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A large-scale study of SVM-based methods for abstract screening in systematic reviews

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-01-06, 01:04 authored by Tanay Kumar SahaTanay Kumar Saha, Mourad Ouzzani, Hossam Hammady, Ahmed K. Elmagarmid
A   major   task   in   systematic   reviews   is   abstract screening,  i.e.,  excluding,  often  hundreds  or  thousand  of,  irrelevant citations returned from a database search based on titles and abstracts. Thus, a systematic review platform that can automate the  abstract  screening  process  is  of  huge  importance.  Several methods  have  been  proposed  for  this  task.  However,  it  is  very hard to clearly understand the applicability of these methods in a systematic review platform because of the following challenges:(1)  the  use  of  non-overlapping  metrics  for  the  evaluation  of the  proposed  methods,  (2)  usage  of  features  that  are  very  hard to  collect,  (3)  using  a  small  set  of  reviews  for  the  evaluation,and  (4)  no  solid  statistical  testing  or  equivalence  grouping  of the  methods.  In  this  paper,  we  use  feature  representation  that can  be  extracted  per  citation.  We  evaluate  SVM  based  methods(commonly used) on a large set of reviews (61) and metrics (11) to  provide  equivalence  grouping  of  methods  based  on  a  solid statistical  test.  Our  analysis  also  includes  a  strong  variability  of the  metrics  using 500x2 cross  validation.  While  some  methods shine for different metrics and for different datasets, there is no single method that dominates the pack. Furthermore, we observe that in some cases relevant (included) citations can be found after screening  only  15-20%  of  them  via  a  certainty  based  sampling.A few included citations present outlying characteristics and can only  be  found  after  a  very  large  number  of  screening  steps.Finally,  we  present  an  ensemble  algorithm  for  producing  a 5-star rating of citations based on their relevance. Such algorithm combines the best methods from our evaluation and through its 5-star rating outputs a more easy-to-consume prediction.