Five Ways Researchers can Leverage Technology in Systematic Reviews

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A systematic review involves collecting and synthesizing literature to use in answering a well-defined research question. The systematic review process has been popular with researchers for decades, and many consider it the gold standard for evidence-based research synthesis.

You can imagine how, over the years, the actual process of doing systematic reviews has changed as technology improves and advances.

For example, as recently as 20 years ago, systematic reviews were done using pen and paper. It was an incredibly arduous and time-consuming process that required a lot of manual work. As time progressed, researchers turned to spreadsheet programs to facilitate reviews, which removed the need for printing documents, manual highlighting, and filing studies away in cabinets. However, spreadsheets are not foolproof, and today’s researcher needs something better and more attuned to their specific needs. Enter: systematic review software.

The introduction and acceptance of systematic review software has created a paradigm shift in the research industry that continues to evolve along with the changing needs of research teams.

With that said, here are five ways researchers can leverage technology in their systematic reviews:

1. Manage projects remotely

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working was already an increasing trend among research teams. In the post-pandemic workscape, remote collaboration will become even more important. The ability to manage projects remotely is essential, especially when you consider the fact that team members are sometimes working in different cities or even time zones. When the team manager can easily run reports and check on the status of the review, it means they can ensure the proper protocols are followed and update stakeholders more regularly.

2. Automate mechanistic tasks

Today’s researcher is dealing with a constant influx of new information. On any given topic, hundreds or even thousands of new articles can be published on a regular basis. This poses a challenge for researchers as they are often dealing with resource constraints to efficiently process this large amount of data.

Automating some of the more mechanistic tasks involved in a systematic review enables researchers to focus on science, not administrative processes. It’s often said that if a task takes less than one minute for a human to complete, it probably can be automated by a computer. By greatly reducing the time spent on mechanistic tasks, researchers can spend more time defining their research question, developing their protocol and study design, and more.

3. Reduce friction between platforms

Consider the software you use daily. Next, think about how disruptive it can be when you are working in one program and then need to switch focus and log into another program for a secondary part of your job. For researchers, this is a huge challenge. Constantly logging into other programs or switching tabs on their browsers adds friction to their work. Interoperability between research platforms is essential because it helps integrate information, creates a seamless process, and also reduces the chance of duplicate work being done, or mistakes made by transferring information from one platform to another.

4. Produce transparent audit trails

Many industries in the regulatory and safety spaces require full transparency in reports. Producing a clear and accurate audit trail is essential in these cases. Creating an audit trail should not be something extra that the researcher needs to think about. For an audit trail to be truly effective, it must be automatic. Date, time and user stamping, and real-time reporting are essential for the industries that require audit trails.

5. Automate review updates

With the constant influx of new information, researchers must always be aware of new material that could impact their work. Systematic reviews are increasingly viewed as “living” reviews that need to be updated on a regular basis. One of the biggest challenges for research teams is finding the time and resources to keep track of new material and consider its relevance to their work.

By using technology to automatically cull new information from published materials, researchers can better maintain their living reviews and updates.

How does technology today measure up?

With a never-ending torrent of new information, tightening regulatory requirements, and the high demand for evidence-based research, it’s more important than ever that researchers have access to tools that will create efficiencies in their workflows. One tool that can help with this is DistillerSR, a cloud-based platform that enables users to collaborate from anywhere in the world. Using artificial intelligence to perform tasks such as ranking references based on likelihood of inclusion, the time it takes to perform systematic reviews can be greatly reduced. Additionally, software integrations, like the connection to CCC’s Document Delivery with RightFind that was added in DistillerSR’s latest update, will help researchers perform all their critical review tasks and quickly get access to documents from one central, cloud-based solution.

Interested in learning more about DistillerSR and RightFind? Request a free demo to see how your systematic review process can become more efficient.

Jennifer Baguss

Author: Jennifer Baguss

Jennifer Baguss brings years of digital content writing and marketing experience to the Evidence Partners team. Her background in journalism makes her a thoughtful and concise writer with a keen interest in taking complicated concepts and making them easily digestible for those who wish to learn. When she's not writing, you can catch her on two wheels, mountain biking, road biking, and even fat biking in the winter!

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