Software to support the systematic review process: the Joanna Briggs Institute System for the Unified Management, Assessment and Review of Information (JBI-SUMARI)

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Systematic reviews (and the recommendations or clinical guidelines arising from systematic reviews) are the pillar on which evidence-based healthcare rests.1 In the last 20 years there has been a proliferation of systematic reviews published, largely due to the promulgation of the importance of reviews by groups such as the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) and Cochrane. However, a systematic review is not a simple project to undertake and, given its complexity, can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete.2 As such, software programs have been developed to facilitate, streamline and support the review process.
The Joanna Briggs Institute, now in its 20th year, was one of the first international organizations to develop and release systematic review software. In 2001, the work of a methodological group (chaired by Professor Alan Pearson) led to the development of the Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument, which was designed to support the conduct of meta-aggregative systematic reviews synthesizing qualitative evidence.3 This online tool was the first component piece of what would later become the JBI System for the Unified Management, Assessment and Review of Information (JBI-SUMARI).4 This software was the first of its kind to support the conduct of multiple review types, as it is capable of supporting reviews of effectiveness, qualitative data, text and opinion, and economic evaluations.
The Institute has grown and developed since its establishment in 1996. This growth has notably included an expansion in the guidance for conducting systematic reviews of diverse types of evidence. Over this time the SUMARI suite has been continually upgraded and improved. In 2014, after four major updates of the original software, it was decided that a complete rebuild of the software was required to allow compatibility with modern technologies and to incorporate increased functionality to accommodate advances in the field of synthesis science. Now, in our 20th year of operation, we are pleased to announce the release of this completely redeveloped version of JBI SUMARI.
The new version of the software, JBI-SUMARI supports all steps in the systematic review process: formulating a review question, developing a protocol, selection of studies, assessing study quality, extracting and synthesizing data, and writing the review report. With ongoing updates, the new software will ultimately support ten different types of reviews: effectiveness, qualitative, costs/economics, prevalence and/or incidence, diagnostic test accuracy, etiology and risk, text and opinion, mixed methods, umbrella and scoping reviews.
When redeveloping SUMARI, the challenge for JBI was to create a completely new system which would allow the user to appraise and synthesize evidence from an even broader spectrum of sources compared to the original program and, once again, create a world first in systematic review software. With the release of the new SUMARI, we believe we have now met that challenge. We encourage all those interested in systematic reviews to trial the new SUMARI to support the conduct of their reviews.
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