How do YOU determine which systematic reviews or evidence synthesis to read and rely on?

How do YOU determine which systematic reviews or evidence synthesis to read and rely on?

Global research output is growing rapidly: it is estimated that the number of global scientific publications doubles every nine years. Systematic reviews (syntheses of all the medical literature on a given topic) provide the highest quality evidence that is needed to inform clinical and public health recommendations, and are proliferating at a furious pace, reflected by the 25,000 systematic reviews added to the database Epistemonikos annually. With the explosion of systematic reviews comes an epidemic of multiple systematic reviews published on the same topic. For example, one study found 24 systematic reviews on vitamin D supplements for preventing bone fractures, all with conflicting results owing to different methods. When encountering multiple systematic reviews on the same question, clinicians may be confused and unable to formulate a conclusive answer to their patient’s question. Watch a 2-minute video that outlines the problem with finding multiple systematic reviews on the same topic.

Dr. Carole Lunny PhD is a member of the Therapeutics Initiative who has developed scholarly expertise in methods to assess the quality of systematic reviews. Recently, she completed a 2 year post-doctoral fellowship with the Therapeutics Initiative, during which she also established the TI Methods Speaker Series. Now continuing her post-doctoral training with the University of Toronto, Dr. Lunny leads a project: WISEST (WhIch Systematic Evidence Synthesis is besT) that aims to understand how people utilize systematic reviews and other evidence syntheses, and how they decide which to rely on. Dr. Lunny and a team of international collaborators hope to understand better what “consumers” of systematic reviews and evidence syntheses look for, and how to help them know whether they are getting the “best evidence”. Using artificial intelligence capabilities, the project will develop an automated algorithm which will help select the best systematic review amongst several on the same question. The algorithm will have significant impact and application worldwide to every health field.

You can assist this research by participating in a simple survey, and alerting students, colleagues, and friends to this opportunity to help shape how evidence is analyzed and presented by international experts in evidence synthesis. The survey will be open until August 19th. You can take the brief (10-min) survey at this link.

The survey’s purpose is to explore questions such as these:

  • How do you as a decision maker (health care professional, student, researcher, or policymaker) use systematic reviews in your decision making?  Specifically, when there are multiple reviews relevant to a particular question, how do you pick one or more systematic reviews to read?
  • If a supporting tool utilizing artificial intelligence capability were available, would you use it to help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of the systematic reviews on your topic of interest?

To receive updates on this project, please add your email to this list.

Please submit questions or comments below or contact the principal investigator at

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