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Analysis of the time and workers needed to conduct systematic reviews of medical interventions using data from the PROSPERO registry
  1. Rohit Borah1,2,
  2. Andrew W Brown2,3,
  3. Patrice L Capers2,3,
  4. Kathryn A Kaiser2,3
  1. 1Science and Technology Honors Program, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  2. 2Office of Energetics, Dean's Office, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  3. 3Nutrition Obesity Research Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kathryn A Kaiser; kakaiser{at}


Objectives To summarise logistical aspects of recently completed systematic reviews that were registered in the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) registry to quantify the time and resources required to complete such projects.

Design Meta-analysis.

Data sources and study selection All of the 195 registered and completed reviews (status from the PROSPERO registry) with associated publications at the time of our search (1 July 2014).

Data extraction All authors extracted data using registry entries and publication information related to the data sources used, the number of initially retrieved citations, the final number of included studies, the time between registration date to publication date and number of authors involved for completion of each publication. Information related to funding and geographical location was also recorded when reported.

Results The mean estimated time to complete the project and publish the review was 67.3 weeks (IQR=42). The number of studies found in the literature searches ranged from 27 to 92 020; the mean yield rate of included studies was 2.94% (IQR=2.5); and the mean number of authors per review was 5, SD=3. Funded reviews took significantly longer to complete and publish (mean=42 vs 26 weeks) and involved more authors and team members (mean=6.8 vs 4.8 people) than those that did not report funding (both p<0.001).

Conclusions Systematic reviews presently take much time and require large amounts of human resources. In the light of the ever-increasing volume of published studies, application of existing computing and informatics technology should be applied to decrease this time and resource burden. We discuss recently published guidelines that provide a framework to make finding and accessing relevant literature less burdensome.

  • systematic reviews
  • metadata
  • PROSPERO registry
  • search methods

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  • Contributors All authors contributed equally. KAK conceived the project. AWB and KAK retrieved and processed the data from the PROSPERO registry. RB retrieved articles and organised the reference bibliography. All authors extracted the data from included papers, analysed the data and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. All authors have full access to all the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

  • Funding Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers: P30DK056336 and K12GM088010 in the form of partial salary support for KAK, PLC and AWB.

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the University of Alabama at Birmingham or the National Institutes of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The list of included review publications is in the online supplementary appendix. Analysis data may be obtained from the corresponding author at

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