A meta-evaluation of the quality of reporting and execution in ecological meta-analyses

Paula Pappalardo, Chao Song, Bruce A. Hungate, Craig W. Osenberg

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Quantitatively summarizing results from a collection of primary studies with meta-analysis can help answer ecological questions and identify knowledge gaps. The accuracy of the answers depends on the quality of the meta-analysis. We reviewed the literature assessing the quality of ecological meta-analyses to evaluate current practices and highlight areas that need improvement. From each of the 18 review papers that evaluated the quality of metaanalyses, we calculated the percentage of meta-analyses that met criteria related to specific steps taken in the meta-analysis process (i.e., execution) and the clarity with which those steps were articulated (i.e., reporting). We also re-evaluated all the meta-analyses available from Pappalardo et al. [1] to extract new information on ten additional criteria and to assess how the meta-analyses recognized and addressed non-independence. In general, we observed better performance for criteria related to reporting than for criteria related to execution; however, there was a wide variation among criteria and meta-analyses. Meta-analyses had low compliance with regard to correcting for phylogenetic non-independence, exploring temporal trends in effect sizes, and conducting a multifactorial analysis of moderators (i.e., explanatory variables). In addition, although most meta-analyses included multiple effect sizes per study, only 66% acknowledged some type of non-independence. The types of non-independence reported were most often related to the design of the original experiment (e.g., the use of a shared control) than to other sources (e.g., phylogeny). We suggest that providing specific training and encouraging authors to follow the PRISMA EcoEvo checklist recently developed by O'Dea et al. [2] can improve the quality of ecological metaanalyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0292606
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
StatePublished - Oct 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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