How good are volunteers at searching for published randomized controlled trials? The OSTR Collaborative Group. Ottawa Stroke Trials Registry.
The Ottawa Stroke Trials Registry (OSTR) collects information on all randomized controlled trials (RCTs), in all languages, in which the primary focus is stroke. Published trials are added to the registry database once they have been identified by volunteers hand searching journals. We undertook this study to assess volunteer sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, accuracy and reliability in identifying RCTs. Three volunteers participated in this study. The complete contents of five years of one journal were searched (n = 240) as were ten research reports from five journals. Volunteer sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and accuracy was 89.5%, 100%, 100%, 99.1%, and 99% respectively. Inter volunteer reliability was 0.87. Searching the published literature to identify RCTs is an enormous task. These results indicate that volunteers, with minimal training, can effectively contribute to this endeavour.