Do you need to make a scientifically defensible assessment about cause-effect in aquatic environments?

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An understanding of cause and effect is central to decision-making in environmental management. It matters most where decisions may be subject to challenge or where restoration budgets are tight and managers are looking for the best value.

Eco Evidence software facilitates causal assessment for environmental management, and offers a mechanism to make best use of the extensive pool of published research. With Eco Evidence you can search and access a reusable knowledge bank of atomised pieces of evidence, relevant to specific cause-effect associations, extracted from scientific papers. Eco Evidence helps answer cause-effect questions, make assessments, plan for restorations, and carry out critical reviews on a specific topic of interest.

Eco Evidence Database

The online database stores information about causal relationships extracted from environmental science studies. ‘Atomised’ information captured in the Eco

Evidence Database is specifically geared to support cause and effect assessments. The data describes aspects of a study’s (i) location or environment, (ii) methods and study design, and (iii) results, as well as providing citation details. The database may be searched for studies containing evidence for specific causal relationships and then use the information to evaluate the strength of evidence for a cause-effect relationship using the Eco Evidence Analyser. Users may also add evidence to the database yourself, for use immediately or at a later date.

Eco Evidence Analyser

By allowing evaluation of evidence from environmental science literature in a standardised, transparent and repeatable manner, the Eco Evidence Analyser reduces bias and subjectivity. The analysis method draws together information from the literature to assess how a particular human activity or natural event may influence the environment. The information is synthesised using a ‘causal criteria’ approach adapted from a method originally developed by epidemiologists in the 1960s.

The Eco Evidence Analyser guides users through an eight-step framework to gather evidence and weight it according to study design features.

The evidence from many studies is then synthesised and evaluated to assess the level of support for a causal hypothesis. When complete, the software produces a report on the conclusions, and a transparent description of how those conclusions were reached.

You can use Eco Evidence Analyser to:

  • assess the likely environmental impacts of a development proposal
  • establish whether or not an environmental impact
  • has occurred
  • identify the cause of poor water quality
  • draw on existing scientific literature to assess the more general applicability or transferability of results from local field studies
  •   carry out evidence-based planning
  • design effective on-ground restoration or
  • management programs
  • make transparent, repeatable and defensible conclusions where decisions based on these may
  • be contested
  • adopt as a means of quality assurance for reviews you undertake (e.g. as a consultant to environmental managers)
  • focus a literature review on very specific questions of interest with output capable of being published as a succinct review paper.

Key Features

  • Database for storing, building and re-using ecological evidence.
  • Analysis based on the causal criteria method — adapted from epidemiology where similar methods were used to evaluate whether smoking causes cancer— can now be used for examining the evidence base to evaluate environmental cause-effect relationships.

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System requirements

The end user acknowledges and agrees that the Software may only be installed and used on PC computer equipment, including a server or individual computer, which meets or exceeds the following minimum system requirements:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor;
  • Microsoft Windows XP (Service Pack 3) or Windows 7 operating systems;
  • a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 or greater;
  • 200 megabytes (Mb) of free hard drive space (preferably 1Gb);
  • 1Gb RAM or greater;
  • Windows Installer 4.5;
  • .NET Framework 4.0; and
  • Internet access.
  • Local administrator rights may be required for installation and use of the Software.


The presence of a firewall on a user's network may cause problems if the analyser software is used to communicate with online databases. If users experience such problems, they can provide custom proxy details for Eco Evidence communication to use by modifying the EcoEvidence.config file (located in the installation directory).

Download Eco Evidence from Toolkit


Eco Evidence face-to-face course, Canberra 31 May 2012

Thursday 31 May, 9.00am – 12.30pm
Venue: Ann Harding Conference Centre, Building 24, Seminar Room 1, University of Canberra.
Trainer: Dr Angus Webb

Formulating a defensible approach to managing the ecology of aquatic systems

In this workshop you will learn the basics about extracting ecological evidence from the literature, and learn how to use Eco Evidence software system to store evidence and to collectively build a case for inferring causality.

Course information

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Eco Evidence online course


Eco Evidence is supported by an online training course, suited to many areas of environmental science. Participants will:


  • gain a practical understanding of the Causal Criteria approach for evaluating causality in environmental science.
  • learn how to evaluate the quality of scientific literature evidence in terms of attributes of the study design and various
    causal criteria.
  • learn to use the Causal Criteria method and software program to provide confidence when inferring a cause and effect association

The course is available and delivered online, via an interactive website, by qualified educators with content expertise.

Find out more about Eco Evidence training