As part of its strategy to become a leading publisher of evidence syntheses and methods papers in the field of environmental health, the journal Environment International has developed a new set of standards and operating procedures for publication of systematic reviews.*
These are detailed in an editorial “Raising the standard of systematic reviews published in Environment International“. In essence, the journal’s strategy boils down to four steps:
- Appointing a dedicated Associate Editor for Systematic Reviews (we believe this is a first for environmental health journals).*
- Enforcing adherence to the PRISMA checklist for reporting of systematic reviews at point of submission.
- Improving the comprehensiveness and rigour of the peer-review process via formal guidance and training.
There is growing evidence that evidence syntheses published in the environmental health sciences are in a pretty dire state, both in terms of reporting and the validity of the methods used. This should help redress the balance, at least at Environment International.
Going forward, the journal will also be looking at developing policies for submission of SR protocols, as an essential step in reducing risk of bias in conducting and reporting SRs.
Much of this hinges on the work we are doing at Lancaster Environment Centre, in defining a gold standard for conduct of systematic reviews in environmental health research, investigating systemic shortcomings in the design, conduct and reporting of evidence syntheses in chemical risk research, and developing tools for improving the quality of published systematic reviews.
*Disclosure: That would be PW, author of this blog post.