Quotation Accuracy of Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols on Acupuncture

Healthcare (Basel). 2021 Dec 29;10(1):55. doi: 10.3390/healthcare10010055.


Currently, published systematic review protocols (SR protocols) have increasingly become a new trend in fields such as acupuncture and are therefore a new source of quotations in these fields. Systematic reviews are considered the pinnacle of the evidence pyramid as they embody comprehensive literature searching. Quotations are key elements to achieve this goal as they can support the assertions of the original authors, but the 'misquotation' exists, too, and they can be misleading to the reader. The aim of this study was to examine the quotation accuracy of SR protocols in a meta-analysis on acupuncture research. We searched SCOPUS through 31 December, 2020, and each protocol and its citations were analyzed and classified as correct or incorrect. We used descriptive statistics to report the quotation errors and characteristics of the included protocols. The results showed 248 SR protocols, where 124 protocols received quotations and 38 quotations (31.4%) were erroneous. Only 11 (4.4%) of the published SRs and SR protocols had been published previously. Furthermore, the scientific journal in which the most SR protocols were published was Medicine (193; 77.8%), followed by BMJ Open (39; 15.7%). Authors from China (86.5%) were the most productive in publishing SRs and SR protocols. Finally, we concluded that the number of SR protocols and meta-analyses published in scientific journals and indexed by databases exceeds the publication capacity of the SRs associated with them, generating scientific literature that does not make any novel contribution to knowledge.

Keywords: acupuncture; systematic review protocols; systematic reviews.