Systematic review automation tools improve efficiency but lack of knowledge impedes their adoption: a survey

Anna Mae Scott, Connor Forbes, Justin Clark, Matt Carter, Paul Glasziou, Zachary Munn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: We investigated systematic review automation tool use by systematic reviewers, health technology assessors and clinical guideline developers.

STUDY DESIGN AND SETTINGS: An online, 16-question survey was distributed across several evidence synthesis, health technology assessment and guideline development organisations. We asked the respondents what tools they use and abandon, how often and when they use the tools, their perceived time savings and accuracy, and desired new tools. Descriptive statistics were used to report the results.

RESULTS: 253 respondents completed the survey; 89% have used systematic review automation tools - most frequently whilst screening (79%). Respondents' 'top 3' tools included: Covidence (45%), RevMan (35%), Rayyan and GRADEPro (both 22%); most commonly abandoned were Rayyan (19%), Covidence (15%), DistillerSR (14%) and RevMan (13%). Tools saved time (80%) and increased accuracy (54%). Respondents taught themselves to how to use the tools (72%); lack of knowledge was the most frequent barrier to tool adoption (51%). New tool development was suggested for the searching and data extraction stages.

CONCLUSION: Automation tools will likely have an increasingly important role in high-quality and timely reviews. Further work is required in training and dissemination of automation tools and ensuring they meet the desirable features of those conducting systematic reviews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-94
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Early online date7 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


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