There has been increasing interest in pragmatic trials methodology. As a result, tools such as the Pragmatic-Explanatory Continuum Indicator Summary-2 (PRECIS-2) are being used prospectively to help researchers design randomised controlled trials (RCTs) within the pragmatic-explanatory continuum. There may be value in applying the PRECIS-2 tool retrospectively in a systematic review setting as it could provide important information about how to pool data based on the degree of pragmatism.
To investigate the role of pragmatism as a source of heterogeneity in systematic reviews by (1) identifying systematic reviews with meta-analyses of RCTs that have moderate to high heterogeneity, (2) applying PRECIS-2 to RCTs of systematic reviews, (3) evaluating the inter-rater reliability of PRECIS-2, (4) determining how much of this heterogeneity may be explained by pragmatism.
A cross-sectional methodological review will be conducted on systematic reviews of RCTs published in the Cochrane Library from 1 January 2014 to 1 January 2017. Included systematic reviews will have a minimum of 10 RCTs in the meta-analysis of the primary outcome and moderate to substantial heterogeneity (I2≥50%). Of the eligible systematic reviews, a random selection of 10 will be included for quantitative evaluation. In each systematic review, RCTs will be scored using the PRECIS-2 tool, in duplicate. Agreement between raters will be measured using the intraclass correlation coefficient. Subgroup analyses and meta-regression will be used to evaluate how much variability in the primary outcome may be due to pragmatism.
This review will be among the first to evaluate the PRECIS-2 tool in a systematic review setting. Results from this research will provide inter-rater reliability information about PRECIS-2 and may be used to provide methodological guidance when dealing with pragmatism in systematic reviews and subgroup considerations. On completion, this review will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.