agonies of evidence synthesis” was introduced by LSTM’s Chairman, James Ross OBE, and was delivered to a mix of staff, students and invited guests as well as a significant number of online viewers via a livestream.

His lecture looked at how the likelihood of misusing resources on ineffective or harmful interventions can be reversed if decisions are consistently informed by reliable research and how vested interested, either academic or commercial can prevent the decision making progress, so that research evidence may be ignored with detrimental consequences.

During his lecture Professor Volmink talked from 20 years’ experience of conducting and promoting the use of systematic reviews in South Africa and drew on examples from TB, HIV and nutrition, reflecting on instances when systematic review findings were embraced, rejected or ignored by decision makers. He explained how the evidence synthesis landscape has changed in the last 18 years, with an increase in systematic reviews year on year and expanding beyond clinical trials to synthesis of observational, qualitative and animal studies.

He pointed out that while the impact of systematic reviews on policy and practice has improved that it still remains variable. He talked through a number of examples highlighting the lessons that have been learned and looking at the challenges that still need to be addressed. In closing he identified five barriers that need to be overcome for evidence based practice being taken up for global health. There is a requirement for knowledge and capacity building as well as an increase in primary research to form the basis of evidence synthesis, particularly from low and middle income countries, focussing on issues that are more pertinent to those regions.

Following the lecture Professor Volmink took questions from the audience and was then presented with the Leverhulme medal by Deputy Director of LSTM, Professor Steve Ward. Professor Ward who thanked Professor Volmink for what he described as a fantastic, informative and entertaining lecture as well as 20 years of supporting and working with LSTM.

You can see the lecture, questions and medal presentation in its entirety by clicking here