Maintaining relevance in HIV systematic reviews: an evaluation of Cochrane reviews

07 Feb 2019


Research turnover in the HIV field is rapid, and as a result, maintaining high-quality, up-to-date, and relevant systematic reviews is a challenge. One approach is to frequently update published reviews.


We evaluated the methods and relevance of all HIV systematic reviews and protocols published in the Cochrane Library over a 16-year period (2000–2016) to determine the need to update published reviews or complete of reviews in progress.


Of 148 published reviews and protocols, 129 (87%) were identified as not for updating or progression to publication, mostly due to research questions which were either entirely outdated or addressed questions in an outdated manner (N = 89; 60%); this was anticipated for older reviews, but was found also to be the case for recent publications. Some research questions were also inadequately conceptualized, particularly when complex pragmatic trials or behavioral interventions were included.


We suggest that authors clearly characterize interventions and synthesis approaches in their review protocols. In research fields, such as HIV, where questions change frequently, systematic reviews and protocols should be regularly re-evaluated to ensure relevance to current questions. This process of re-evaluation should be incorporated into the methods of living systematic reviews.

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