A descriptive analysis of non-Cochrane child-relevant systematic reviews published in 2014

Michelle Gates, Sarah A. Elliott, Cydney Johnson, Denise Thomson, Katrina Williams, Ricardo M. Fernandes, Lisa Hartling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Consumers, clinicians, policymakers and researchers require high quality evidence to guide decision-making in child health. Though Cochrane systematic reviews (SRs) are a well-established source of evidence, little is known about the characteristics of non-Cochrane child-relevant SRs. To complement published descriptions of Cochrane SRs, we aimed to characterize the epidemiologic, methodological, and reporting qualities of non-Cochrane child-relevant SRs published in 2014. Methods: English-language child-relevant SRs of quantitative primary research published outside the Cochrane Library in 2014 were eligible for this descriptive analysis. A research librarian searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, Web of Science, and PubMed in August 2015. A single reviewer screened articles for inclusion; a second verified the excluded studies. Reviewers extracted: general characteristics of the review; included study characteristics; methodological approaches. We performed univariate analyses and presented the findings narratively. Results: We identified 1598 child-relevant SRs containing a median (IQR) 19 (11, 33) studies. These originated primarily from high-income countries (n = 1247, 78.0%) and spanned 47 of the 53 Cochrane Review Groups. Most synthesized therapeutic (n = 753, 47.1%) or epidemiologic (n = 701, 43.8%) evidence. Though 39.3% (n = 628) of SRs included evidence related to children only, few were published in pediatric-specific journals (n = 283, 17.7%). Reporting quality seemed poor based on the items we assessed; few reviews mentioned an a-priori protocol (n = 246, 15.4%) or registration (n = 111, 6.9%), and only 23.4% (n = 374) specified a primary outcome. Many SRs relied solely on evidence from non-RCTs (n = 796, 49.8%). Less than two-thirds (n = 953, 59.6%) appraised the quality of included studies and assessments of the certainty of the body of evidence were rare (n = 102, 6.4%). Conclusions: Child-relevant Cochrane SRs are a known source of high quality evidence in pediatrics. There exists, however, an abundance of evidence from non-Cochrane SRs that may be complementary. Our findings show that high-quality non-Cochrane SRs may not be practical nor easy for knowledge users to find. Improvements are needed to ensure that evidence syntheses published outside of the Cochrane Library adhere to the high standard of conduct and reporting characteristic of Cochrane SRs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number99
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Child
  • Methods
  • Pediatrics
  • Systematic review

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