Researchers in all facets of science are generating a massive volume of data from many different areas of inquiry. These efforts are often loosely related by only one or two factors in the methodologies or subject matter they address. Also, this work is carried forward over long periods of time and may be out of phase with the overall understanding of specific subject matter areas. Consequently, the possibility that effective solutions to problems may already exist, yet lie undiscovered, is a troubling reality.
The role of publishers, such as Bentham Science, as a clearinghouse for identifying research work worthy of publication, is pivotal in this area. Individual scientists and teams like Bentham Science professionals represent key contributors to the information economy. It seems reasonable then that enlisting their input to an effort aimed at sifting data for solutions would be helpful. This is a key objective of the evidence-based research process. Crafting appropriate tools with which to work on such a problem comprise two approaches known as systematic reviews and meta-analysis.
If the research process is viewed as a funnel-shaped mechanism, systematic reviews are the spout from which subject matter specific information flows. This exercise is undertaken periodically, or as needed, to distill the latest, and presumably, highest quality research results available on a given question or problem. Generally, a panel of experts will be selected to review the information and produce a report summarizing the current state of knowledge pertinent to a specific question.
A more specific and technical approach to research data, a meta-analysis employs statistical methods to combine findings from individual research efforts. This exercise seeks to bolster confidence in conclusions by including more data from various sources. Results from meta-analysis normally feed into a systematic review to enhance its effectiveness.
Compiling, categorizing and analyzing research results to uncover potentially helpful discoveries is an exciting element in research activities. Advances in automated techniques that employ artificial intelligence may soon shed new light in this area. A vibrant and growing body of knowledge is evidence of progress and a basis for a better future.