Registering a review on PROSPERO
PROSPERO is an international database of prospectively registered systematic reviews in health and social care. Key features from the review protocol are recorded and maintained as a permanent record in PROSPERO. The aim is to provide a comprehensive listing of systematic reviews registered at inception, to help avoid unplanned duplication. By promoting transparency in the process and enabling comparison of reported review findings with what was planned in the protocol PROSPERO also aims to minimise the risk of bias in systematic review. PROSPERO has been developed and is managed by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) at the University of York and is funded by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
What does registration on PROSPERO involve?
Registration in PROSPERO involves the prospective submission and publication of key information about the design and conduct of a systematic review.
Registration on PROSPERO is free of charge. In return, registrants are accountable for the accuracy and updating of information submitted.
PROSPERO includes details of any ongoing systematic review that has a health related outcome in the broadest sense. Reviews may be of interventions, diagnosis, service delivery, prognostic factors, risk factors, genetic associations, and epidemiological reviews relevant to health and social care, welfare, public health, education, crime, justice, and international development, as long as there is a health related outcome. Systematic review protocols registered on PROSPERO can include studies of any design. Work is underway to facilitate the inclusion of reviews of pre-clinical studies.
Reviews of methodological issues need to contain at least one outcome of direct patient or clinical relevance in order to be included in PROSPERO. The review may also contain a substantial component of methodological review, but this latter component alone is not sufficient for inclusion. For example: a comparison of tools for the diagnosis of a condition may look at how these are reported but as long as an element of assessment of the value of the tools was included and a clinician could use the results to choose the appropriate tool in a given circumstance, it would be included in PROSPERO. Simply looking at the reporting of and/or use of outcomes in research would not be included.
Systematic reviews of reviews will be accepted for registration as long as they meet all the standard PROSPERO eligibility criteria and the registration form includes complete systematic review methodology details.
Ideally reviews should be registered before screening against eligibility criteria commences. However, reviews are currently accepted for registration as long as they have not progressed beyond the completion of data extraction. Scoping reviews and literature reviews are not eligible for inclusion in PROSPERO.
New Cochrane protocols are automatically uploaded. To avoid duplication of records, Cochrane protocols should not be registered separately with PROSPERO.
Submissions must be in English for practical reasons, but search strategies and protocols attached to a record may be in any language.
If you are in any doubt about the eligibility of your review, including the stage of progress please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
Accessing and navigating the registration form
Obtain a username and password by following the ‘Join’ link in the top right hand corner of the PROSPERO website.
Once you have joined, you can ‘Sign in’ and then you will be able to select ‘Register a review’ in the left hand column. This opens a page that encourages you to check that your review will meet the inclusion criteria, if you are sure it does, click on ‘Register a review’.
The ‘Register a review’ option opens a four page electronic registration form which has 22 required fields and 18 optional fields. ‘Required’ fields, marked with a red asterisk, must be completed before the Submit button can be accessed. You may save and exit the form at any time, and return at a later date to add or edit information by signing in and going to ‘My PROSPERO records’.
Each page of the form has a: ‘Save’ button, changes are automatically saved when a field is exited, but the save button can be used at any time; a ‘Validate this page’ button, which will highlight any ‘Required’ fields that still need to be completed; and a ‘Print’ button, which will print a copy of the current page only. To print a copy of the whole form, use the ‘Print review’ button on the left hand side of the screen, next to the ‘Submit’ button.
The fields can be completed by cutting and pasting information from your protocol, or you can use the form to help develop your protocol. The form can be saved as a pdf or word processing document if you want to share with others working on the review before submitting.
Providing access to a protocol is not a substitute for entering data into the required fields. Most registrants complete the form in 60 minutes or less.
Brief guidance about the information required in each field is given in the form and more detailed information, with examples, is given below and can be accessed in the form itself by clicking on the ‘more…’ link next to each field.
When you are ready, the form can be sent to the PROSPERO administrators by clicking on Submit.
What happens after submitting a form
Access to your record is suspended during the administrative process. Receipt of submission is acknowledged in an automated email sent to the named contact.
Application forms are checked against the eligibility criteria for PROSPERO and for clarity of content before being approved and published on the register, returned to you for clarification or rejected. You should receive notification within five working days. If you do not, please contact email@example.com
Once published on the register, the record will again become accessible for editing.
Making changes, amendments and updating a published record
Changes, amendments and updates can be made by signing in, going to My PROSPERO records and opening the form. Once the changes have been made, click the Submit button. You will be asked to give brief details of the changes made. The information entered here will appear in the public record and should inform users of the database of the nature of the changes made (e.g. removed one of the outcome measures; changed the anticipated completion date).
All submitted edits and changes to a PROSPERO record will be recorded, dated and be made available within the record audit trail. The most recent version will appear with previous versions accessible from dated links on the right hand side of the screen, with the revision notes.
What to do after completing a review and after publishing the findings
Records remain permanently on PROSPERO. Once the review is completed this information should be recorded in the record together with the anticipated publication date. The bibliographic reference and electronic links to publications should be added to the record by the authors. In the absence of a publication, details of availability of the review’s unpublished results, or reasons for the termination of the review, should be documented. Reminder emails with detailed instructions on what to do, are sent on the anticipated completion and the anticipated publication dates.
Links to critical abstracts in the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) were added to records as appropriate.
Registering an update of a completed review
If you decide to update a completed review that has a PROSPERO record, you can access this by signing in and going to My PROSPERO records. You can make changes to the protocol and submit it as an update and it will be processed as for a new review. It is important to decide if you are updating a review, or in fact because of changes to the protocol, are doing a new review. The following definitions have been provided to help you decide.
What is an update of a review?
Updating a systematic review is a discrete event during which efforts are made to identify and incorporate new evidence into a previously completed systematic review An ‘update’ may be any modified version of a review that includes the findings of a more recent search than the previously completed version of the review. It can still be considered an update even if the new search reveals no additional studies. Any newly identified studies should be assessed and, if appropriate, incorporated into the updated review. An update might also be an opportunity to conduct new analyses or add additional information to the review.
What constitutes a new review rather than an update?
It can be difficult to decide whether an update to a review is in fact a new review. There is little published guidance on this. PROSPERO adopts a pragmatic approach. If changes to the review questions or methods are so substantial that they require major changes to the original protocol, this should be regarded as a new review rather than an update. Examples that would constitute a new review:
- addition of new treatment comparisons e.g. direct comparison of different drugs, when the old review included only comparisons of drug with placebo;
- substantial changes to the population being studied e.g. adding adults to a review that was previously restricted to children;
- exclusion criteria in the old review become inclusion criteria in the new review;
- introduction of new analysis techniques e.g. a switch from aggregate data metaanalyses to individual participant meta-analyses.
If in doubt, a new record for a new review should be created. This will minimise the complexity of the editing to the original record in PROSPERO and make it easier for users to distinguish between the original review and the later version. Links between the new and original review can be added in the registration form.
Guide to completing the registration fields
The following guidance notes follow the format of the registration form, which has four sections. The guidance includes a description and example of what is required for each of the fields within each section.
We accept information in good faith and rely upon the integrity of researchers to
ensure the validity of all the data presented in PROSPERO records. Action will be
taken if inaccuracies in data, particularly stage of review and anticipated
completion date, are identified at any time.
PROSPERO records need to be fully searchable so the information requested
needs to be in the fields, even if access to a protocol is given in Field 34. The
records are permanent but links are not. Not everyone has internet speeds to
enable them to download attachments; not everyone has access to pay per view
journals where protocols may be published. We therefore do not accept
submissions that refer the reader to the protocol without providing the basic
information in the fields.