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Evidence & Gap Maps: A tool for promoting evidence informed policy and strategic research agendas

      Abstract

      A range of organizations are engaged in the production of evidence on the effects of health, social, and economic development programs on human welfare outcomes. However, evidence is often scattered around different databases, web sites, and the gray literature and is often presented in inaccessible formats. Lack of overview of the evidence in a specific field can be a barrier to the use of existing research and prevent efficient use of limited resources for new research. Evidence & Gap Maps (EGMs) aim to address these issues and complement existing synthesis and mapping approaches. EGMs are a new addition to the tools available to support evidence-informed policymaking. To provide an accessible resource for researchers, commissioners, and decision makers, EGMs provide thematic collections of evidence structured around a framework which schematically represents the types of interventions and outcomes of relevance to a particular sector. By mapping the existing evidence using this framework, EGMs provide a visual overview of what we know and do not know about the effects of different programs. They make existing evidence available, and by providing links to user-friendly summaries of relevant studies, EGMs can facilitate the use of existing evidence for decision making. They identify key “gaps” where little or no evidence from impact evaluations and systematic reviews is available and can be a valuable resource to inform a strategic approach to building the evidence base in a particular sector. The article will introduce readers to the concept and methods of EGMs and present a demonstration of the EGM tool using existing examples.

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