Undertaking overview of systematic reviews – methods, challenges and the way forward (as identified by a group of clinical academics and methodologists who recently figured it all out)

Date & Time
Wednesday, September 6, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Location Name
Session Type
Workshop - discussion
Overviews of reviews and scoping reviews
Target audience
Review authors; consumers and researchers interested in overviews
Level of difficulty

Background: Overviews of systematic reviews (hereinafter referred to as ‘overviews’) are increasingly being used for the synthesis of evidence where the subject areas are broad and the evidence is rapidly expanding. Despite methodological advances and development of methodological guidelines, experience in their adoption is limited and many challenges remain. This proposed workshop will provide a forum for participants to learn more about methodological development in undertaking overviews and to share practical experiences.
Objectives: (1) To raise awareness of tools and guidelines currently available in relation to the conduct of overviews; (2) to provide a forum for review authors to share their practical experiences and highlight potential challenges in undertaking overviews; and (3) to discuss potential areas for refinement of current tools and guidance and further methodological research.
Description: This workshop will be a highly interactive event that offers opportunities for participants to learn more about methods for conducting overviews and for authors who have conducted overviews to share their experiences. The structure of the workshop will be aligned to key steps (and corresponding methods and challenges) for the preparation of an overview: (1) defining the research question and scope; (2) planning literature search; (3) selecting and mapping studies; (4) assessing the quality of systematic reviews; (5) extracting data; (6) synthesising and presenting evidence—quantitatively and narratively; and (7) drawing conclusions and formulating recommendations. For each key step, we will invite participants to share tools and methods that they have used and issues that they faced, then supplement the discussion (where necessary) by drawing on the facilitators’ own experience, having recently completed a highly complex overview of systematic reviews on perioperative oxygen therapy funded by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Research. We will ensure discussions cover both practical issues (e.g., how to deal with overlapping evidence between systematic reviews and primary studies not covered by existing reviews) and theoretical underpinning (e.g., lumping versus splitting evidence in quantitative synthesis). We will utilise a mobile/online platform for real-time audience interaction to ensure that the workshop is truly participatory.

Cochrane Colloquium 2023 Overview of systematic review workshop plan v5.docx

Couper K1, Hooper A2
1Warwick Clinical Trials Unit, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
2University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom