Systematic reviews play a crucial role in this era of Evidence Based Medicine and clinical guidelines. Systematic reviews use a systematic and transparent approach to identify all relevant articles, appraise the risk of bias, examine sources of variation, and, if appropriate, meta-analyse the results of the primary studies. This course will offer a mix of lectures and practicals that will help the student to perform all of these steps in practice. In addition, specific challenges to systematic reviews and new developments will be highlighted.
In this course we expect the student to have a basic understanding of the principles of clinical epidemiology, in a particular about the design, conduct & analysis of a therapeutic randomized controlled trial. This includes the role of randomisation, the various types of blinding and commonly used effect measures (e.g. odds ratio, relative risk, risk difference, hazard ratio).
By the end of the course, you should be able to:
- Explain the rationale for performing a systematic review
- List the key steps of a systematic review
- Formulate a proper review question addressing a therapeutic dilemma
- Understand the design of a comprehensive and efficient search strategy to identify relevant RCT’s in electronic bibliographic databases
- Explain the main types of bias in a therapeutic study
- Assess primary studies (RCT) for their risk of bias and report these findings
- Explain the difference between fixed and random effects approach and their assumptions
- Perform & interpret the findings of a meta-analysis (fixed & random approach)
- Interpret the different measures of heterogeneity
- Interpret the results of a meta-regression model
- List and explain the different types of reporting bias
- Critically appraise systematic reviews
Rob J.P.M. Scholten is senior researcher at the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care. Since 2001, he is the director of The Dutch Cochrane Centre which is hosted by the Julius Center. Rob’s research focuses on three main areas: Developing and refining methods for systematic reviews and meta-analysis; selective publication and selective outcome reporting; and methods to improve the interpretation and presentation of systematic review results.
Pauline Heus PhD
After obtaining a master’s degree in Evidence Based Practice at the University of Amsterdam in 2010, Pauline Heus joined the staff of Cochrane Netherlands (hosted by the Julius Center since 2014), where she contributes to systematic reviews and evidence based syntheses.