Research Synthesis Methods

Methods to calculate uncertainty in the estimated overall effect size from a random‐effects meta‐analysis

Journal Article

  • Author(s): Areti Angeliki Veroniki, Dan Jackson, Ralf Bender, Oliver Kuss, Dean Langan, Julian P.T. Higgins, Guido Knapp, Georgia Salanti
  • Article first published online: 09 Oct 2018
  • DOI: 10.1002/jrsm.1319
  • Read on Online Library
  • Subscribe to Journal

Meta‐analyses are an important tool within systematic reviews to estimate the overall effect size and its confidence interval for an outcome of interest. If heterogeneity between the results of the relevant studies is anticipated, then a random‐effects model is often preferred for analysis. In this model, a prediction interval for the true effect in a new study also provides additional useful information. However, the DerSimonian and Laird method—frequently used as the default method for meta‐analyses with random effects—has been long challenged due to its unfavorable statistical properties. Several alternative methods have been proposed that may have better statistical properties in specific scenarios. In this paper, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of available methods for calculating point estimates, confidence intervals, and prediction intervals for the overall effect size under the random‐effects model. We indicate whether some methods are preferable than others by considering the results of comparative simulation and real‐life data studies.

Related Topics

Related Publications

Related Content

Site Footer


This website is provided by John Wiley & Sons Limited, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 8SQ (Company No: 00641132, VAT No: 376766987)

Published features on are checked for statistical accuracy by a panel from the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics (ENBIS)   to whom Wiley and express their gratitude. This panel are: Ron Kenett, David Steinberg, Shirley Coleman, Irena Ograjenšek, Fabrizio Ruggeri, Rainer Göb, Philippe Castagliola, Xavier Tort-Martorell, Bart De Ketelaere, Antonio Pievatolo, Martina Vandebroek, Lance Mitchell, Gilbert Saporta, Helmut Waldl and Stelios Psarakis.