Feasibility and acceptability of living systematic reviews: Results from a mixed-methods evaluation Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Background Living systematic reviews (LSRs) offer an approach to keeping high-quality evidence synthesis continually up to date, so the most recent, relevant and reliable evidence can be used to inform policy and practice, resulting in improved quality of care and patient health outcomes. However, they require modifications to authoring and editorial processes and pose technical and publishing challenges. Several teams within Cochrane and the international Living Evidence Network have been piloting living systematic reviews. Methods We conducted a mixed-methods evaluation with participants involved in six LSRs (three Cochrane and three non-Cochrane). Up to three semi-structured interviews were conducted with 27 participants involved with one or more of the pilot LSRs. Interviews explored participants’ experiences contributing to the LSR, barriers and facilitators to their conduct and opportunities for future development. Pilot team members also completed monthly surveys capturing time for key tasks and the number of citations screened for each review. Results Across the pilot LSRs, search frequency was monthly to three-monthly, with some using tools such as machine learning and Cochrane Crowd to screen searches. Varied approaches were used to communicate updates to readers. The number of citations screened varied widely between the reviews, from three to 300 citations per month. The amount of time spent per month by the author team on each review also varied from 5 min to 32 h. Participants were enthusiastic to be involved in the LSR pilot. They highlighted the importance of a motivated and well-organised team; the value of technology enablers to improve workflow efficiencies; the need to establish reliable and efficient processes to sustain living reviews; and the potential for saving time and effort in the long run. Participants highlighted challenges with the current publication processes, managing ongoing workload and the lack of resources to support LSRs in the long term. Conclusions Findings to date support feasibility and acceptability of LSR production. There are challenges that need to be addressed for living systematic reviews to be sustainable and have maximum value. The findings from this study will be used in discussions with the Cochrane community, key decision makers and people more broadly concerned with LSRs to identify and develop priorities for scale-up.

publication date

  • 2019