Analysis of the time and workers needed to conduct systematic reviews of medical interventions

Borah R. et al. (2017) BMJ Open. 7:e012545

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Objectives: To summarise logistical aspects of recently completed systematic reviews that were registered in the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) registry to quantify the time and resources required to complete such projects.

Results: The mean estimated time to complete the project and publish the review was 67.3 weeks (IQR=42). The number of studies found in the literature searches ranged from 27 to 92 020; the mean yield rate of included studies was 2.94% (IQR=2.5); and the mean number of authors per review was 5, SD=3. Funded reviews took significantly longer to complete and publish (mean=42 vs 26 weeks) and involved more authors and team members (mean=6.8 vs 4.8 people) than those that did not report funding (both p<0.001).

Conclusions: Systematic reviews presently take much time and require large amounts of human resources. In the light of the ever-increasing volume of published studies, application of existing computing and informatics technology should be applied to decrease this time and resource burden. We discuss recently published guidelines that provide a framework to make finding and accessing relevant literature less burdensome.

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