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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.

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Pharmacy
Harlem Campus 230 West 125th Street New York, NY 10027 (212) 851-1199