Lancet: The gravy train of systematic reviews (3) Artificial intelligence/machine learning

20 November, 2019

A very intersting suggestion from Amelia Abdelrazik, to use artificial intelligence/machine learning to create self-updating systematic reviews. Considering the kind of human inpout such reviews currently require - reading, and understanding everything that is being published in the topic under review, selecting, a few key papers and rejecting many duplicate/rehashed or faulty papers (including plagiarism/self-plagiarism) - I doubt if dumb software could ever manage this alone. Human input to this process will continue to be needed in almost any scenario of AI development. Still, AI-assisted systematic reviewing could certainly cut corners and shorten the cycles.

An anecdote: a fiend of mine was the managing editor of a major (univeersally known) scientific journal, a journal which covers every scientific subject. This journal had a sophisticated AI-driven process of selecting peer reviewers to approach for specific subjects. One day a paper was proposed in the field in which my friend specialized - an to his amazement the choice of reviewers proposed by the system didn't include any of the names he would have picked. He began to wonder if the system was producing accurate results - and more than that, if they were the best results. The algorithms were too complex to check - it would have taken forever - so they scrapped the system and went back to manual.



Chris Zielinski

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HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Global Health, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme at the University of Winchester. Formerly an NGO, Phi supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. Chris also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. He was the founder of the ExtraMED project (Third World biomedical journals on CD-ROM), and managed the Gates Foundation-supported Health Information Resource Centres project. He served on WHO’s Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. Chris has been a director of the World Association of Medical Editors, UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). UK-based, he is also building houses in Zambia. chris AT

His publications are at and and his blogs are and