Standards, methods, and guidance for evidence synthesis in environmental health

My main area of research is adaptation of systematic review methods from clinical to environmental health and toxicological contexts. I work on best practice standards for conduct of systematic reviews and the development of critical appraisal tools for assessing the quality of primary and secondary research - in particular, how such tools can be applied in manuscript production workflows to raise publishing standards.

I also working on methods for computable research, that would allow data about study methods and findings to be automatically added to research databases. This could enable a step-change in research accessibility, taking data out from behind journal paywalls, allowing automated systematic review, and enabling full access to the wealth of scientific data humans generate but now exceeds our capacity to review.

Research Themes

Evidence Mapping and Computable Research

Evidence maps are a novel evidence synthesis product which allow systematic identification of gaps and gluts in decision-critical evidence. However, they only really work if we can move our vast store of scientific information from unstructured archives of PDFs into queryable databases. This requires us to teach machines to "read" scientific documents, develop semantic authoring tools for writing scientific studies, and create comprehensive research metadata records in suitable underlying knowledge organisation systems. If we do this, we could move away from manual systematic reviews into more automated methods of synthesising evidence.

Best Practice in Systematic Review

I work on developing and promoting best practice standards for conduct of systematic reviews and evidence maps in the environmental health sciences. This mainly involves adapting existing standards in use in biomedical research to the toxicology and environmental health context. The idea is that, if we can provide environmental health researchers with an authoritative recipe-book for conducting systematic reviews, it should help them reduce the risk of conducting unsuccessful SR projects.

Critical Appraisal Guidance and Instruments

While there are a lot of critical appraisal tools for helping people distinguish more credible studies from less, it is not always clear which tool should be used and when, nor if any given tool is actually fit-for-purpose. I am working on or contributing to several tools for critically appraising systematic reviews and primary studies, concentrating on ensuring they target an appropriate quality construct for the context in which they are to be used, that are reasonably intuitive, and they reliably distinguish higher-quality from lower-quality research.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Pega, F. et al. (2022) ‘Towards a framework for systematic reviews of the prevalence of exposure to environmental and occupational risk factors’, Environmental Health, 21(1), p. 64.

Menon, J.M.L., Struijs, F. and Whaley, P. (2022) ‘The methodological rigour of systematic reviews in environmental health’, Critical reviews in toxicology, pp. 1–21.

Hoffmann et al. (2022) Application of evidence-based methods to construct mechanism-driven chemical assessment frameworks. ALTEX.

Frampton et al. (2022) Principles and framework for assessing the risk of bias for studies included in comparative quantitative environmental systematic reviews. Environmental Evidence.

Wilkins et al. (2022) Assessing author willingness to enter study information into structured data templates as part of the manuscript submission process: A pilot study. Heliyon.

Whaley et al. (2022) Biological plausibility in environmental health systematic reviews: a GRADE concept paper. J. Clin. Epi.

Hoffmann et al. (2022) How evidence-based methodologies can help identify and reduce uncertainty in chemical risk assessment. ALTEX

Verbeek et al. (2021) An approach to quantifying the potential importance of residual confounding in systematic reviews of observational studies: A GRADE concept paper Environment International

Whaley et al. (2021) 'Improving the quality of toxicology and environmental health systematic reviews: What journal editors can do' ALTEX

Sharma et al. (2021) 'Towards guidelines for time-trend reviews examining temporal variability in human biomonitoring data of pollutants' Environment International

de Vries et al. (2021) 'Applying evidence-based methods to the development and use of adverse outcome pathways.' ALTEX

Whaley P. et al. (2020) Knowledge organization systems for systematic chemical assessments.' Environmental Health Perspectives

Whaley P. et al. (2020) 'Recommendations for conduct of systematic reviews in toxicology and environmental health research (COSTER)' Environment International

Robinson, C. et al. (2020) ‘Achieving a high level of protection from pesticides in Europe: Problems with the current risk assessment procedure and solutions’ European Journal of Risk Regulation

Wolffe, T. et al. (2020) ‘A survey of systematic evidence mapping practice and the case for knowledge graphs in environmental health & toxicology’ Toxicological Sciences

Wittwehr, C. et al. (2020) ‘Artificial Intelligence for Chemical Risk Assessment’, Computational Toxicology doi:

Wolffe, T. A. M., Whaley, P., et al. (2019). 'Systematic evidence maps as a novel tool to support evidence-based decision-making in chemicals policy and risk management.' Environment International. doi:

Hartung, T. et al. (2019) ‘Toward Good In Vitro Reporting Standards.’, ALTEX, doi:

Morgan, R. L. et al. (2019) ‘A risk of bias instrument for non-randomized studies of exposures: A users’ guide to its application in the context of GRADE’, Environment International. doi:

Morgan, R. L. et al. (2018) ‘Identifying the PECO: A framework for formulating good questions to explore the association of environmental and other exposures with health outcomes’, Environment International. doi:

Haddaway, N. R. et al. (2018) ‘ROSES Reporting standards for Systematic Evidence Syntheses: Pro forma, flow-diagram and descriptive summary of the plan and conduct of environmental systematic reviews and systematic maps’, Environmental Evidence. doi:

Whaley, P. & Wikoff, D. (2018) 'Qualitative methods for integrating evidence within and across evidence streams for hazard identification' EFSA Supporting Publications. doi:

Hoffmann, S. et al. (2017) ‘A primer on systematic reviews in toxicology’, Archives of Toxicology. doi:

Vandenberg, L. N. et al. (2016) ‘A proposed framework for the systematic review and integrated assessment (SYRINA) of endocrine disrupting chemicals’, Environmental Health. doi:

Whaley, P. et al. (2016) ‘Implementing systematic review techniques in chemical risk assessment: Challenges, opportunities and recommendations’, Environment International. doi:


US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2022) Review of U.S. EPA's ORD Staff Handbook for Developing IRIS Assessments.

WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network (2021) Framework for the use of systematic review in chemical risk assessment.

Robinson, C. et al. (2018) Ensuring a higher level of protection from pesticides in Europe: The problems with current pesticide risk assessment procedures in the EU - and proposed solutions. PAN Europe. doi:

Whaley, P. and Halsall C. (2014) Identifying and Monitoring Pollution Risks from On-Shore Hydraulic Fracturing Operations. Lancaster University and Inteb Ltd.

Whaley, P. (2014) EFSA's Draft 2014 Scientific Opinion on the risks to public health related to the presence of bisphenol-A (BPA) in foodstuffs: a critical appraisal. Policy from Science Project

Whaley, P. (2013) Systematic Review and the Future of Evidence in Chemicals Policy. Policy from Science Project


Whaley, P. and Roth, N. (2022) ‘How we promote rigour in systematic reviews and evidence maps at Environment International’, Environment international, p. 107543.

Pega et al. (2021) Systematic reviews and meta-analyses for the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury. Environment International

Radke, E. G. et al. (2020). Application of US EPA IRIS systematic review methods to the health effects of phthalates: Lessons learned and path forward. Environment International. doi:

Whaley, P. and Halsall, C. (2016) ‘Assuring high-quality evidence reviews for chemical risk assessment: Five lessons from guest editing the first environmental health journal special issue dedicated to systematic review’, Environment International. doi:

Whaley, P. et al. (2016) ‘Raising the standard of systematic reviews published in Environment International’, Environment International. doi:


Verbeek et al. (2022) Potential importance of residual confounding in systematic reviews of observational studies: Answer to Mathur and VanderWeele. Environment International.

Haddaway, N. R. et al. (2018) ‘Response to “Every ROSE has its thorns”’, Environmental Evidence. doi:

Page, J. et al. (2012) ‘Priorities for cancer prevention’, The Lancet Oncology, 13(6). doi:

Book Chapters

Whaley, P. (2014) ‘Childhood obesity and the environment’. in D Haslam, A Sharma & C le Roux (eds), Controversies in obesity. Springer, pp. 97-102.


Menon et al. (2020) A Survey of the Basic Scientific Quality of Systematic Reviews in Environmental Health.

de Vries, R.B.M. & Whaley, P.A. (2018) In Vitro Critical Appraisal Tool (IV-CAT): Tool Development Protocol. Evidence-Based Toxicology Collaboration doi: