The Library of Guidance for Health Scientists (LIGHTS) - introduction and outlook
2McMaster University, Canada
3Harvard Medical School, United States
4Johns Hopins University, United States
5University of Split, Croatia
BACKGROUND: Substandard methods (e.g., irrelevant outcomes, ignoring missing data, flawed subgroup analyses) often limit the value of health research. Not seldom, corresponding methods guidance has been available for years or decades, suggesting a serious problem with the dissemination and implementation of methods guidance. Here, we address one particular challenge: the lacking organization of methods guidance articles in biomedical databases that leads to poor findability and hinders dissemination and implementation.
OBJECTIVES: To improve the findability of methods guidance articles, we developed the Library of Guidance for Health Scientists (LIGHTS, www.lights.science) and the linked Taxonomy and Thesaurus for Health Research Methodology (THEREMY).
METHODS: LIGHTS is a living, curated inventory of methods guidance. We currently include guidance that (1) is published in a peer-reviewed journal and (2) states the objective to provide methods guidance for health researchers. We accept any type including guidance on understanding, applying, reporting, and assessing research methods. We apply a multi-layered search strategy that includes the screening of journals, websites, and suggestions from researchers. A team of health researchers, information specialists, and methodologists manually indexes eligible guidance documents and collects synonyms for methodological concepts in THEREMY. Automated synonym mapping improves the search process in LIGHTS.
Results: On March 1, 2023, the database included a diverse set of 1’417 methods guidance articles and had 5’236 unique visitors in the preceding month. THEREMY included 101 study types and 252 methodological concepts. Table 1 shows top level categories and corresponding frequencies in LIGHTS. DISCUSSION: The new library supports the dissemination of methods guidance and users seem to appreciate the resource. We consider LIGHTS complementary to other initiatives in the field such as the Cochrane Handbook and the EQUATOR Network. Improved dissemination alone, although a precondition for the implementation of methods guidance, is unlikely to have a substantial impact on more robust evidence production. Further steps are needed. The collection of methods terms provided in the new taxonomy is more specific and flexible than index terms available in MEDLINE or Embase.