Appraisal of: Farrah K, Raab D. Errata for trial publications are not uncommon, are frequently not trivial, and can be challenging to access: a retrospective review. J Med Libr Assoc 2019; 107(2):187-193.

Reviewer(s): 
Short description: 

This paper conducted a retrospective review across forty systematic reviews published by CADTH in 2015, searching for errata associated with these reviews via PubMed, biomedical databases and journal publishers. The authors had three objectives: to estimate frequency of errata, evaluate impact of errata on the reviews, and explore how easily errata can be found through standard systematic review search methods.

The study found searching for errata was not straightforward as no single database provided all errata, the significance of time lag between publication of an original article and subsequent errata (overall median 237 days but a range of 15 to 1036 days), and how errata were indexed and linked to original articles. The authors rated errata identified as major, minor or trivial in terms of impact on study outcomes and found 16% of errors important enough to potentially affect study conclusions, overall half of all errors could impact on interpretation of study data.

The authors recommend checking appropriate settings in bibliographic software to make sure errata can easily be identified, and when updating systematic reviews searchers should consult the Cochrane handbook for current best practice to identify errata.

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

This paper was based on a small sample of errata and looked only at systematic reviews of single drugs.

The authors did not look at the impact of these errata on the conclusions of the systematic reviews.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
No specific sub-analysis of the issues or when these studies were originally published was undertaken. Not clear what actions were taken (or how and when they should subsequently be undertaken or recorded) to rectify errata in currently published systematic reviews.
Study Type: 
Review