Living systematic reviews


Now 5 living systematic reviews on the Cochrane Library
Living systematic review series published in
Journal of Clinical Epidemiology
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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 Heart
    • Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections
    • Cochrane Musculoskeletal

    An evaluation is running alongside the pilots to understand the feasibility of LSRs, implications for the people and processes involved and identify opportunities to refine the LSR model before scaling up. The evaluation report will be finalised by September 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.

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    Living Evidence Network

    The Living Evidence Network is an informal network that was launched in February 2016, with members including Cochrane and non-Cochrane researchers, policymakers and guideline developers.

    The Living Evidence Network aims to: 

    • Share experiences, information and resources
    • Further the thinking on the living evidence concept and methods
    • Develop and refine approaches for Cochrane LSRs

    You can download the Living Evidence Network governance structure document here.
    If you would like to join the Living Evidence Network, please email


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