Objectives The need to use evidence in humanitarian settings is recognized yet utilising that evidence to make decisions about humanitarian response remains a challenge. The objective of the study was to identify how, when, and why decision makers in humanitarian response use scientific, peer-reviewed evidence to make decisions.
Method An online cross-sectional survey of fifteen open- and closed-ended questions on demographics, experience and role in humanitarian response was developed by Evidence Aid (EA) and Karolinska Institutet (KI). The online survey was available on the EA website from 20 August-15 October 2018. Participants were self-selected, recruited through social medial channels and mailing lists of EA and KI. All respondents and responses were anonymized. Responses were analyzed with descriptive statistics and content analysis.
Results Forty-seven people responded, primarily working in Europe or North America with roles of humanitarian response director/manager, independent consultant, or policy maker. Personal assessment of the quality of information, trust in the source, and information that was contextually relevant or based on field experience were factors for deciding whether information should be considered evidence. Reasons for using evidence when making decisions included adhering to good practice to maximize impact and effectiveness of aid, reassurance that the right decisions were being made, personal or organizational values, and using evidence as a tool to protect beneficiaries and organizations from poor quality decisions and program content.
Conclusions Using evidence for decision making was common practice during the process of designing implementing and evaluating humanitarian response content, yet reasons for use varied. The importance of evidence developed and validated from field experience and trust in the source reported by this sample suggests that strengthening collaborative efforts between decision makers and evidence generators could be one approach to improve evidence and evidence use in humanitarian response.
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