Very interesting article by Richard Horton [https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)32766-7]. Ian Roberts' research does indeed introduce some disturbing notions about the veracity of systematic reviews. In addition to what is covered in the article about the reliance on small, single-site RCTs, authors of systematic reviews do their best to search all available literature, but it is possible that they miss some. And although they set up rigorous criteria by which to judge studies, we all have inherent biases. Making this process more objective would be beneficial to us all.
This is a great opportunity to introduce machine learning and artificial intelligence into the systematic review process. Why do we publish reviews year after year, only to have to republish after 5-10 years with new evidence? Why don't we just have all available evidence about a specific treatment or methodology online in one place, with accurate information, continually updated by machine learning algorithms scanning the internet each day? That would result in much more reliable findings, and free up humans for other creative work.
HIFA profile: Amelia Abdelrazik is the Portfolio & Impact Manager at Preston-Werner Ventures, a San Francisco-based foundation looking to create scalable impact at the intersection of climate change and social justice. Amelia specializes in sexual reproductive health and rights, focusing on family planning information & access. She is currently based in Cairo, Egypt. She is a member of the HIFA working group on Family Planning and the HIFA wg on Community Health Workers.
apabdelrazik AT gmail.com