Development of a checklist to detect errors in meta-analyses in systematic reviews of interventions: Study protocol

Raju Kanukula, Matthew J. Page, Kerry Dwan, Simon L. Turner, Elizabeth Loder, Evan Mayo-Wilson, Tianjing Li, Adya Misra, Steve McDonald, Andrew B. Forbes, Joanne E. McKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review


Background: Systematic reviews underpin clinical practice and policies that guide healthcare decisions. A core component of many systematic reviews is meta-analysis, which is a statistical synthesis of results across studies. Errors in the conduct and interpretation of meta-analysis can lead to incorrect conclusions regarding the benefits and harms of interventions; and studies have shown that these errors are common. Enabling peer reviewers to better detect errors in meta-analysis through the use of a checklist provides an opportunity for these errors to be rectified before publication. To our knowledge, no such checklist exists. Objective: To develop and evaluate a checklist to detect errors in pairwise meta-analyses in systematic reviews of interventions. Methods: We will undertake a four-step process to develop the checklist. First, we will undertake a systematic review of studies that have evaluated errors in the conduct and interpretation of meta-analysis to generate a bank of items to consider for the checklist. Second, we will undertake a survey of systematic review methodologists and statisticians to seek their views on which items, of the bank of items generated in step 1, are most important to include in the checklist. Third, we will hold a virtual meeting to agree upon which items to include in the checklist. Fourth, before finalising the checklist, we will pilot with editors and peer reviewers of journals. Conclusion: The developed checklist is intended to help journal editors and peer reviewers identify errors in the application and interpretation of meta-analyses in systematic reviews. Fewer errors in the conduct and improved interpretation will lead to more accurate review findings and conclusions to inform clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number455
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2021


  • Checklist
  • Errors
  • Meta-analysis
  • Pair-wise meta-analysis
  • Reporting guideline
  • Statistical issues
  • Synthesis
  • Systematic review

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