2. What sources of evidence are there?

2.2. Evidence syntheses

3.2 Evidence syntheses

What are the key sources of secondary evidence for veterinary sciences?

Your first search should be for secondary evidence, as if there is already a high-quality, up-to-date systematic review or evidence summary already published, there may be no need to search any further.

Evidence syntheses are a relatively new development for the veterinary profession, but more are being published each year, with growing collections now available online.

Evidence summaries

Freely available:

Although there are still only relatively small numbers key places to search are:

  • Veterinary Evidence — an online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal that publishes EBVM articles, including Knowledge Summaries and systematic reviews. It is published by RCVS Knowledge, the charity partner of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in the UK.
  • BestBETs for Vets — a freely accessible database of Best Evidence Topics (BestBETS). It is published by the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nottingham, UK.
  • Equine Veterinary Journal: Clinical Evidence in Equine Practice — online collection lists systematic reviews and critically appraised topics.
  • Veterinary Record – this UK journal has a regular column called 'Evaluating the evidence' which includes evidence syntheses.
  • Zoonoses and Public Health — Special issue: systematic reviews and meta-analysis in animal agriculture and veterinary medicine

Systematic reviews

Systematic reviews are considered the highest level of evidence. If you can find a recent systematic review that answers your specific question this will be a great help, as someone else has already spent the time doing the search and appraisal work for you.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is a key source of systematic reviews in human medicine, and there is now a will in the veterinary community to try and build something comparable. In these early days of EBVM, a direct comparator of Cochrane does not exist for veterinary medicine, but the VetSRev database (see below) has been up and running since 2013.

The VetSRev database is a freely accessible online database of citations for systematic reviews relevant to veterinary medicine and science. Produced by the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nottingham, UK, it aims to disseminate information about existing systematic reviews to the veterinary community. You may be surprised by the number that already exist, and the number published each year is growing.

Most GPs in human medicine use systematic reviews, evidence summaries, and guidelines to answer their clinical questions. They don’t do many, if any, searches of the primary literature themselves. For example, in the UK they may rely on NICE Evidence Search.