Tuesday, 15 January 2013

DOP Annual Conference Reports: A matter of evidence

I spent last week at the BPS' Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference, from which I'll be reporting for much of the remaining month. A conference highlight was a late night chat with Prof Rob Briner of the University of Bath. Rob is a keen advocate of evidence-based practice, and as the Digest exists to help the world of work operate better through judicious use of evidence, I was keen for his views on what we're doing right and what we can do better.

As well as a bunch of tips and suggestions for me to explore, there were a few wider themes that I think are worth communicating.

Single articles are useful up to a point...
They remind us of the process that sits behind the evidence, the actual running-a-studyness of science: sample sizes, participant demographics, choice of statistics, study limitations. On top of this, they can be encapsulated relatively simply, meaning they get shared or form the beginning of discussions that get people to reflect on the evidence in a particular area.  And they do provide some evidence but only from one study.

....but Reviews are where it's at if you really want to use evidence
Narrative reviews, systematic reviews and meta-analyses all have their own features, but share in common that they look across the research to find patterns and trends. And the aggregate level is the most important level of evidence. In other words, the findings of any single study may be interesting and provide insight but what is much more important is what the whole body of evidence is suggesting.  Reviews can present clear findings about a body of evidence or be complex and contradictory and messy but we need to know what the evidence as a whole is suggesting before we can use it in practice.

Due to this, the Occupational Digest will now cover a review every month, either something just published or a fairly recent review that speaks to an issue of current interest.

In addition, when covering single articles, I'll aim to provide a second reference beyond the article itself, to a review that addresses the topic the article concerns itself with. Hopefully this will provide you, the readership, with signposting to help you find out more.

Further reading:
Briner, R.B. (1998).  What is an evidence based approach to practice and why do we need one in occupational psychology?  Proceedings of the British Psychological Society Occupational Psychology Conference, 39-44. (pdf link)

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