A full systematic review was completed in 2 weeks using automation tools: a case study

Justin Clark, Paul Glasziou, Chris Del Mar, Alexandra Bannach-Brown, Paulina Stehlik, Anna Mae Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

202 Citations (Scopus)
326 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Systematic reviews are time- and resource-intensive, requiring approximately one year from protocol registration to submission for publication.

AIM: To describe the process, facilitators and barriers to completing of the first two-week full systematic review (2wSR).

METHODS: We systematically reviewed evidence of the impact of increased fluid intake, on urinary tract infection (UTI) recurrence, in individuals at risk for UTIs. The review was conducted by experienced systematic reviewers with complementary skills (two researcher clinicians, an information specialist, an epidemiologist), using Systematic Review Automation tools, and blocked off time for the duration of the project. The outcomes were: time to complete the systematic review (SR), time to complete individual SR tasks, facilitators and barriers to progress, and peer reviewer feedback on the SR manuscript. Times to completion were analysed quantitatively (minutes and calendar days); facilitators and barriers were mapped onto the Theoretical Domains Framework; and peer reviewer feedback was analysed quantitatively and narratively.

RESULTS: The systematic review was completed in 61 person-hours (9 workdays; 12 calendar days); accepted version of the manuscript required 71 person-hours. Individual SR tasks ranged from 16 person-minutes (deduplication of search results) to 461 person-minutes (data extraction). The least time-consuming SR tasks were: obtaining full-texts, searches, citation analysis, data synthesis and de-duplication. The most time-consuming tasks were: data extraction, writeup, abstract screening, full-text screening, and risk of bias. Facilitators and barriers mapped onto the following domains: knowledge; skills; memory, attention and decision process; environmental context and resources; and technology and infrastructure. Two sets of peer reviewer feedback were received on the manuscript: the first included 34 comments requesting changes, 17 changes were made, requiring 173 person-minutes; the second requested 13 changes, and 8 were made, requiring 121 person-minutes.

CONCLUSION: A small and experienced systematic reviewer team using SRA tools who have protected time to focus solely on the SR, can complete a moderately-sized SR in 2 weeks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Early online date28 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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