Article review: How to conduct systematic reviews more expeditiously?

How to conduct systematic reviews more expeditiously? Tsertsvadze A et al. Systematic Reviews 2015, 4:160

This paper is a great overview of the current challenges/possibilities of undertaking rapid systematic reviews.  As with my last post (Two main fronts on the speeding up of systematic reviews) it supports the two main areas of activity I had discussed but adds in a third:

  1. Application of innovative technologies – machine learning, text mining etc.
  2. Methodological modifications – “An alternative approach to synthesise evidence more expeditiously lies in modifying the SR methodology by restricting, curtailing or bypassing one or more SR steps (e.g. study eligibility criteria, search strategy, data extraction, quality assessment, data analysis), while maintaining the same degree of transparency as in traditional SRs.
  3. Process parallelisation – “…many tasks such as study selection, data extraction and quality assessment can be divided amongst several reviewers who can perform these tasks in parallel (at least in part), thereby reducing the time needed to complete a SR.”

One issue, which was nice to see, was the mention of translation support. This links nicely to my work on the KConnect project which includes Medical Machine Translation.  This work has supported the multi-lingual work on Trip in German, French and Czech (with other languages appearing later).

The authors conclude by highlighting ‘living’ systematic reviews and also a call for more research comparing rapid and systematic reviews, stating “This evidence could also highlight specific SR steps or subtasks that are either of critical importance or redundant.”.  They highlight the role of Cochrane:

Cochrane Innovations initiated the programme of Rapid Response Review, which is designed to produce expedited reviews by using ‘abbreviated’ and ‘accelerated’ SR methods, while maintaining the methodological rigour and transparency of traditional SRs.

They finish with the entirely sensible:

We hope that ongoing and future research initiatives will generate further relevant empirical data to better inform how best to conduct and deliver SRs timely. This evidence may also indicate contexts and/or content areas where this reduced methodology could become a standard SR approach.

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