Sharing individual participant data: through a systematic reviewer lens

Trials. 2022 Feb 21;23(1):167. doi: 10.1186/s13063-021-05787-4.


An increasing prevalence of data-sharing models, aimed at making individual participant data (IPD) from clinical trials widely available, should facilitate the conduct of systematic reviews and meta-analyses based on IPD. We have assessed these different data-sharing approaches, from the perspective of experienced IPD reviewers, to examine their utility for conducting systematic reviews based on IPD, and to highlight any challenges. We present an overview of the range of different models, including the traditional, single question approach, topic-based repositories, and the newer generic data platforms, and show that there are benefits and drawbacks to each. In particular, not all of the new models allow researchers to fully realise the well-documented advantages of using IPD for meta-analysis, and we offer potential solutions that can help improve both data quantity and utility. However, to achieve the "nirvana" of an ideal clinical data sharing environment, both for IPD meta-analysis and other secondary research purposes, we propose that data providers, data requestors, funders, and platforms need to adopt a more joined-up and standardised approach.

Keywords: Clinical trials; Data sharing; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Analysis
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Research Personnel*
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic