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149888 - What has preclinical systematic review ever done for us.pdf (804.32 kB)

What has preclinical systematic review ever done for us?

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 07:22 authored by Allanna RussellAllanna Russell, Brad SutherlandBrad Sutherland, Lila LandowskiLila Landowski, Macleod, M, David Howells

Systematic review and meta-analysis are a gift to the modern researcher, delivering a crystallised understanding of the existing research data in any given space. This can include whether candidate drugs are likely to work or not and which are better than others, whether our models of disease have predictive value and how this might be improved and also how these all interact with disease pathophysiology.

Grappling with the literature needed for such analyses is becoming increasingly difficult as the number of publications grows. However, narrowing the focus of a review to reduce workload runs the risk of diminishing the generalisability of conclusions drawn from such increasingly specific analyses.

Moreover, at the same time as we gain greater insight into our topic, we also discover more about the flaws that undermine much scientific research. Systematic review and meta-analysis have also shown that the quality of much preclinical research is inadequate. Systematic review has helped reveal the extent of selection bias, performance bias, detection bias, attrition bias and low statistical power, raising questions about the validity of many preclinical research studies. This is perhaps the greatest virtue of systematic review and meta-analysis, the knowledge generated ultimately helps shed light on the limitations of existing research practice, and in doing so, helps bring reform and rigour to research across the sciences.

In this commentary, we explore the lessons that we have identified through the lens of preclinical systematic review and meta-analysis.


Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation


Publication title

BMJ Open Science



Article number









Wicking Dementia Research Education Centre


B M J Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution International (CC BY 4.0) license, ( which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: licenses/by/4.0/.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Efficacy of medications; Treatment of human diseases and conditions; Expanding knowledge in the biomedical and clinical sciences

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