Systematic Reviews journal to increase transparency and innovation in healthcare publishing

The notion of systematic review – looking at the totality of evidence – is quietly one of the most important innovations in medicine over the past 30 years.”

–  Dr Ben Goldacre, award-winning Bad Science columnist and medical doctor, in Testing Treatments

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are widely considered as the highest level of evidence on which to inform medical practice decisions. There has been a sharp increase in the number of systematic reviews published in recent years, with well over 5,000 systematic reviews recorded in the MEDLINE database in 2009 alone. Prospective study registration, as is required for clinical trials, is also becoming established for systematic reviews. With increasing amounts of – and attention on – this important type of research a new BioMed Central journal, Systematic Reviews, is now accepting submissions.

Systematic Reviews encompasses all aspects of the design, conduct and reporting of systematic reviews. The journal’s mission is to publish high quality systematic reviews related to a very broad definition of health, rapid reviews, and methods research related to the science of evidence synthesis including decision modeling.

The journal aims to increase transparency in systematic review reporting and to encourage innovation in publishing systematic reviews. Systematic Reviews will, for example, publish systematic review protocols, and these will usually be published without peer review if the study has received a grant from a major funding body and is registered with the PROSPERO database. Systematic Reviews will also publish, as stand-alone publications, updates to previously published systematic reviews. These updates will reconsider and bring previously published systematic reviews up to date and allow authors to present changes to systematic reviews while avoiding unwarranted duplication in the literature. The journal will operate an open peer review system.

By recommending the use of reporting guidelines for health research, such as the PRISMA statement, and encouraging their use – by authors, editors and peer reviewers –  the journal hopes to improve the quality of reporting of systematic reviews.

The journal is edited by Dr David Moher (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and first author of the PRISMA statement), Prof Lesley Stewart (Director of the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination University of York) and Dr Paul Shekelle (Director, Southern California Evidence-Based Practice Center, RAND Corporation), who are supported by an international Editorial Board.

As with a number of other BioMed Central journals, such as Trials, Systematic Reviews aims to avoid wasteful duplication of research by completing the scientific record. The journal aims to ensure that the results of all well-conducted systematic reviews are published, regardless of their outcome. A policy to publish all scientifically sound articles within a journal’s scope, regardless of ‘interest level’, in healthcare, also helps to increase the availability of unbiased evidence for the effects of treatments, and ultimately to improve patient care.

The journal’s mission and the position of systematic reviews in the evidence-based medicine hierarchy complements existing BioMed Central journals and projects, such as Trials and our threaded publications initiative, extremely well, and we are looking forward to working with the authors and editors on this exciting and innovative new publication.

Manuscripts should be submitted via the website and pre-submission enquiries can be sent to the editors. Furthermore, the Systematic Reviews team will be on location at the Society for Clinical Trials meeting in Vancouver in May. If you will be attending the conference and would like to find out more in person please get in touch.

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