The word ‘evidence’ has been used in many quarters to imply many different concepts. Within the professional field of Evidence-Informed Decision Making (EIDM) practice, there have equally been a wide variety of use, including an emphasis on their output or product dimensions. A varied use of concepts within a common professional space have negative consequences for growth and professional development. This conceptual paper seeks to draw attention to these different possible uses of the word, highlighting emerging gaps in the different conceptualisations.
The paper highlights however an input dimension to the concept, emphasising a more comprehensive use as ‘insights’ derived from the different pieces of evidence products. A common variable to the different conceptual use cases is their shared value of ‘content’ of documents and other artefacts in which these insights are contained. This paper draws on this shared value to present a common meaning to the concept, which has implications for different evidence types or forms, as well as for the different mechanisms to sustain their continuous availability, use and evaluation.
It is expected that this focus on conceptual use of the word will guide mutual understanding and professional usage, and to differentiate between what constitutes evidence within EIDM and what doesn’t. Equally, this exercise will inform design of pathways to transition from symbolic use to more embedded use of evidence for decision-making purposes. Achieving these, there is equal opportunity to facilitate professional growth and development.
Acknowledgements: The author(s) is solely responsible for the content of this article, including all errors or omissions; acknowledgements do not imply endorsement of the content. The author is grateful to Siziwe Ngcwabe and the Africa Evidence Network team for their guidance in the preparation and finalisation of this article as well as their editorial support.
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