Evidence: beyond the numbers

Enormous amount of research evidence floods healthcare givers, policy makers and consumers. Users of research evidence may find difficulty in terms of time, skills and resources to keep up with the daily addition of information. Healthcare providers need to find trustworthy research evidence to guide their daily clinical decisions. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses respond to this challenge by providing an accurate and reliable synthesized evidence. This includes the effects of treatment and the accuracy of diagnostic tests. High quality systematic reviews not only help clinicians keep up to date, but also provide guideline developers with the essential foundation for building trustworthy clinical practice guidelines. Systematic reviews play a pivotal role in reducing research waste by providing summaries of previous research for research institutes, industry and funders wishing to support new research [1].

the production of systematic reviews and meta‐analyses of poor quality is prevalent to the point of becoming the norm rather than the exception

Flawed or misleading systematic reviews diminishes their value to clinicians, policy makers, and other stakeholders. The importance of reviews being conducted and reported in a thorough and rigorous manner cannot be overstated. Nowadays the production of systematic reviews and meta‐analyses of poor quality is prevalent to the point of becoming the norm rather than the exception. Poor quality includes redundant, flawed, misleading or simply useless systematic reviews and meta‐analyses [2-4].

Flawed or misleading synthesized evidence may do more harm in the provision of health care. Publishers, Editors, peer reviewers, as well as authors have the responsibility of ensuring the quality of conducting and reporting systematic reviews. Standards do exist and continuously evolve. If systematic reviews are to deserve their status and fulfill their promise as trusted evidence for better health, these standards must be upheld.


  1. Eden, Jill; Levit, Laura; Berg, Alfred; Morton, Sally (Eds.) (2011): Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. National Academies Press (US). Washington (DC).
  2. Ioannidis, John P. A. (2016): The Mass Production of Redundant, Misleading, and Conflicted Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses. In The Milbank quarterly 94 (3), pp. 485–514. DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12210.
  3. Campbell JM, Kavanagh S, Kurmis R, Munn Z. Systematic Reviews in Burns Care: Poor Quality and Getting Worse. J Burn Care Res 2017; 38 2:e552-e567.
  4. Campbell, JM. Quality of systematic reviews is poor, our fault, our responsibility. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports; 2017, Volume :15 Number 8:1977 – 1978

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