Something which came to my attention the other day (though it was published in February) is that EFSA has published a call for tender for “Scientific services to support EFSA systematic reviews in the field of plant health risk assessment”.
For anyone not intimately familiar with the processes by which the European agencies procure services, the interesting document is the Tender Specifications (for the whole lot, the web page is here).
This paragraph from the Tender gives a good sense of where EFSA is coming from: “To develop in-house capacity to perform Systematic Reviews, Systematic Reviews trainings for EFSA staff and experts have been organised and where possible the Authority is using systematic review methodology (as defined in EFSA, 2010) to support food and feed safety risk assessments. As systematic review is resource intensive, scientific services are required to support EFSA to perform Systematic Reviews or parts of it (such as e.g. extensive literature searches). Such services imply the application of standardised and internationally recognised methods for retrieving, appraising and synthesising scientific evidence as well as for appropriately reporting and documenting the processes, to enhance transparency and allow reproducibility of all results.”
It will be very interesting to see what the respondents to the tender will propose as protocols for the systematic review topics EFSA has in mind, as there is much which is open to interpretation and critique.
For example, deliverable #5 “A proposal for assessing the methodological quality of the included studies” is, I suspect, a very challenging thing to produce, given that the only standard currently widely-accepted is the problematic and unreliable set of Klimisch criteria for (ironically) scoring study reliability.