This article provides a simple comparison of Syras and Covidence. Both of these products are cloud solutions – no installation or software management on your computer – and each has it’s pros and cons.
Syras is a modern, low cost, flexible product for screening abstracts in a variety of situations, from dissertations to Cochrane systematic reviews. Syras is self-funded, and bought by academics.
Covidence is a highly structured end-to-end solution, tightly focused on Cochrane reviews, with an annual subscription. Covidence is Venture Capital funded, and often sold to institutions.
|Syras – Sign up here||Covidence|
|Pricing||$US30 per review (double)|
$80 per review (team)
|$240USD for 1 review, included in 1 year subscription. |
$211 per review, if you buy 3x reviews.
|Workflow steps covered||Screening||Screening|
Full text review
Data extraction (for Cochrane)
|Notable Pros / Cons|| Reasonable, per project price|
Screening process only
| Fully featured solution (for medical reviews)|
Rigid format, limited configurability
Expensive annual subscription model
Systematic reviews have three high level stages, with steps inside each stage. Here’s our summary from a blog post we wrote about the definition of a systematic review.
Let’s look at how these three products differ in what they offer, within this workflow.
|Systematic review step||Syras – Sign up here||Covidence|
|Step 1 & 2 – Decide on your research question||This is all you!||This is all you!|
|Step 3 – Search for all potentially relevant articles||No support||No support.|
|Step 4 – Title and abstract screening||Great support.||Great support.|
|Step 5 – Full text screening||No support.||Possible, but tedious compared to Endnote.|
|Step 6 – Data extraction||No support.||Yes, specific to Cochrane studies only|
|Step 7 – Synthesis||This is all you!||This is all you!|
|Step 8 – Write your paper||This is all you!||This is all you!|
That looks pretty bleak, but there are a couple of things worth noting:
- 80% of the repetitive, tedious, painful, error-prone effort is within steps 4, 5, and 6.
- There are lots of other software solutions that support the rest of the workflow. Products like Endnote, and even Excel or Google Docs can be used successfully for the other workflow steps.
Breaking down the Title and Abstract screening step
There are actually a number of steps within the step here, where we can really compare the products.
|Title and Abstract screening step||Syras – Sign up here||Covidence|
|Import articles||Refman RIS (.ris), Medline / Pubmed (.nbib), Endnote XML, Endnote JSON||EndNote XML, PubMed text format, Refman, RIS (.ris)|
|Remove duplicates from multiple imports||Multiple scans, algorithmic approaches.|
Less likely to leave some duplicates than both
|Automatically checked, strict rules, record-by-record resolution.|
They recommend doing deduplication in Endnote
|Screening – interface||Ergonomically designed, high-efficiency interface with shortcut keys.||Well structured interface|
|Screening – keyboard shortcuts||Configurable shortcut keys||No support|
|Screening – Highlight keywords||Supported||Supported|
|Screening – Screening criteria||Supported, as hints, or an interactive check-list||Supported, as hints|
|Screening with a team of researchers.||Structured + tracked allocation of screening work between sub-teams||Unstructured approach – any user can screen abstracts that need screening|
|Resolving disagreements||Specific workflow within assigned sets, or across entire corpus||Specific workflow across entire corpus|
|Exporting||Refman RIS (.ris)Medline / Pubmed (.nbib)Endnote CSV (with comments, ratings, etc)||Refman RIS (.ris)Medline / Pubmed (.nbib)Endnote Excel|
|Knowledge-base / Help docs||Support, knowledge base with Youtube videos||Support, training, knowledge base with Youtube videos|
|Non-Cochrane screening approaches||Super-fast title-only screening (coming soon)||None|
In a nutshell
The product: Syras is a flexible screening tool, useful in a variety of scenarios, including smaller scale pieces of work like dissertations, yet powerful enough to work well with a team doing a Cochrane review. Payment is per-project, and not subscription based, which aligns with the expectations of academics funding their work.
Syras is reasonably priced, and is sold to the academics doing the reviews. To thrive, Syras will need to be a pleasure to use for academics. Expect this aspiration to be a constant into the future.
The company: The Scipilot (the makers of Syras) mission is about accelerating the scientific process.
Accelerate the scientific process, for the betterment of humanity.Scipilot mission
While both Covidence and Rayyan are born from the world of academia, Syras is delivered by two tech-sector veterans, wanting to apply their experience to academic software. With loose ties to academia, they’re approaching things with a different perspective, looking for new and innovative ways to improve the scientific process.
The product: Covidence provides a fully featured Cochrane-focused review tool, which fits hand-in-glove with that process. If you’re deviating from that, and looking for flexibility, it might not tick all your boxes.
Covidence is priced as an annual subscription, and is quite steep for an individual to fork out for. Cochrane tends to rely on it’s network of high-up relationships (and endorsement by Cochrane as “the solution”) to sell licenses at scale, to institutions. With the institution as the buyer, expect the experience of the end-user (that’s you) to erode over time. They’re motivated to keep institutions happy, not really academics. This is a common software trap, where buyer ≠ user.
The company: If the mission of a company means a lot to you, you’ll be glad to hear that Covidence has a noble mission:
Covidence is a social enterprise platform, used around the world, to help turn the flood of new scientific research into high-quality knowledge by accelerating the systematic review workflow.
We are on a mission to help the world create trustworthy knowledge.Covidence careers
Covidence has a strong history with Cochrane, partnering closely with them for training and much more.