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We are writing to express concerns about an article published recently in BJO. (1) While Joksimovic and colleagues claim to have conducted a systematic review, they did not. Rather, they describe a cross-sectional study of randomized trials in ophthalmology with two comparison (or “exposure”) groups: trials published in ophthalmology journals, and trials published in general medical journals. In contrast, a systematic review (also a cross sectional study) has been defined as "… a scientific investigation that focuses on a specific question and uses explicit, prespecified scientific methods to identify, select, assess, and summarize the findings of similar but separate studies." (2)
To minimize mislabeling of systematic reviews, among other purposes, Cochrane Eyes and Vision (CEV) is partnering with individual ophthalmology and optometry journals to appoint a knowledgeable associate editor responsible for editorial functions related to systematic reviews at each journal (http://eyes.cochrane.org/associate-editors-eyes-and-vision-journals). Our research has indicated that many published eye and vision articles billed as “systematic reviews” do not adhere to accepted criteria, and are not reliable. (3)
In addition to adding associate editors for systematic reviews to their team, journal editors can insist that authors adhere to reporting standards, f...
In addition to adding associate editors for systematic reviews to their team, journal editors can insist that authors adhere to reporting standards, for example STROBE for observational studies, CONSORT for randomized trials, and PRISMA for systematic reviews and meta-analyses of intervention studies (see https://www.equator-network.org/reporting-guidelines/ for a full list of reporting standards).
Related to this project, CEV is examining the quality of published systematic review methods and maintains a database of systematic reviews in eyes and vision (http://cmr.cochrane.org/?CRGReportID=11343). We classify systematic reviews as “reliable” based on adherence to pre-specified criteria, (3) and send the “reliable” reviews to the American Academy of Ophthalmology for reference when issuing clinical practice guidelines. (4)
We urge all stakeholders to join our effort to ensure that vision science is recognized as evidence-based.
1. Joksimovic L, Koucheki R, Popovic M, Ahmed Y, Schlenker MB, Ahmed IIK. Risk of bias assessment of randomized controlled trials in high-impact ophthalmology journals and general medical journals: a systematic review. Br J Ophthalmol 2017;0:1–6. doi:10.1136/bjophthalmol-2017-310313
2. Institute of Medicine (IOM). Finding what works in health care: Standards for systematic reviews. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2011
3. Lindsley K, Li T, Ssemanda E, Virgili G, Dickersin K. Interventions for age-related macular degeneration: Are practice guidelines based on systematic reviews? Ophthalmol. 2016;123(4):884-97. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2015.12.004.
4. Mayo-Wilson E, Ng SM, Chuck RS, Li T. The quality of systematic reviews about interventions for refractive error can be improved: a review of systematic reviews. BMC Ophthalmol.2017; 17:164 doi:10.1186/s12886-017-0561-9.