Apr 1, 2017

Meeting report: Evidence-based Decision and Meta-Analysis

Shahjahan Khan, University of Southern Queensland, Australia, reports on the workshop on Evidence-based Decision and Statistical Meta-Analysis with Application, sponsored by the Government of Brunei:

The Department of Planning, Development and Research (DPDR) of the Ministry of Education, Government of Brunei Darussalam, organised a three-day workshop on Evidence-based Decision and Meta-Analysis with Applications from 23–25 January 2017 at the Rizqun International Hotel in Bandar Sri Begawan, Brunei.

Professor Shahjahan Khan, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia and the Chief Editor of Journal of Applied Probability and Statistics (JAPS), presented the Workshop. The free statistical software MetaXL, an add-on to MS Excel, was extensively used to illustrate various statistical computations and conduct meta-analyses of different datasets from many diverse areas including education.

The Assistant Director of DPDR, Dr Hj Ashri bin Haji Ahmad welcomed the participants and introduced the presenter. Twenty-seven officials from different Departments of the Ministry of Education participated in the Workshop.

The first day of the Workshop was devoted to the presentations on introductory statistics using SPSS and the statistical methods that are essential for understanding meta-analysis of summary statistics from different independent trials/studies to provide necessary statistical background to the participants. The Workshop emphasised the importance for the decision-makers of being evidence-informed, especially the essence of the levels and quality of evidence including the design of studies. The systematic reviews, as opposed to narrative reviews, must avoid every kind of bias in order to make the systematic reviews and meta-analyses objective and reproducible.

In addition to introducing various types of effect measure of common effect size for different types of outcome variables, the Workshop covered different statistical models such as fixed and random effects models. Then the presenter introduced the recently published method, the inverse variance heterogeneity (IVhet) model and focused on the major problems with the random effects model in the way of comparing the two models to deal with heterogeneous meta-analyses.

MetaXL software, accessible at http://www.epigear.com/index_files/metaxl.html, was used to compare the results of the meta-analyses of the same dataset using the fixed, random effects, and IVhet models with particular emphasis on the variation in the redistribution of inverse variance weights under different models, in addition to any variation in the final results.

Because of the background and experience of the participants, and in view of the need of the Ministry of Education, several illustrations on meta-analysis of independent educational studies were included in the presentation and hands-on practices were undertaken. A complete set of notes, example datasets, and presentation slides were provided to all participants prior to the Workshop.

The Workshop was initiated and coordinated by Dr Siti Noor Naasirah Syahiirah Abdullah Teo, Dyg Siti Noorihan binti Hj Daud, and Dk Sri Muliaty Pg Mohamed. Clearly the Workshop shows the highest level of commitment of the Department to improve the quality of its statistics and engagement to make significant contributions in applied research.

The event was well covered by the media.

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