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Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

What is a Living Systematic Review?

"A systematic review which is continually updated, incorporating relevant new evidence as it becomes available." 

  • Is underpinned by continual, active monitoring of the evidence (i.e. monthly searches)
  • Immediately adds any new important evidence (meaning data, studies or information) that is identified
  • Is supported by up-to-date communication about the status of the review, and any new evidence being incorporated

Reasons to conduct a Living Systematic Review:

  • High priority or emerging question for policy and practice
  • Important uncertainty in the existing evidence
  • Emerging evidence that is likely to impact on what we currently know
  • To produce evidence that is both trustworthy and current

Source: Cochrane Learning Webinar 

How a Living Systematic Review Differs from a traditional Systematic Review

Core methods are the same as a systematic review, but they require the explicit, transparent and predefined decisions on:

  • How frequently new evidence is sought and screened (ie. searching monthly)
  • When and how new evidence is incorporated into the review

Other differences:

  • Author Team: coordinated and continuous effort
  • Meta-analysis: potential statistical adjustments for frequently updating meta-analysis
  • Publication format: persistent, dynamic, online-only
  • Methods and/or topic may change over time
  • Longevity: Thought as to when the review will no longer be living 

Source: Cochrane Learning Webinar 

Examples of a Living Systematic Review

Limitations of a Living Systematic Review

  • Very time consuming
  • Continuous work flow
  • Team members must have a long term commitment to the project
  • Frequent searching and screening
  • Frequent statistical analysis-can lead to inflated or false-positive results
  • May require technological tools to support screening, data extraction and critical analysis 
  • A living systematic review doesn't mean it is living forever!
  • Project funding may run out
  • Publishing challenge - deciding where to publish each update and how often, may require multiple DOIs and indexing in Medline, unless publishing to a project website

Source: Cochrane Learning Webinar

Other names for a Living Systematic Review

LSR, Live Cumulative Network Meta-analysis (Related), Living Meta-analysis (Related)

Temple Attribution

Adapted with permission from Temple University Libraries. https://guides.temple.edu/systematicreviews

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