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Southampton Health Technology Assessments CentreNews

Can automation improve the efficiency of systematic reviews?

Published: 15 March 2016
Can automation improve the efficiency of systematic reviews?

SHTAC is contributing to a workshop being held at the UK and Ireland Cochrane Symposium which will explore the potential advantages and disadvantages of using technology to automate some steps of systematic reviews.

Systematic reviews are a robust scientific method for identifying, collecting, analysing and communicating evidence to answer specific questions in a way that ensures transparency and minimises bias. However, conducting systematic reviews of topics which have a large evidence base may be resource intensive and time consuming since many thousands of research publications need to be identified, obtained, and scrutinised by the reviewers. Recently, tools have been developed which might enable automation of some systematic review tasks, potentially improving efficiency. It is unclear, however, whether the potential benefits of these tools (e.g. allowing systematic reviews to be conducted more rapidly and/or at lower cost) would outweigh any disadvantages (e.g. increased risk of errors or bias, or the need for additional training of reviewers).

Geoff Frampton from SHTAC will present a talk at the Cochrane Symposium workshop explaining how SHTAC currently uses automation in the systematic reviews that we conduct; how we might use automation in future; and what we perceive as being the key strengths and weaknesses of automated approaches for conducting systematic reviews. The workshop findings will be published as a report to help inform best practice approaches for automation of systematic reviews.

The Workshop “Automated Support for Systematic Reviewers: Dream or Reality?” is taking place at the UK and Ireland Cochrane Symposium, Birmingham, UK, on Wednesday 16th March.

For more information on SHTAC’s work on research methodology relating to systematic reviews please see our Research Methodology page.


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