Reproducible research practices are underused in systematic reviews of biomedical interventions

Matthew J. Page, Douglas G. Altman, Larissa Shamseer, Joanne E. McKenzie, Nadera Ahmadzai, Dianna Wolfe, Fatemeh Yazdi, Ferrán Catalá-López, Andrea C. Tricco, David Moher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To evaluate how often reproducible research practices, which allow others to recreate the findings of studies, given the original data, are used in systematic reviews (SRs) of biomedical research. Study Design and Setting: We evaluated a random sample of SRs indexed in MEDLINE during February 2014, which focused on a therapeutic intervention and reported at least one meta-analysis. Data on reproducible research practices in each SR were extracted using a 26-item form by one author, with a 20% random sample extracted in duplicate. We explored whether the use of reproducible research practices was associated with an SR being a Cochrane review, as well as with the reported use of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses statement. Results: We evaluated 110 SRs of therapeutic interventions, 78 (71%) of which were non-Cochrane SRs. Across the SRs, there were 2,139 meta-analytic effects (including subgroup meta-analytic effects and sensitivity analyses), 1,551 (73%) of which were reported in sufficient detail to recreate them. Systematic reviewers reported the data needed to recreate all meta-analytic effects in 72 (65%) SRs only. This percentage was higher in Cochrane than in non-Cochrane SRs (30/32 [94%] vs. 42/78 [54%]; risk ratio 1.74, 95% confidence interval 1.39–2.18). Systematic reviewers who reported imputing, algebraically manipulating, or obtaining some data from the study author/sponsor infrequently stated which specific data were handled in this way. Only 33 (30%) SRs mentioned access to data sets and statistical code used to perform analyses. Conclusion: Reproducible research practices are underused in SRs of biomedical interventions. Adoption of such practices facilitates identification of errors and allows the SR data to be reanalyzed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-18
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Data sharing
  • Methodology
  • Quality
  • Reporting
  • Reproducibility
  • Systematic reviews

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