Objectives Search is the first stage in evidence synthesis, and the use of a valid and reproducible search strategy forms the foundation of the systematic review process. However, the key steps of developing, validating, visualising, saving, sharing, peer-reviewing, and translating search strategies (to the syntax of other interfaces) are often fragmented across a variety of unconnected, non-interoperable platforms. We present an open-access platform that offers a unified approach to structured searching which promotes replicable methods and reproducible results.
Method 2dSearch is a radical alternative to conventional line-by-line query builders. Instead of entering Boolean strings into one-dimensional search boxes, queries are formulated by manipulating objects on a two-dimensional canvas. Query suggestions are provided via an NLP services API, and support is offered for optimising and translating search strategies for different databases. Moreover, strategies can be saved, shared and reviewed as executable artefacts. This approach eliminates many sources of error, makes the query semantics more transparent, and offers an open-access platform for sharing reproducible search templates and best practices.
Results 2dSearch currently supports over 300 registered users (and many more unregistered) in providing an open-access, integrated development environment specifically optimised for search strategy development. It includes:
A visual framework which eliminates many errors associated with traditional command–line query formulation tools;
Search results that update in real–time, and individual blocks with hit counts that can be enabled/disabled on demand;
Queries that are analysed and validated, with common errors (e.g. duplication, orphaned lines, redundant bracketing) detected and corrections offered;
Platform–agnostic representation and support for multiple databases which mitigates inefficient ‘translation’ of search strategies across databases;
Interactive query suggestions that avoid the problems of phrase boundary detection and ‘query drift’ that undermine traditional query expansion techniques;
Outputs that may be shared as executable artefacts or exported as traditional Boolean strings.
Conclusions Complying with seven recommended strategies to enhance the reproducibility in scientific research, this platform supports pre-registration of searches, open search strategies (methods), open search results (data), collaboration in review team in search step, automation of validation and translation of search syntax, compatibility with reporting guidelines, and finally pre- and post-publication peer-review.
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