Systematic comprehensive meta-review: what does the evidence say?
Objectives: Policy makers and researchers who claim to base decisions on evidence are known to take a selective view of evidence, often “cherry-picking” evidence that supports their pre-established conclusions and supporting research that is likely to do so. Moreover, critiques of research are replete with examples of important findings remaining unpublished or hidden, resulting in considerable biases in systematic reviews. This study set out to identify the principle conclusion of all empirical research ever carried out, as the only sure way of avoiding these biases.
Methods: Criteria for inclusion: any piece of research carried out, ever. Studies were identified through academic journals, conference abstracts, and other academic publications, and hand-searches in academic and non-academic libraries; in addition, unpublished literature was obtained through direct contact with all researchers who were asked to share both published and unpublished, complete and incomplete research. Mostly Wikipedia though. While the approach was thorough, it is possible that some half-finished reports in files saved on some researchers’ Windows Desktops might not have been submitted for review. Duplicates were not removed, just in case. Study authors, titles and abstracts were pasted or typed into a single electronic document using Word 2000 (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA). Studies were then reviewed using every analytic and statistical method available to assess whether any common conclusion could be drawn.
Results: A total of 736,488,890 studies have been conducted, ever. The overarching conclusion of all of the research done, ever, is that while it has provided important insights, there are limitations, and therefore more research is needed.
Conclusions: The authors conclude from this first of its kind review that, without exception, the evidence suggests that more research is needed. The comprehensive nature of this review means that this finding is final and conclusive. Consequently, and somewhat ironically given the study’s own conclusion, this review is the first example ever of a piece of research to produce results that do not require confirmation through additional research.