A shared latent space matrix factorisation method for recommending new trial evidence for systematic review updates

Didi Surian*, Adam G. Dunn, Liat Orenstein, Rabia Bashir, Enrico Coiera, Florence T. Bourgeois

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Clinical trial registries can be used to monitor the production of trial evidence and signal when systematic reviews become out of date. However, this use has been limited to date due to the extensive manual review required to search for and screen relevant trial registrations. Our aim was to evaluate a new method that could partially automate the identification of trial registrations that may be relevant for systematic review updates. Materials and methods: We identified 179 systematic reviews of drug interventions for type 2 diabetes, which included 537 clinical trials that had registrations in ClinicalTrials.gov. Text from the trial registrations were used as features directly, or transformed using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) or Principal Component Analysis (PCA). We tested a novel matrix factorisation approach that uses a shared latent space to learn how to rank relevant trial registrations for each systematic review, comparing the performance to document similarity to rank relevant trial registrations. The two approaches were tested on a holdout set of the newest trials from the set of type 2 diabetes systematic reviews and an unseen set of 141 clinical trial registrations from 17 updated systematic reviews published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The performance was measured by the number of relevant registrations found after examining 100 candidates (recall@100) and the median rank of relevant registrations in the ranked candidate lists. Results: The matrix factorisation approach outperformed the document similarity approach with a median rank of 59 (of 128,392 candidate registrations in ClinicalTrials.gov) and recall@100 of 60.9% using LDA feature representation, compared to a median rank of 138 and recall@100 of 42.8% in the document similarity baseline. In the second set of systematic reviews and their updates, the highest performing approach used document similarity and gave a median rank of 67 (recall@100 of 62.9%). Conclusions: A shared latent space matrix factorisation method was useful for ranking trial registrations to reduce the manual workload associated with finding relevant trials for systematic review updates. The results suggest that the approach could be used as part of a semi-automated pipeline for monitoring potentially new evidence for inclusion in a review update.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-40
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical trials
  • Information retrieval
  • Matrix factorisation
  • Systematic reviews


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