Evidence gap maps are an important tool for informing strategic policy, programme and research priorities.
Evidence gap maps provide a tool for evidence-informed decision-making and strategic research prioritisation.
3ie has developed an interactive online platform which allows users to explore the evidence included in a particular evidence gap map (EGM), with links to user-friendly summaries of all studies.
Explore the various maps
What are 3ie evidence gap maps?
3ie’s EGMs are thematic evidence collections covering a particular issue, such as education, HIV and AIDS or agriculture. EGMs consolidate what we know and do not know about ’what works’ in a particular sector or sub-sector by mapping completed and ongoing systematic reviews and impact evaluations in that sector.
EGMs provide an accessible overview of evidence from systematic reviews and impact evaluations. They highlight the availability of the evidence, as well as certain characteristics, such as confidence ratings of the systematic reviews. When possible, 3ie presents EGMs on its custom interactive online platform, which allows users to explore the evidence base and findings of relevant studies.
A defining feature of 3ie EGMs is that they are structured around a framework (matrix) designed to reflect the relevant interventions and outcomes associated with a particular area. When the framework is populated with available studies and reviews, it highlights ‘absolute gaps’, where few or no impact evaluations or systematic reviews exist. It also highlights ‘synthesis gaps’, where there is a concentration of impact evaluations but no recent high-quality systematic review.
EGMs are useful for development decision makers looking for evidence to inform policies and programmes. For donors and researchers, these maps can inform a strategic approach for commissioning and conducting needed research.
EGMs do not provide recommendations for policy and programming or guidelines for practice. However, they do provide resources that can inform policy or programme development and guidelines for practice.
How does 3ie create its evidence gap maps?
The methods for conducting EGMs draw on the principles and methodologies developed for systematic and transparent evidence review. 3ie EGMs also include consultation with relevant decision makers and other key stakeholders, often in the form of an informal advisory group. 3ie consults them at the beginning of the mapping to discuss the scope, questions and framework and to review draft findings at the end of the mapping.
3ie EGMs developed for the online platform are the result of a systematic search of published and unpublished impact evaluations and systematic reviews. EGMs include both completed impact evaluations and systematic reviews, as well as ongoing systematic review protocols.
To know more about evidence gap maps and the methodology used to identify studies, read the World Bank working paper authored by 3ie's systematic review experts entitled Evidence gap maps - a tool for promoting evidence informed policy and prioritizing future research. To know more about 3ie EGMs specifically, please read Evidence gap maps: a starting point for strategic evidence production and use, 3ie Working Paper 28
3ie EGMs are always based on a search of 3ie’s comprehensive collection of relevant impact evaluations and systematic reviews related to development policies and programming in low- and middle-income countries. The links to summaries allow users to explore the findings of impact evaluations and systematic reviews in these evidence repositories. In the case of systematic reviews, we also provide critical appraisal of how the review was conducted. That confidence rating helps users to make an informed judgment about the extent to which they can rely on the systematic review evidence for decision making.
How to use evidence gap maps?
The aim of EGMs is to enable policymakers and practitioners to explore the findings and quality of the existing evidence on a topic, and to facilitate evidence-based decision making.
Each EGM adopts a framework designed to comprehensively capture the different interventions and outcomes associated with an intervention.