Systematic reviews and meta-analyses in ecology: building on scientific evidence for environmental management

11-14 September 2012

A joint course with CUSO Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution

Note: this course takes place at the University of Bern.


Dr Jacqualyn Eales, School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, U.K.
Dr Rebecca Mant (independent expert, Bangor University)
Prof Elena Kulinskaya (independent expert, Professor in Statistics, University of East Anglia).


For more information select the corresponding course in DPEE Activities (CUSO E&E)

DAY 1 (0.5 day) Introduction

- What is a systematic review (SR) and why to conduct one?
- The general steps of a systematic review
- Logistics/ CEE/ Management
- Setting a good SR Q + EXERCISE
- The importance of a SR protocol

DAY 2 (1 day) Systematic Review methodology

Searching and selecting literature

- search - importance of transparent/repeatable/systematic and how to make it so + EXERCISE
- inclusion - how to be transparent/repeatable + EXERCISE

Critical appraisal - the essential nature of quality assessment in systematic reviews especially in environmental sciences
- How to carry out critical appraisal to be transparent/justifiable/repeatable
- The essential factors to consider in critical appraisal + EXERCISE

Data extraction and synthesis
- When to combine data across studies - comparable and combinable - is it meaningful (also possibly can not make bias data unbiased)
- Alternative to combining statistics - a narrative synthesis: what is it and how to run it
- Other statistical options - combining the raw data (optional)

Extracting data
- The decisions that need to be made if data is complex: i.e. what spatial/ temporal scales of the studies and do you want to extract information across?
- To convert data into different matrices or not?
- Combine data over different species, etc. or split up the data? What options are there if different studies present the data in different ways?

-understanding what scale variance in studies is reported over and that it can be over different scales
- is it at the same temporal/spatial scale in different studies and hence over the same level of heterogeneity?
- if there are differences are they comparable across studies and how may this impact on relationship between sample size and variance of the mean between studies?
- the impact this may have on an interpretation of weighting by inverse variance

DAYS 3 + 4 (1.5 to 2 days) Meta-analysis for systematic review

Intro to meta-analysis

Methodology of meta-analysis on the example of combining mean differences
- Assessing heterogeneity in meta-analysis (Cochran's Q and I-squared).
- Fixed effects model
- Random effects model: interpretation
- Random effects model: estimating variance component
- Issues to be aware of
- PRACTICE using R

Combining other effect sizes
- Response Ratios, Standardized mean differences, Correlations, Odds ratios
- Variances of each of these effect sizes.
- When you may wish to calculate each.
- How to combine these effect sizes.
- Issues to be aware of
- PRACTICE using R

- Moderators in meta-analysis.
- Categorical and continuous moderators.
- Review-generated and study-generated moderators.
- Issues to be aware of (number and non-independence of moderators).
- PRACTICE using R

Bias in systematic reviews and meta-analysis
- Publication bias.
- Bias detection.
- Phylogenetic bias.
- PRACTICE using R

Summary and discussion: critique of meta-analysis

General information

Dates:  11-14 September 2012

Schedule Tuesday: 13:00 - 18:00, Wednesday to Friday: 9:00 - 18:00

Location University of Bern

Credit points 2.0 credit points  (Research tools, DP) 

Evaluation Full attendance and active participation

Information Please contact Nadia Bruyndonckx (CUSO doctoral program coordinator, nadia.bruyndonckx(at)unil.ch)

Travel expenses :  participants in the Interuniversity Doctoral Program in Organismal Biology are eligible for reimbursement of incurred travel expenses by train (half-fare card, and 2nd class)

  • Send the original tickets (no copies) with the reimbursement form  to Dr. Christiane Bobillier. No reimbursement for bus, taxi or car travel expenses will be paid.
  • For "CUSO Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution" participants: see information on the web site.

(no attestation will be sent by mail)


  • Maximum number of participants: 15. Limited number of participants => First come, first serve

Registration through the CUSO Doctoral Program Ecology & Ecology CUSO only: closed

Deadline: 1 September 2012

Please note the cancellation policy (CHF 30).