How a Research Lead Uses scite to Efficiently Conduct Systematic Literature Reviews and Network Meta-Analyses

A research lead at a private company needed to conduct systematic literature reviews and network meta-analyses in rapidly changing disease areas. They also found themselves shifting between multiple disease areas based on new business requirements. Ramping up quickly and staying up to date on all these areas of research proved to be difficult, until they discovered scite.

At a high level, they wanted to perform the following tasks:

Identifying experts in a particular disease area
Discovering and staying up to date on the latest relevant and reliable research
Evaluating the relevance and quality of research, especially in an area that they might have been unfamiliar with
Efficiently checking the quality of references they use in their own manuscripts by seeing if any have editorial notices (retractions, corrections, etc.) and how they were generally cited in other publications

Let’s go through how they managed each of these with and without scite.

Identifying experts in a particular disease areas

As part of their process, they have an information collection phase where they speak to clinical and scientific experts to help craft research questions. In many cases, it is often their first time in a disease area, so they are typically unsure of the established experts in the field.

Traditionally they approach the problem by finding review papers that cover a topic of interest, scroll down to the bibliography, and scan for names that seem to occur most frequently. This approach has many downsides -- in part, it is unreliable, generally inefficient, and treats the author of the review article as a gatekeeper for relevant studies in the field.

With scite, they were able to leverage the Advanced Search feature combined with author aggregation filters to quickly see which researchers were most published in disease areas (Figure 1). They reached out to several of these authors who agreed to speak to them and provide relevant info.

For a more in-depth look at how this works, you can read our tutorial here.

Figure 1. Searching for disease areas and using the aggregation filters can help you quickly identify the most published authors in an area. Using additional filters to exclude retracted or heavily contrasted publications, preprints, and so on can be used to quickly find reliable experts in new areas.

Discovering and staying up to date on the latest relevant and reliable research

In some projects, there is a constant stream of new scientific publications that their team needs to be aware of.

Normally they would accomplish this through alerts for new publications on various search engines and journals, be notified by email, and then find and read each one. Most importantly, they would have to manually track where each new publication was in the context of other articles by checking who they cited, and how they cited them.

Luckily, scite makes this easy in two ways:

Notifications for new Smart Citations. They configure email alerts on key papers that they anticipate being cited (Figure 2). These alerts are particularly useful for when there are post-hoc analyses being run on original clinical trials. Whenever new citations are made to these papers, scite sends them an email that provides metadata about the citing papers with easy access to the direct citation contexts in the report pages to see how the original article was cited. Not only do the citations come to them, it also saves them the trouble of chasing citations manually.
Saving search queries focused on relevant disease areas and returning to them with the ability to order by most recent to quickly see which papers are new with easy access to Smart Citation data from scite about each of those papers.

Figure 2. You can click “Set alert” on key papers or on groups of papers through saved searches and dashboards to be notified whenever new citations are made to them.

Evaluating quality of scientific publication based on citation statements

When evaluating the quality and relevance of a publication, it is helpful for them to see the corresponding citation statements.

For example, when evaluating a Phase 3 randomized controlled trial (RCT), it was inefficient to have to manually read 50+ papers to get a good feel for a topic. They found themselves constantly chasing footnotes to find relevant tidbits of information.

With scite, they could load the scite Report Page for the relevant paper and load the citation statements. They could, for example, see another paper’s discussion section referencing this RCT with a highlight on the drug’s serious adverse events, quickly cluing them into taking a deeper look into an issue, and making it easier to separate the signal from the noise (Figure 3).

Figure 3. An example showing how the main paper “A trial of Lopinavir-Ritonavir…” was referenced in the discussion section of “Clinical features of patients with coronavirus…”. The citing paper by Sun et al. describes adverse events that Cao et al. observed in the experimental group of their study.

As another example -- sometimes the original paper is not clear on what methodology it used (cohort study, retrospective, etc). The scite report pages allow them to see how other researchers refer to the study in the citation statements to get a better sense of what the study was and what it looked at.

Sometimes these citation statements provide additional limitations of the original study than what the authors in the original paper self-disclose in the discussion section, helping build a more accurate understanding of the paper and its findings.

Evaluating the quality of references they use in their manuscripts

Beyond literature reviews, their team also drafts copies of reports they publish and need to see if references they or their collaborators use are sound.

For example, did any of them receive any editorial notices like corrections or retractions? Have there been new findings that suggest the references used have irreproducible findings? Since citations are constantly being made, performing this analysis is not a one time task, but something that needs to be checked at various stages of the writing process. And even if it were just a one time task, depending on the number of references used, it can be incredibly time consuming to do that for each reference being used.

With scite, they were able to leverage the Reference Check feature by uploading drafts to see if they made any citations to articles with findings that were challenged or have other potential issues (Figure 4).

Figure 4. An example Reference Check report for a manuscript. You can immediately identify references that were retracted, or had some sort of editorial notice, and more, to ensure you cite reliable research.

Since these drafts usually include 100+ references, the Reference Check feature saves considerable time by helping them avoid having to check each one manually. Most importantly, they can upload their draft at different points as the manuscript is being written so they can easily, continuously check if the references they use are reliable.

To learn more about what scite can do for you, or to get a license for your organization, please get in touch at
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