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This week Vet Record launches a new column – The Evidence Base – which, over a series of eight articles, will aim to interrogate evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM) and examine how it could be done better and be made more relatable for those in practice.
The first column is authored by vet Rachel Dean, director of clinical research and excellence in practice for VetPartners, and doctor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine at the University of Oxford (pp 58–59).
Dean and Heneghan make the case that everyone should be involved in EBVM and they question whether the veterinary world should have its own version of the evidence-based medicine manifesto. Published in 2017, it was designed to reduce bias, wastage and error in research that informs patient care in human medicine.
The series will go on to look at elements of the manifesto from a veterinary perspective.
This journal will also examine the suitability of such a manifesto for veterinary use at EBMLive on 16 July in Oxford (https://ebmlive.org). Veterinary delegates are welcome, and we encourage you to come along and contribute.
Common and straightforward conditions can be short changed in the literature
From a practitioner perspective, much veterinary research doesn’t translate easily to practice. Animals studied can, for example, be more representative of the referral caseload rather than the first-opinion population just because of who is carrying out the research. Common and straightforward conditions that first-opinion practitioners see and treat everyday can, therefore, be short changed in the literature.
Vet Record has always been a strong supporter of making evidence relevant to practitioners. Back in 2011, we introduced summary articles of the research and associated commentary pieces to highlight to practitioners why the research is relevant for them.
We publish negative studies, which contribute to the evidence base; and protocols, which act as a quality control for research, can be published in our open access journal Vet Record Open.
We require researchers to use the EQUATOR Network reporting guidelines to improve the quality of papers we publish.
We also publish clinically appraised topic summaries (CATS), which look at the available evidence based on a clinical question (if you want to submit a CATS, please send it to).
And while the BVA journals are read widely within the research community, due to them being a benefit of membership, a large chunk of our readership are veterinary practitioners – so they do see and act on the research we publish.
However, improvements can always be made, and so there are two questions that are pertinent here: what can we do to improve the quality and relevance of the research that is published? And how can we get more practitioners involved in EBVM?
These questions are not easy to crack. We have to accept that there are less resources in the veterinary world and so we have to be pragmatic. For example, we encourage the use of trial registries and data repositories, but accept that, as things stand, this is voluntary rather than mandatory.
Despite the challenges, many practitioners are already engaging in EBVM to some extent, even if they don’t call it that. And this is important – EBVM needs to be done at the practice level and not be seen as an academic discipline, reserved for those at universities.
When you consider that the evidence pathway is described as ‘ask, acquire, appraise, apply and assess’, many vets will see they are already making some steps along this pathway. But as Dean has said previously, the pathway is a ‘leaky pipe’ with practitioners falling away at different stages.
We hope that through this series of articles and the manifesto discussion we can help practitioners see the value in EBVM and how they can apply it – and assess it – in their practice. It is also a call to engage – what could be done better, what is feasible and what successes are you having?
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