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Lutte contre le trachome en Afrique subsaharienne

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Anne-Marie Moulin
, 
Jeanne Orfila
, 
Doulaye Sacko
, 
et al.

Part One. Synopsis and recommendations. English Version

Aims and methods of IRD expert group reviews

Marie-Laure Beauvais

Full text

1This work, the seventh published in the IRD’s “Expert Group Review“ series, has the same general aims as the earlier ones and has been conducted by the same method, briefly summarized below.

2The IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement, a State-funded research agency) conducts expert group reviews “to order“, to inform policy decisions and public debate on issues of importance to society. Putting its scientists’ research and knowledge at the disposal of the community is one of the IRD’s missions.

3However, the work of a scientific establishment does not include drawing up action plans for government or local authorities. Their choice of action is eminently political and must take account of data from quite other fields than scientific research. The IRD’s purpose in designing the “expert group review” method is a more modest one: to put together the knowledge available in the literature on a given subject, draw out the implications of that knowledge for a particular case, draw clear conclusions on which there is scientific agreement, identify points that are still controversial and point out any areas where the available information does not provide a basis for drawing practical conclusions.

4There are three key points for conducting a useful, reliable review:

  • Decisions often have to be taken in a far shorter time than thorough research would allow. Citizens need measures to be taken quickly, sometimes as a matter of urgency. An expert group review is designed to report on existing knowledge as found in the international literature; in principle, no new data are collected and no complicated exploitation of data is attempted.
  • The question addressed rarely concerns only one scientific discipline. All facets of the problem have to be elucidated from the most recent literature. The panel of experts therefore has some dozen members from different fields. The overall conclusions are debated and agreed collectively, each person taking full responsibility. The IRD’s Consulting and Industrial Relations Department has the report read by qualified persons outside the panel to make sure it covers the field in full, is clear, and accurately reflects the international literature. The experts on the panel have the final decision as to their conclusions.
  • Decision makers and citizens are rarely familiar with the terminology of the scientific disciplines concerned, but for public debate to take place they must have direct access to the scientists’ reasoning and conclusions. The authors of the report have to present their analyses using specialised terminology in order to ensure that their reasoning is “traceable“, but they must also draw up a simple and fairly concise synopsis of the report for the lay reader.

5These factors determine the schedule set for an expert group review and the form of publication. In particular, they determine the original approach used in the initial and final stages of the review:

  • Even before the panel of experts is formed, the questions to be asked are worked out by common agreement at an initial workshop between scientists and the commissioning institutions (who usually also want to involve stakeholders and partners directly concerned). The parties need to agree on exactly what each one expects. Some questions crucial for decision making are outside the scope of a scientific review and must be excluded. On the other hand, to focus their conclusions, the scientists must be guided by a sound knowledge of the context in which decisions will be taken. They may need to familiarise themselves with the ground facts.
  • After putting together the data and analyses provided by the experts, each in their own field of competence, the panel compares and collates their opinions. Then their conclusions, worked out collectively, must be published in the form of a synopsis accessible to a fairly wide readership. These synopses summarise a huge amount of work that is rarely presented in this form, and their scientific and practical scope often reaches far beyond the region or country directly concerned. This is why they are always published in English as well as French.

6The review has been conducted according to this method.

7As with all publications in this series, the reader will find a synopsis of the expert panel’s conclusions, in French and English, in the printed book; and the eight analytical chapters from which the synopsis is drawn, on the enclosed CD-Rom.

8To conclude, we would like to convey our sincere thanks to all who helped this publication see the light of day. Many thanks to the experts, who had the responsibility of the review; special thanks to Hubert Barennes for his proofreading.

9Our thanks to all those who made specialist contributions or discussed their experience with panel members, and to the scientists from different institutions who shared their knowledge, their data and their opinions on the first version of the report.

10The panel of experts and the Consulting and Industrial Relations Department would like to convey their most sincere thanks to Marianne Berthod, who directed this expert group review with rigor and comprehensiveness.

© IRD Éditions, 2006

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