In medicine, the Cochrane Collaboration has pioneered evidence-based medicine through the use of randomized trials and systematic reviews. “Evidence based-medicine?” Does that mean that the practice of medicine is not totally based on evidence? Well, yes. It is a horrifying thought that the medical treatment you receive may not, in fact, be based on real evidence. But at least the medical profession is working on it.
The evidence-based approach has spread to social interventions. The Campbell Collaboration (C2) “is a non-profit organization that aims to help people make well-informed decisions about the effects of interventions in the social, behavioral and educational arenas. C2’s objectives are to prepare, maintain and disseminate systematic reviews of studies of interventions.”
In the field of management, there is a new book by two very well know business school professors, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management.
What is going on in conservation? In a recent paper (hat tip to Marcelino Fuentes) (Money for Nothing? A Call for Empirical Evaluation of Biodiversity Conservation Investments), Ferraro and Pattanayak lament the fact that the field of ecosystem protection and biodiversity conservation lack behind most other policy fields.
They write, “The field of conservation policy must adopt state-of-the-art program evaluation methods to determine what works and when. How many elephants would be poached if there had been no law banning ivory trade?”
Good question. Half-truths and slogans have done a lot of damage in Africa, for example in the militaristic approach to “anti-poaching “. Beware of any organization that wants to collect money for trucks, radios and guns to wage war on the local population in order to protect wildlife. Demand that they show how their projects will make the local “poacher” better off by conserving rather than harvesting wildlife.
There are the beginnings of the evidence-based approach in conservation. For example, the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation at the University of Birmingham, U.K. “was established in 2003 with the goal of supporting decision making in conservation and environmental management through the production and dissemination of systematic reviews on the effectiveness of management and policy interventions.”