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Ensuring Prevention Science Research is Synthesis-Ready for Immediate and Lasting Scientific Impact

Abstract

When seeking to inform and improve prevention efforts and policy, it is important to be able to robustly synthesize all available evidence. But evidence sources are often large and heterogeneous, so understanding what works, for whom, and in what contexts can only be achieved through a systematic and comprehensive synthesis of evidence. Many barriers impede comprehensive evidence synthesis, which leads to uncertainty about the generalizability of intervention effectiveness, including inaccurate titles/abstracts/keywords terminology (hampering literature search efforts), ambiguous reporting of study methods (resulting in inaccurate assessments of study rigor), and poorly reported participant characteristics, outcomes, and key variables (obstructing the calculation of an overall effect or the examination of effect modifiers). To address these issues and improve the reach of primary studies through their inclusion in evidence syntheses, we provide a set of practical guidelines to help prevention scientists prepare synthesis-ready research. We use a recent mindfulness trial as an empirical example to ground the discussion and demonstrate ways to ensure the following: (1) primary studies are discoverable; (2) the types of data needed for synthesis are present; and (3) these data are readily synthesizable. We highlight several tools and practices that can aid authors in these efforts, such as using a data-driven approach for crafting titles, abstracts, and keywords or by creating a repository for each project to host all study-related data files. We also provide step-by-step guidance and software suggestions for standardizing data design and public archiving to facilitate synthesis-ready research.

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source files, locations, and relationships between the files; d provides permanent author information and licensing information

Notes

  1. Although FAIR principles primarily refer to enhancing the ability of machines to find and use data, these recommendations also enhance data reuse by individuals. Where appropriate, we have adapted the FAIR components to more directly apply to human-readability efforts for the purposes of this manuscript.

  2. Comparing the full suite of licenses available is beyond the scope of this article; online resources such as ChooseALicence (https://choosealicense.com/non-software/) and Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/) provide detailed descriptions of the range of licenses available for data sharing.

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Acknowledgements

The paper was first developed during the 2019 Evidence Synthesis Hackathon.

Funding

The Fenner School of Environment & Society (ANU), the University of New South Wales, and the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg funded the Evidence Synthesis Hackathon 2019. EAH has support from NIAAA (K01 AA028536-01). MJP has support from an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE200101618). LAM has support by an NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship (DRF-2018–11-ST2-048).

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Contributions

Project administration (EAH; LAM), roles/writing — original draft (EAH; LAM), visualization (EAH; LAM); data curation (RLA; LAM); resources (LAM); funding acquisition (NRH); investigation (EAH; LAM; RLA), methodology (EAH; LAM); software (EAH; LAM); conceptualization (All authors), writing — review and editing (all authors).

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emily A. Hennessy.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the NIAAA, NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care.

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Hennessy, E.A., Acabchuk, R.L., Arnold, P.A. et al. Ensuring Prevention Science Research is Synthesis-Ready for Immediate and Lasting Scientific Impact. Prev Sci 23, 809–820 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01279-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01279-8

Keywords

  • Evidence synthesis
  • Meta-data
  • Reporting
  • Reproducibility
  • Synthesis-ready research
  • Transparency