The authors searched for systematic reviews with meta-analysis of aggregate data on the effects of a health, social, behavioural or educational intervention that were indexed in PubMed, Education Collection via ProQuest, Scopus via Elsevier, and Social Sciences Citation Index and Science Citation Index Expanded via Web of Science during a four-week period (between November 2nd and December 2nd, 2020). Records were randomly sorted and screened independently by two authors until the target sample of 300 systematic reviews was reached. Two authors independently recorded whether a data or code availability statement (or both) appeared in each review and coded the content of the statements using an inductive approach.

Results

Of the 300 included systematic reviews with meta-analysis, 86 (29%) had a data availability statement and seven (2%) had both a data and code availability statement. In 12/93 (13%) data availability statements, authors stated that data files were available for download from the journal website or a data repository, which we verified as being true. While 39/93 (42%) authors stated data were available upon request, 37/93 (40%) implied that sharing of data files was not necessary or applicable to them, most often because “all data appear in the article” or “no datasets were generated or analysed”.

Discussion

Data and code availability statements appear infrequently in systematic review manuscripts. Authors who do provide a data availability statement often incorrectly imply that data sharing is not applicable to systematic reviews. The results suggest the need for various interventions to increase data and code sharing by systematic reviewers.