Implementation of Systematic Reviews in EFSA Scientific Outputs Workflow

O'Connor, Annette
O'Connor, Annette
Lövei, Gabor
Eales, J.
Frampton, Geoff
Glanville, J.
Pullin, Andrew
Sargeant, Jan
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Committee Member
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Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

Systematic reviews (SR) are an evidence synthesis approach that provides robust and transparent answers to clearly formulated questions. Originally developed for use in clinical practice, SRs have wider applicability, including food and feed safety risk assessment. EFSA has implemented the use of SRs, and this document contributes to the further development of this in-house capacity. Since the publication of the document “Application of Systematic Review Methodology to Food and Feed Safety Assessments to Support Decision Making”, which mainly focuses on interventions and exposures (PECO/PICO), little has changed in this arena. Fast increasing fields of application include chemical and environmental risk assessment, and analysing environmental management interventions. Considering time constraints at EFSA, the use of SRs should be pursued thoughtfully. Important are the use of explicit systematic methods aimed at minimising bias and maximising transparency in order to produce the most reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. Participants of the training courses indicated SRs should be a priority for controversial topics (which might be subject to greater scrutiny by external parties, including the public, and thereby would benefit from maximum transparency) or topics for which there was disagreement amongst experts. Some areas addressed by EFSA have considerable potential impact, for example related to public health or animal trade, and these topics could be prioritised for SR. Under severe time constraints, a full SR may not be possible, but a rapid review can be considered. However rapid reviews are not a substitute for systematic reviews. Adoption of rapid reviews exchanges one set of concerns (time and resources contracts) for another (lack of robustness and comprehensiveness). In the view of the Consortium, the continuation of training opportunities is important. Appropriate commissioning of SR expertise is an important step in establishing the role of the methodology in EFSA risk assessments.


This report is from EFSA Supporting Publications (2012): EN-367. Available online: Posted by permission.