Research

Rapid Evidence Assessment and Quick Scoping Review for water policy decision making

Abstract

This project piloted and critically appraised the guidance for two evidence review assessment methodologies new to Defra: Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) and Quick Scoping Review (QSR). The project used draft guidance to produce a REA and QSR relating to questions about water quality that are of current policy relevance.

Description

Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA)

REA aims to provide a critical evaluation and formal weighting of research evidence  It can be used to address questions on the impact of an intervention or non-impact question relating to policy or practice issues. REA follow much of the structure of systematic review but make concessions to the breadth or depth of the systematic review process and are therefore less time consuming and costly. This pilot REA addressed the question:

What impact does the alteration of timing to slurry applications have on leaching of nitrate, phosphate and bacterial pathogens?

Approximately 90 million tonnes of farm manure are applied to agricultural land in the UK each year. Slurry application poses significant risk of diffuse pollution to water courses, through nitrate, ammonium, phosphate and microbial pathogen losses. Regulations restrict the application of manures on all soil types in the late autumn-winter period to minimise nitrate (and other nutrient) leaching, with the length of the 'closed period' varying according to soil type and land use. This review investigated the effectiveness of this intervention for reducing water pollution.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Alice Waterson for her work on this research.

The full report is available on the Water Security Knowledge Exchange Portal WSKEP website.

Quick Scoping Review (QSR)

QSR aims to provide an informed conclusion of the size and type of research evidence relevant to a question or issue, together with a summary of what the evidence indicates. QSR can relate to the effectiveness or impact of interventions, or to more open, non-impact questions.  Key sources of evidence are identified through limited searches, which are collated and summarised to map the type of evidence available. This pilot QSR addressed the question:

How effective are farmland interventions for reducing Faecal Indicator Organisms (FIOs) in bathing and shellfish waters (especially Escherichia Coli and Intestinal Enterococci) coming from river catchments?

The revised Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) that will come into force in 2015 brings more stringent water quality standards. Compliance with new microbiological standards will, in many cases, require the reduction of diffuse sources of FIO contamination, in particular those deriving from agricultural land. This review aimed to collate and summarise the scale and scope of the research evidence which can be used to answer the question and inform requirements for future evidence synthesis, and primary research.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Anthony Millington for his work on  this research.

The full report is available on the WSKEP website

This project forms part of the work carried out by the Centre for Evidence-Based Agriculture based at Harper Adams University.

Funding Body

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Lead Organisation

Harper Adams University

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