The publication of the original PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis) statement in 2009 ushered in a paradigm shift in the importance of transparent reporting in systematic reviews. It’s endorsed by several hundred journals and editorial organizations that publish systematic reviews (SRs) across a wide spectrum of research topics and it’s widely accepted as one of the benchmarks in systematic review reporting.
Since PRISMA’s original publication, the research community has seen numerous advances and evolution in processes and methodologies, not to mention putting a greater emphasis on sharing data, the need for faster, more transparent evidence, and an uptake in the use of automation tools to help expedite the SR process.
With all of these factors, it was time for PRISMA to get an update. That update has just been completed by a team of 26 contributors from eight countries. We spoke with Matt Page, lead author on the PRISMA 2020 Statement to learn more about the impetus for the update and some of the key changes relevant to review teams.
How the Current State of Research Influenced the PRISMA 2020 Statement?
While the original PRISMA statement made great strides to improve the transparency of reporting in systematic reviews, research advances and current data trends suggested that several modifications to the statement could better serve the community and better reflect the current state of scientific research.
“We needed the original guidelines because of poor reporting observed across many sections of published reviews,” said Page. As the needs of researchers evolved, it became more evident that PRISMA would also need to evolve to meet them.
The PRISMA 2020 developers assessed 60 documents providing reporting guidance for systematic reviews and surveyed over 100 methodologists and journal editors to discern what exactly needed to be updated in the PRISMA statement.
The original PRISMA statement was a reflection of the current state of systematic review research. Now, 11 years later, the landscape has changed drastically. For example, there are new processes for synthesizing evidence, assessing risk of bias, registering reviews, and more. Today’s researcher also has access to new technology that either didn’t exist or was in its infancy in 2009.
In addition to meeting the needs of the ever-evolving research landscape, the PRISMA 2020 developers used this opportunity to improve the structure of the PRISMA checklist and flow diagram. For example, where the original PRISMA statement included “double-barrelled” or “multi-pronged” questions, in the 2020 update, many of these items are broken down into individual elements, with the goal of making the checklist easier for reviewers to confirm if certain information is reported, and where it can be found.
How Will the PRISMA 2020 Statement Impact Researchers?
The PRISMA 2020 statement is comprehensive, including several specific changes that frequent users of the original guideline should be aware of. Some of these changes include recommendations to:
- Report on methods and results of an assessment of the certainty in the body of evidence for an outcome.
- Declare conflicts of interest of review authors to promote transparent disclosure.
- Specify whether data, analytic code or other materials are made publicly available and are easily accessible.
- Provide full search strategies for all databases searched.
- Cite studies that might appear to meet the inclusion criteria, but which were excluded.
Says Page, “I would encourage people who are working on a review now or preparing to undertake a new review to familiarize themselves with PRISMA 2020 as soon as possible. Doing so should help them understand what types of information about their process they should be collecting now, so that they are ready to prepare a transparent account of their review at the write-up stage”
2021 and Beyond
The PRISMA 2020 statement is an exciting milestone in the evolution of systematic reviews and transparency. Progress, growth, and evolution in the research community means better, faster evidence for everyone. According to Page, the PRISMA 2020 statement is designed to be somewhat agile. He doesn’t foresee the update becoming obsolete or out-of-date soon, requiring another massive update. Instead, he predicts smaller updates in the future as the research landscape continues to evolve.
“There are a lot of people working in the systematic review space and bringing new ideas to it, which may result in new reporting guidance being necessary to add,” said Page. He also adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a rapid uptake in systematic reviews. The need for fast, accurate evidence has also resulted in more researchers turning to automation in their reviews, something that PRISMA 2020 takes into consideration.
While the research process continues to evolve, guidelines like PRISMA will continue to enable more transparent reporting, resulting in better quality reviews, enhanced accuracy, and accessible evidence for all.
Learn more about PRISMA