Epidemiology and Reporting Characteristics of Systematic Reviews of Biomedical Research: A Cross-Sectional Study

Page MJ, Shamseer L, Altman DG, Tetzlaff J, Sampson M, Tricco AC, Catalá-López F, Li L, Reid EK, Sarkis-Onofre R, Moher D.
Epidemiology and Reporting Characteristics of Systematic Reviews of Biomedical Research: A Cross-Sectional Study.
PLoS Med. 2016 May 24;13(5):e1002028 

Systematic reviews can help decision makers interpret research findings in the overload of published biomedical literature. However if a systematic review is not done well, or not reported correctly, its value is lost. The authors found that there was a huge increase in the number of systematic reviews being published, in the last three decades, but…when it came to the methods / reporting:

  • At least a third of the reviews did not report how they searched for studies or how they assessed the quality of the included studies
  • Most studies did not include unpublished data
  • At least a third of the reviews used statistical methods discouraged by leading organizations that have developed guidance for systematic reviews

The authors’ recommendations to improve  this situation include better software to facilitate better reporting, and training of all stakeholders in research publishing. 

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