Open MetaAnalyst: Powerful Open-Source Software for Meta-Analysis

Staff | Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality | February 23, 2012

Background: Meta-analysis, the quantitative synthesis of information from independent sources (studies), forms a cornerstone of evidence-based medicine (EBM). Indeed, by quantitatively summarizing the available evidence pertaining to precise clinical questions, meta-analyses can inform clinical practice at all levels of healthcare. Given the vital role of meta-analyses, it is therefore imperative that they are performed correctly, i.e., that appropriate statistical techniques are used to guide meta-analyses so that the conclusions are sound.

Despite this need, however, most meta-analysts are familiar with only basic meta-analytic methods, limiting the accuracy and power of analyses. This is primarily a consequence of software; meta-analysts tend not be programmers, and so use whatever is made available to them via graphics-driven (point-and-click) software. Unfortunately, the methods available in such software are usually dated; new methods are implemented in statistical programming languages such as R.