b) Development of methodological guidance, publication standards and training materials for realist and meta-narrative reviews: the RAMESES (Realist And Meta-narrative Evidence Syntheses - Evolving Standards) project
There is growing interest in theory-driven, qualitative and mixed-method approaches to systematic review as an alternative to (or to extend and supplement) conventional Cochrane-style reviews. These approaches offer the potential to expand the knowledge base in policy-relevant areas - for example by explaining the success, failure or mixed fortunes of complex interventions. However, the quality of such reviews can be difficult to assess. The RAMESES (Realist And Meta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards) project has produced:
Realist reviews are a new form of knowledge synthesis that opens the ‘black box’ of an intervention by showing how it triggers mechanisms in specific contexts to produce outcomes. Their aim is to produce middle-range theories (MRTs) that specify how interventions work, for which populations, and under what circumstances (Pawson et al. 2005; Pawson 2006). MRTs (Merton 1968) are considered a suitable level of abstraction to maintain the operationality needed for applied research while producing cross-cutting lessons (Weick 1989; Hercot et al. 2011), especially on access to care (Dixon-Woods et al. 2006). Further, RRs are a way for researchers to examine the complexity of programs in medicine, and seek to understand "" rather than providing one-off verdicts on the success or failure of a program (or intervention) (Pawson and Tilley 2007). There is growing interest in theory-driven, qualitative and mixed-method approaches to systematic reviews as an alternative to conventional Cochrane-style reviews. Realist reviews and evaluation offer the potential to expand the knowledge base in policy-relevant areas - for example by explaining the success, failure or mixed fortunes of complex interventions. Realist evaluation recognizes the value in drawing on a wide range of evidence, including qualitative research, and the insights of program staff. In each case it seeks to attend to the relative rigour of the data gathered, and looks for insights that will illuminate the theory of change, and as with other evaluation methods, triangulation across different kinds of evidence is vital for drawing relatively robust conclusions.