Research Methods

The ICSDP adheres to the highest standards of peer-reviewed scientific research. While the ICSDP employs a variety of methodological approaches, we prioritize the creation of systematic reviews and meta-analyses, longitudinal analyses of publicly available datasets on indicators of drug-related outcomes, and econometric analyses of illegal drug markets.

In the hierarchy of scientific evidence, meta-analyses and systematic reviews are generally recognized as the highest form of evidence. That is because they provide a synthesis of all scientific findings on a particular topic, and therefore provide scientists with the ability to consider issues scientifically, using all of the evidence that has been collected to date. To ensure that systematic reviews and meta-analyses represent the gold standard of research, they must be easily replicable so that others can test these findings. As such, these studies must follow very specific guidelines for production to maximize their potential for replicability. Two sets of guidelines have been developed, and the ICSDP adheres to both:

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA): PRISMA guidelines are recognized as the gold-standard for the production and reporting of systematic scientific studies. These guidelines ensure that researchers undertake transparent, replicable assessments of available scientific evidence. Specifically, systematic reviews and meta-analyses adhering to the PRISMA guidelines are required to present clear and detailed information on the search strategy, information sources, search terms, the study selection and data collection processes, data extraction, and study funding. PRISMA guidelines also require the reporting of meta-analytic methods employed to ensure that these adhere to the highest possible standard. Importantly, PRISMA guidelines require a reporting of potential sources of bias to ensure that any biases in the scientific literature (i.e. fewer publications of null or negative findings) are taken into account.

Meta-analysis Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE): The MOOSE statement is a checklist that contains specifications for the reporting of meta-analyses that specifically include data from observational studies in epidemiology. Beyond including detailed information on the meta-analysis’ hypothesis, rationale, search and analytic design, the MOOSE statement also encourages the disclosure of information regarding the qualifications of the scientific team. Additionally, these guidelines include the presentation of potential sources of bias across studies included in the meta-analysis, study quality assessments, consideration of alternative explanations for observed results, and disclosure of funding sources.

All ICSDP research products are externally peer-reviewed by scientists outside of the ICSDP working group or submitted to peer-review via leading scientific journals.