ObjectiveWe assessed the extent of lag times in the publication and indexing of network meta-analyses (NMAs).
Study designThis was a survey of published NMAs on drug interventions.
SettingNMAs indexed in PubMed (searches updated in May 2020).
Primary and secondary outcome measuresLag times were measured as the time between the last systematic search and the article submission, acceptance, online publication, indexing and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) allocation dates. Time-to-event analyses were performed considering independent variables (geographical origin, Journal Impact Factor, Scopus CiteScore, open access status) (SPSS V.24, R/RStudio).
ResultsWe included 1245 NMAs. The median time from last search to article submission was 6.8 months (204 days (IQR 95-381)), and to publication was 11.6 months. Only 5% of authors updated their search after first submission. There is a very slightly decreasing historical trend of acceptance (rho=-0.087; p=0.010), online publication (rho=-0.080; p=0.008) and indexing (rho=-0.080; p=0.007) lag times. Journal Impact Factor influenced the MeSH allocation process, but not the other lag times. The comparison between open access versus subscription journals confirmed meaningless differences in acceptance, online publication and indexing lag times.
ConclusionEfforts by authors to update their search before submission are needed to reduce evidence production time. Peer reviewers and editors should ensure authors' compliance with NMA standards. The accuracy of these findings depends on the accuracy of the metadata used; as we evaluated only NMA on drug interventions, results may not be generalisable to all types of studies.