From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Utility of evidence synthesis

Systematic reviews and evidence syntheses can play an important role in facilitating knowledge exchange between researchers and evidence users. One critical factor in enabling a review to be used is to ensure that the review is useful.

Systematic reviews in public health, especially within the field of healthy public policy, often address broad questions, and incorporate high levels of complexity. Preparing rigorous systematic reviews which address these policy relevant questions can present many methodological challenges which can result in delays, and in dense text which obscure the key messages of interest and relevance to evidence users.

We have developed considerable expertise on the conduct of complex policy relevant reviews and are keen to promote the conduct of useful reviews. This work covers a range of projects. This includes methods which we have developed to improve the visual presentation of complex quantitative and qualitative data, knowledge translation work, and collaborative work with the Cochrane Public Health Group. The latter project involved qualitative interviews with review users and review authors to investigate how reviews are used, what are the barriers to the use and production of relevant reviews, and what are the characteristics of useful reviews.



Francis D, Turley R, Thomson H, Weightman A, Waters E, Moore L. Supporting the needs of public health decision-makers and review authors in the UK. Journal of Public Health 2015;37:172-174

open access  


Thomson H, Macdonald C, Higgins M, Palmer S, Douglas M. Health Impact Assessment of housing improvements: a guide. Glasgow, 2013

open access  

Thomson H, Thomas S. The effect direction plot: visual display of non-standardised effects across multiple outcome domains. Research Synthesis Methods 2013;4:95–101

open access  

Thomson H. Improving utility of evidence synthesis for healthy public policy: the three Rs (relevance, rigor, and readability (and resources)). American Journal of Public Health 2013;103:e17-e23

open access  

Former Staff

External Collaborators

  • Daniel Francis
  • Ruth Turley
  • Liz Waters