Living systematic reviews

What is a living systematic review?

We define an LSR as a systematic review which is continually updated, incorporating relevant new evidence as it becomes available

Practically, this means that LSRs:

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

While core review methods are not fundamentally different to other Cochrane Reviews, an LSR should additionally include explicit, transparent and predefined decisions on:

  • How frequently new evidence is sought and screened
  • When and how new evidence is incorporated into the review

Why living systematic reviews?

Living systematic reviews (LSRs) provide a new approach to support the ongoing efforts of Cochrane and others to produce evidence that is both trustworthy and current. 

The concept of living evidence synthesis and related outputs, such as living guidelines, are of increasing interest to evidence producers, decision makers, guideline developers, funders and publishers, as a way to seamlessly connect evidence and practice.

The possibility of a scaled-up living evidence approach has only recently been within reach, due to a number of technological and data-related innovations, such as online platforms, linked data, and machine learning. Concurrently, research groups are embracing larger collaborations, open and shared data, and the growth of the citizen science movement, opening up the possibility of communities with a common interest maintaining high value datasets and associated LSR. 

    Living systematic review pilots

    Project Transform is currently piloting LSRs as part of the Production Models component with the following groups:

    • Cochrane Gynaecological, Neuro-oncology and Orphan Cancers
    • Cochrane Musculoskeletal
    • Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections
    • Cochrane Heart

    An evaluation plan is in place, and the LSR guidance will be revised on the basis of the evaluation once the pilots are completed. The expected timeline for this is mid-2018.

    Living systematic reviews - interim guidance for pilots

    The purpose of this document is to outline the methods and production and publication models for pilot LSRs published on The Cochrane Library. It includes a protocol template for a Cochrane LSR. 

    This document is primarily designed to be a practical guidance document for the authors, Review Groups and Central Editorial Unit staff involved in the first round of Cochrane LSR pilots. 

    The approach described here is based on our review of current literature relevant to LSRs and consultation with a range of stakeholders, including the LSR Network, which includes members within Cochrane and beyond. The approach outlined is a work in progress. The ideas presented will be evaluated and refined on the basis of the pilot Reviews.

    Other LSR Resources

    LSR News

    LSR Network

    The LSR Network is an informal network that was launched in February 2016 and now has over 130 members, including Cochrane and non-Cochrane researchers, policymakers and guideline developers.

    The LSR Network aims to: 

    • Share experiences, information and resources
    • Further the thinking on LSR concept and methods
    • Develop approaches for testing in Cochrane LSR pilots

    If you would like to join the LSR Network, please email lsr@cochrane.org

     

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