We could be heroes – reflective blog from Mike Clarke

Mike Clarke, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences – Professor/Director of Methodology Hub, Queen’s University, Belfast.

The end of a year is a time to look back.

It’s a time to remember those who have passed and suffered. Alongside famous individuals, such as David Bowie, who died this year, we also think of the indescribable pain of those affected by disasters and other crises. The pain felt by families and communities that have been devastated by catastrophes that have arisen from nature and from human activities. It’s a time to remember the heroes and humanitarians who try to help ease this pain and suffering. And it’s a time to reflect on how, those of us who are not so heroic, can do our bit to help those actors to deliver the best care. Those of us, like Evidence Aid, who seek to promote, generate and disseminate reliable evidence on interventions, actions and strategies that might help should look back, and also look forward.

Looking back at the end of each year for the last dozen has also been a time to think of the events of 2004. Whether we call it Boxing Day, St Stephen’s Day or, simply 26 December, it’s a time to remember the devastating tsunami around the Indian Ocean. In its aftermath, members of the Cochrane Collaboration came together with others to form Evidence Aid. The aim was to improve the access of decision makers to relevant evidence that would help them make better decisions and choices. Systematic reviews were and still are the means to this end, and much has happened over the 12 years.

Since its establishment, Evidence Aid has mapped the evidence landscape [1], identified the need for evidence and robust conduits to deliver it [2-5], and prioritised areas for systematic reviews [6]. In 2015, Evidence Aid became an independent charity, with a 5-year strategic plan that is yoking together those who generate evidence with those who need it, through ever closer engagement with key influencers.

The end of a year is a time to look forward.

Evidence Aid now needs to deliver on that plan. It will work with key influencers across the humanitarian sector to increase the demand for reliable and robust evidence. It will strive to ensure that systematic reviews are done to provide this evidence in up-to-date, unbiased summaries. And where gaps are identified and uncertainties need to be resolved, we can help develop the plans for future studies that would be ready to implement in the next disaster, providing answers for it or the next ones. The RAPID and ASAP studies are already “on the shelf” for regional anaesthesia after a disaster [7] and steroids during pandemic influenza,[8] respectively; and more such outlines need to be prepared. A core outcome set,[9] to be measured and reported in all research into disasters and humanitarian actions would also ensure that research can play a full and meaningful role in risk reduction, recovery and resilience.

“We could be heroes”

By building on these past 12 years, Evidence Aid can bring research and practice together. It can ensure that heroic and humanitarian actions do more good than harm. And make a change that will be for much more than “just for one day”.

Mike Clarke  Read more about Mike Clarke here

  1. Clarke M, et al. What evidence is available and what is required, in humanitarian assistance? 3ie Scoping Paper 1. 2014, New Delhi: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).
  1. Tharyan P, et al. How the Cochrane Collaboration is responding to the Asian Tsunami. PLoS Medicine 2005;2(6):e169.
  1. Clarke M, Kayabu B. Evidence for disaster risk reduction, planning and response: design of the Evidence Aid survey. PLoS Currents: Disasters 2011;3:RRN1270.
  1. Kayabu B, Clarke M. The use of systematic reviews and other research evidence in disasters and related areas: preliminary report of a needs assessment survey. PLoS Currents: Disasters 2013 January 22.
  1. Allen C, et al. Evidence aid: improving the science and evidence base of disaster response – a policy Delphi engagement. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015;(supplement):19-20.
  1. Evidence Aid Priority Setting Group. Prioritization of themes and research questions for health outcomes in natural disasters, humanitarian crises or other major healthcare emergencies. PLOS Currents Disasters 2013 October 16.
  1. Levine AC, et al. Regional Anesthesia for Painful Injuries after Disasters (RAPID): study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials 2016;17:542.
  1. Yong E. Trials at the ready: preparing for the next pandemic. BMJ 2012;344:e2982.
  1. Tunis SR, et al. Improving the relevance and consistency of outcomes in comparative effectiveness research. Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research 2016;5:193-205.