Usage of automation tools in systematic reviews

A. J. van Altena, R. Spijker, S. D. Olabarriaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Systematic reviews are a cornerstone of today's evidence-informed decision making. With the rapid expansion of questions to be addressed and scientific information produced, there is a growing workload on reviewers, making the current practice unsustainable without the aid of automation tools. While many automation tools have been developed and are available, uptake seems to be lagging. For this reason, we set out to investigate the current level of uptake and what the potential barriers and facilitators are for the adoption of automation tools in systematic reviews. We deployed surveys among systematic reviewers that gathered information on tool uptake, demographics, systematic review characteristics, and barriers and facilitators for uptake. Systematic reviewers from multiple domains were targeted during recruitment; however, responders were predominantly from the biomedical sciences. We found that automation tools are currently not widely used among the participants. When tools are used, participants mostly learn about them from their environment, for example, through colleagues, peers, or organization. Tools are often chosen on the basis of user experience, either by own experience or from colleagues or peers. Lastly, licensing, steep learning curve, lack of support, and mismatch to workflow are often reported by participants as relevant barriers. While conclusions can only be drawn for the biomedical field, our work provides evidence and confirms the conclusions and recommendations of previous work, which was based on expert opinions. Furthermore, our study highlights the importance that organizations and best practices in a field can have for the uptake of automation tools for systematic reviews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-82
Number of pages11
JournalResearch synthesis methods
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

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