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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Differences in Meta-Analyses’ Conclusions Depend on Methods

Meta-analysis — a research method that aggregates multiple studies on a given topic — is a powerful tool in public health. But the way such analyses are conducted can influence their conclusions, a team of Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers has found.

In an article published in PLOS ONE, researchers led by Dr. Christopher Gill, associate professor of global health at BUSPH, found that meta-analyses conducted via the Cochrane Collaboration, which follow a standardized set of methods, produced different results than non-Cochrane meta-analyses on the same topics. In addition, the overlap among studies used in the two kinds of reviews was “surprisingly low,” raising questions about whether the two methods had different criteria for inclusion.

“Our results indicate a substantial divide between the Cochrane and non-Cochrane literature,” Dr. Gill said. “While our analysis covers a very small fraction of the vast body of work that comprises the meta-analytic literature, readers should be aware that the two types of meta-analyses are not synonymous — and that in some cases, the discrepancies could lead to fundamentally different conclusions about whether a given intervention is effective or not.”

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