From flickr with CC Queridian_Solutions

Databases try to make overwhelming amounts of information easier to access. Image: (CC)

ESMI's pick for April 2017

This month the honour goes to Simon Briscoe for his commentary “The loss of the NHS EED and DARE databases and the effect on evidence synthesis and evaluation” in Research Synthesis Methods.

We asked Simon to give us some background and context to the paper:

“In January 2015 the National Institute for Health Research announced that funding for the NHS Economic Evaluation Database (NHS EED) and the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) would be discontinued in March 2015. In the two years since then, the loss of these databases has been keenly felt in the information specialist and wider research community. NHS EED and DARE were both excellent resources for scoping searches of economic evaluations and systematic reviews respectively, enabling the searcher to quickly identify relevant studies more efficiently than in larger databases. They also included critical appraisal of studies and indexed some grey literature items not indexed in larger databases.

In July 2015 InterTASC – the community of health technology assessment agencies who support health policy decision making by NICE – asked the InterTASC information specialist sub-group (ISSG) to review the effect that the loss of NHS EED and DARE would have on their work. ISSG produced a report which stated that identifying and appraising economic evaluations and systematic reviews would now require more time and resources, and that this would be particularly significant in scenarios such as scoping, where the aim is to conduct a rapid assessment of the literature.

In addition to reporting to InterTASC, I had the idea that ISSG could write a letter on this issue to a prominent journal. Although the loss of NHS EED and DARE was keenly felt, there did not appear to be anything formally published which expressed this view or the more general point that smaller databases add value to research and yet often have less secure funding than larger databases. Although ISSG voted against my idea (mainly because a long time had elapsed since the discontinuation of funding when we voted in 2016 – admittedly true!) several ISSG members expressed interest. I, Chris Cooper, Julie Glanville (YHEC) and Carol Lefebvre (independent information consultant and co-convener of the Cochrane Information Retrieval Methods Group) worked on a draft independently of ISSG, which Research Synthesis Methods invited us to submit as a commentary. The early view version was published in March this year.

We hope that our commentary will highlight the value of smaller databases and encourage more efforts to protect their funding. We suggest in our commentary that one way to do this would be improved communication links between databases users, funders and producers”.

Congratulations to Simon and colleagues for their work to promote the importance of maintaining funding to protect vital data sources.

Browse the other ESMI's picks