gms | German Medical Science

EbM & Individualisierte Medizin
12. Jahrestagung des Deutschen Netzwerks Evidenzbasierte Medizin

Deutsches Netzwerk Evidenzbasierte Medizin e. V.

24.03. - 26.03.2011, Berlin

Are systematic reviews original research? Survey of editors of core clinical journals

Meeting Abstract

  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Florian Herrle - University Medical Centre Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Deutschland
  • author Jörg Meerpohl - University Medical Centre Freiburg, German Cochrane Centre, Freiburg, Deutschland
  • author Reinders Stefan - School of Public Health, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Deutschland
  • author Gerd Antes - University Medical Centre Freiburg, German Cochrane Centre, Freiburg, Deutschland
  • author von Elm Erik - Swiss Paraplegic Research, Nottwil, Schweiz

EbM & Individualisierte Medizin. 12. Jahrestagung des Deutschen Netzwerks Evidenzbasierte Medizin. Berlin, 24.-26.03.2011. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2011. Doc11ebm70

doi: 10.3205/11ebm70, urn:nbn:de:0183-11ebm700

Published: March 23, 2011

© 2011 Herrle et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background: Research synthesis has growing impact in evidence-based medicine and knowledge translation. Systematic reviews (SR) represent a cornerstone of research synthesis and require scientific rigor. Nevertheless, SR are often criticized as “secondary research” and not granted the status of original research.

Journal editors are gatekeepers in the publication process. Their appraisal of a study design may reflect but also influence the value it receives in the scientific community.

Material/methods: We identified all 118 journals labeled as “core clinical journals” in Pubmed’s Journal Database in April 2009. The journals’ editors were surveyed by email starting in April 2009 followed by a reminder email in August 2009. The following three questions were asked:

Do you consider a systematic review an original research project?
Do you publish systematic reviews in your journal?
For which section would you consider a manuscript reporting on a systematic review?

Results: Editors of 65 journals (55%) responded to our survey. Response rate was higher for editors from general medical journals than editors from specialty journals. (Table 1 [Tab. 1]).

Most respondents considered SR original research (71%) and almost all journals (93%) publish SR. Some editors regarded use of Cochrane methodology or a meta-analysis as quality criteria; for some respondents these criteria were premises for consideration of SR as original research. Journals place SR in various sections such as “Original research”, “Review”or “Special article" (Table 2 [Tab. 2]).

Conclusion/implication: The majority of core clinical journal editors regarded SR as original research. The editor’s individual comments suggested that attitudes towards SR vary considerably (Table 3 [Tab. 3]).

A debate about whether SR are “original research” is warranted.

Appropriate academic recognition of high-quality SR could be an incentive for funding agencies to create specific funding schemes and for researchers to initiate such review projects.