Systematic reviews: systematically ignored by research funders?

Abstract text
Background: New research is only warranted if the proposed question is unanswered by existing evidence. Otherwise, needless costs and potential health risks are incurred. Systematic reviews are universally recommended to inform research, clinical practice and policy.

Objectives: This study aims to assess whether major national research funders routinely use systematic reviews to inform funding decisions.

Methods: We searched for major national government health funding agencies in the United Kingdom (UK), Continental Europe, United States (US), Canada, and the Asia-Pacific region (including Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore), and Africa. Applicant instructions, funding rules, grant application forms and peer reviewer instructions for project grants were obtained. We reviewed the general requirements for conducting clinical research, guidelines for research justification, and specific statements relating to systematic reviews.

Results: Twelve funding agencies included. Funding agencies requested information on ethical considerations and approvals (n=8); and trial registration (n=3). Research justification was sought in which applicants were asked to identify the problem, demonstrate feasibility (e.g. preliminary data from pilot studies), scientific value and soundness, and relevance. Statements about existing national and international research were requested by all agencies but instructions for applications to demonstrate the use of existing evidence was broad. Only one funding agency (Medical Research Council, UK) made specific reference to systematic reviews.

Conclusions: Research funding agencies should consistently use systematic reviews to inform funding decisions. However, this is not yet apparent. The development of policies to fund research that is justified by systematic review evidence, and to ensure mechanisms are in place to verify that researchers have searched and used systematic review evidence is are urgently needed. This can ensure ethical and efficient use of scarce funding resources for research.
Tong A1, Craig J1
1 Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Australia
Presenting author and contact person
Presenting author: 
Allison Tong
Contact person Affiliation Country
Allison Tong (Contact this person) University of Sydney Australia
Date and Location
Oral session C13O3
Wednesday 3 October 2012 - 11:40 - 12:00