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Empty review reporting practices and policies: A survey of Cochrane Review Group editors and other key systematic review producers

Date and Location




Monday 23 September 2013 - 13:30 - 15:00


Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author

Paul Montgomery

Contact person

Paul Montgomery
Joanne Yaffe
Abstract text
Background: The reporting of systematic reviews with no included studies, that is, “empty reviews,” has received little attention in published literature and in systematic review reporting guidelines. Objectives: This qualitative study identifies policies and procedures across Cochrane Review Groups and other key producers with respect to the publication of empty reviews, the handling of excluded studies in empty reviews, and the reporting of empty review ‘Implications for Practice.’ Methods: A survey with closed and open-ended questions was administered to managing editors across all 53 Cochrane Review Groups, Campbell Collaboration Coordinating Groups, the World Health Organization (WHO), Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI), What Works Clearinghouse (WWCH), and Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Editors were contacted by email three times to ensure maximal coverage and saturation. Responses were coded and analyzed independently by two investigators. Results: Campbell Collaboration respondents indicated no specific policies for empty reviews and the WHO, JBI, WWCH, and SCIE reported not publishing empty reviews. Of the 53 Cochrane Review Groups, 46 (87%) reported publishing and 5 (9%) reported not publishing empty reviews, with 2 (4%) groups indicating no known policies. Forty (75%) Cochrane groups indicated no standard policies for the reporting of excluded studies. However, 58% of respondents stated that they would permit the provision of evidence from excluded studies within empty reviews and 30% said they would not. Forty-four (83%) groups indicated not offering any particular guidance for reporting the ‘Implications for Practice’ section in empty reviews. Forty-six (87%) groups responded that they do not aim to update or withdraw empty reviews faster than other reviews. Conclusions: This study demonstrates inconsistency across policies for the publication and reporting of empty reviews. Guidelines for the publication and reporting of empty reviews appear needed to guide review developers and promote consistency.