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Table 1 Key characteristics of the living systematic review pilot teams, processes and publication models

From: Feasibility and acceptability of living systematic reviews: results from a mixed-methods evaluation

Review topicaAnti-coagulation in people with cancer (3 related LSRs)Fruit and vegetable consumption in childrenDelayed antibiotics for respiratory infectionsZika virus and adverse neurological outcomesAdherence to guidelines in traumatic brain injuryEpidemiology of traumatic brain injury
No. of authors maintaining LSRb422424
Search or other supportInformation specialist to develop and run searches; ongoing LSR methods expert supportLibrarian to develop searches onlyInformation specialist to develop and review searches only; ongoing LSR methods expert support
Direct funding for personnelYes (Part-time RA for authors)Yes (Part-time RA for authors, stipend for editorial group)NoYes (Three funded positions [various roles] for authors)Yes (Authors funded as part of broader work program, plus specific part-time LSR methods expert)
Journal/Editorial Group; PublisherCochrane Gynaecological, Neuro-Oncology and Orphan Cancers; CochraneCochrane Heart; CochraneCochrane Acute Respiratory Infections; CochraneF1000Research; F1000Journal of Neurotrauma; Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Search frequencyMonthlycDaily or monthlydThree-monthlye
Technological enablersfMachine classifier and crowd-sourcing to identify RCTsgNilAutomation and machine learning algorithms to identify RCTs, with some data output automationhNil
Communicating review status to readerMonthly statement to reader about review status (i.e. search date, new studies found, update plans) published in the ‘What’s New’ section of the review, via an article amendmentDaily updates (search date, new studies found) via study websitei3–6 monthly updates, describing results of new evidence found, available as supplementary material in online version of article
Editorial and peer review of status updatesNo formal editorial review; no peer reviewNo formal editorial review; no peer reviewEditorial review and copy-editing; no peer review
Process for integration of new evidence (citation/DOI status)Full re-publication of review, with new citation and DOIjNew version of the review published, with linked citation and DOI (intended)kFull re-publication of review, or short commentary article, with a new citation and DOI (intended)k
Editorial and peer review of new versions/publicationsStandard editorial and peer review processes apply (may qualify for ‘selective’ peer review per Cochrane policy); same peer reviewers approachedStandard editorial and peer review processes apply; same peer reviewers approached (intended)kNot confirmed (likely standard editorial and peer review processes apply) (intended)k
Trigger for integration of new evidenceWhen new evidence identified that changes review conclusions (intended)kEvery 4 months (irrespective of impact of new evidence)When new evidence identified (irrespective of its impact) (intended)kEvery 6 months (irrespective of impact of new evidence) (intended)kWhen new evidence identified that changes review conclusions, but no more frequently than yearly (intended)k
  1. DOI digital object identifier, LSR living systematic review, RA research assistant, RCT randomised controlled trial
  2. aEach team produced one LSR unless otherwise stated
  3. bMeaning authors who contributed to the ongoing review tasks associated with maintaining the LSR (this may or may not have included the entire author team who contributed to the ‘baseline’ review)
  4. cElectronic databases ± clinical trials registries all searched monthly, with remaining non-database sources, such as journal hand searching, websites and conference proceedings searched every 6 months
  5. dDaily searches for PubMed, Embase and LILACS databases, with monthly searches for all other sources
  6. eAll sources (including non-database sources) searched at this frequency
  7. f‘Technological enablers’ refers to both computer technology and more efficient models of human contribution to increase the efficiency and sustainability of the systematic review enterprise (adapted from Thomas 2017 J Clin Epi 91:31-37)
  8. gCochrane Crowd is a citizen science platform used to screen titles and abstracts to identify relevant citations (RCT’s) and exclude irrelevant citations. Machine classifiers exclude irrelevant citations automatically by using algorithms to predict how likely a new citation is to be describing a RCT
  9. hSearches in some databases (PubMed, Embase and LILACS) are automated. De-duplication of citations is automated. Machine learning algorithm suggests a decision for inclusion based on title and abstract. All existing predefined tables and figures can be updated by running a script that re-renders these tables and figures
  10. iStudy website is the Zika Open Access Project, available at:
  11. jThis process was implemented in one Cochrane Review only (Fruit and vegetable consumption in children). It was the intended process to be used in the remaining Cochrane Reviews but they did not reach the trigger for integration of new evidence, so their reviews were not re-published during the pilot period
  12. k’Intended’ refers to the fact that this was the agreed process and/or trigger for integrating new evidence but that it was not undertaken during the pilot period