Systematic review (SR) and evidence synthesis methodology is now in widespread use in sectors of society where science can inform decision making and has become a recognised standard for accessing, appraising and synthesising scientific information. The need for rigour, objectivity and transparency in reaching conclusions from a body of scientific information is evident in many areas of policy and practice, from clinical medicine to social justice. Our environment and the way we manage it are no exception and there are many urgent problems for which we need a reliable source of evidence on which to base actions. Many of these actions will be controversial and/or expensive and it is vital that they are informed by the best available evidence and not simply by the assertions or beliefs of special interest groups. For SR methodology to be credible and reliable, standards need to be set and upheld. Here we present the latest guidelines for the commissioning and conduct of SR in environmental management.
The guidelines for CEE SRs have been adapted from methodologies developed and established over more than two decades in the health services sector (Higgins & Green 2009) and informed by developments in other sectors such as social sciences and education (Gough et al. 2012). Through undertaking and peer reviewing CEE SRs, researching and adapting existing methodologies, and through analysis of procedures and outcomes, we have developed specific guidelines for application to environmental management. Whilst past CEE SRs may provide some guidance, our advice is not to assume that past practices are sufficient for future CEE SRs. This document refers to examples of best practice and CEE is constantly trying to improve standards of SRs.